STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder
5420 S. Quebec Street, Suite 103
Greenwood Village, CO 80111
Telephone: (303) 221-7827 (221-STAR)
Fax: (303) 322-5550
Serving children and adults with SPD and their families by leading the field in SPD treatment, research, and education. STAR Institute is the world’s most comprehensive and accurate (research-based) source of information about SPD from each of its three centers:
STAR Institute for SPD — Treatment Center
The premier treatment facility for children diagnosed with SPD and/or other developmental and behavioral conditions that include significant sensory issues. Services include:
- Multidiscipline team offering multidisciplinary evaluations (MD, psychologist, OT, speech and language, and family functioning)
- Evidence-based OT with a focus on regulation, relationships, and sensory integration clinical reasoning
- Unique STAR “Intensive-Burst” treatment model developed by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller that offers five-day-a-week, short-term therapy for out-of-town families
- Extensive parent education, family support, and coaching offered individually and in groups, integrated into child’s holistic treatment program
- Family training in problem solving so parents can integrate therapeutic ideas into daily life to reinforce the benefits of direct intensive therapy
- Treatment collaboration with a full suite of professionals, including speech/language therapy, pediatrics, psychology, and parent counseling
- Therapies including the family-centered Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) approach to feeding; Integrated Listening Systems (iLs); and developmental, individual-differences, and relationship-based approach (DIR/Floortime)
- A program, new in 2016, just for adults and adolescents with SPD, that takes a multidisciplinary approach to treatment. Treatment is often a consultation model with short-term advice and support, which is especially useful for out-of-town clients. Often the evaluation is in person with short-term treatment options and follow-up by Skype, Zoom, or other online methods
- National SPD Treatment Directory—listing for treatment providers who are experienced in working with people with SPD. This directory is free, both for providers to register and for parents to search. The categories include:
- Eye Care Professional
- Mental Health Professional
- Occupational Therapist
- Physical Therapist
- Speech-Language Pathologist
- Community Resource Facility
STAR Institute for SPD — Research Center
Serving children with SPD and their families by leading research to advance the diagnosis and treatment of SPD
- Research—full-time program of SPD scientific study, directed by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller
STAR Institute for SPD — Education Center
Providing resources and education for families, therapists, educators, and physicians to expand knowledge, foster awareness, and promote recognition of SPD. Education opportunities include:
- SPD University—e-learning with over 70 online classes and resources (CEUs available)
- SPD Parent Connections—community-based, national, and international family education organizations
- Intensive Mentorships—small-group training opportunities for professionals
- Annual international symposiums and institutes
- Library—hundreds of clinical articles and other SPD information, free and accessible online
- Diagnostic Advocacy—spearheading the movement for acceptance of SPD as a valid diagnosis, with 18 years of advocacy for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5) and currently with Zero to Three Diagnostic Manual
ABOUT OT-SI AND OTHER THERAPIES FOR SPD
Occupational Therapy using a Sensory Integrative Approach (OT-SI)
Professional: Occupational Therapist
The most appropriate therapy for SPD is OT-SI. Occupational therapy is the use of purposeful activity to maximize the independence and maintenance of health of an individual who is limited by a physical injury or illness, cognitive impairment, a psychosocial dysfunction, a mental illness, a developmental or learning disability, or an adverse environmental condition. The practice encompasses evaluation, assessment, treatment, and consultation. For a child, purposeful activities include swinging, climbing, jumping, buttoning, drawing and writing. Such activities are the child’s “occupation.”
An occupational therapist is a health professional who has received a baccalaureate and at least a master’s degree after completing a course of study, plus internship experience, in biological, physical, medical, and behavioral sciences. Coursework includes neurology, anatomy, orthopedics, psychology, and psychiatry.
The occupational therapist may work with the person individually or in a group, at school, in a clinic, hospital, community mental health center, or your home. The ideal occupational therapist for a young child is one who specializes in pediatrics and who has received additional, postgraduate training in sensory integration theory and treatment.
The specific goals of occupational therapy using a sensory integration (OT/SI) framework are to improve the person’s social participation, self-esteem, self-regulation and sensory-motor abilities.
Under the guidance of a therapist, the child actively takes in movement and touch information in playful, meaningful, and natural ways that help his brain modulate these fundamental neural messages. The child responds favorably to SI treatment, because his nervous system is pliable and changeable. Therapy teaches the child to succeed—and he loves it!
Adolescents and adults also can benefit from OT-SI. Even if the central nervous system is most malleable during early childhood, it continues to be changeable throughout a person’s life span. www.spdstar.org/basic-occupational-therapy-for-adults
Also see American Occupational Therapy Association at
American Physical Therapy Association at www.apta.org
Also see www.spdstar.org/treatment-directory
Professional: Physical Therapist
Physical therapy is a health profession devoted to improving an individual’s physical abilities. It involves activities that strengthen the child’s muscular control and motor coordination, especially of his large muscles. Sometimes using physical agents such as massage, whirlpool baths or ultrasound, physical therapists help the child get his muscles ready for voluntary movement. Some physical therapists receive additional training in sensory integration theory and treatment, which is called PT-SI.
Auditory Therapy, or Auditory Training
Professional: Audiologist, Speech-and-Language Therapist, Occupational Therapist, or other qualified specialist
A method of sound stimulation designed to improve a person’s listening and communicative skills, learning capabilities, motor coordination, body awareness and self-esteem. Various methods employ the use of special headphones. Over several days, the child listens passively to music and voices filtered through the headphones and then participates in active voice work, such as repeating sounds, reading aloud, and conversing. Therapy helps the ear to attend to and discriminate among sounds, the vestibular system to integrate sensory messages of balance and posture, and the person to become more focused, centered, and organized.
The Therapeutic Listening Program, designed by Sheila Frick, OTR/L, is an excellent home program that is supervised by a therapist while the child is receiving services.
Integrated Listening Systems (iLs) is a multi-sensory program, using filtered music and movement, for improving brain function. The activities are fun and can be customized for all ages and skill levels.
International Chiropractic Pediatric Association at www.icpa4kids.com
ChiroWeb at www.chiroweb.com
Chiropractic is the philosophy, art and science of detecting and correcting subluxation in the human body. Subluxation is a partial dislocation or abnormal movement of a bone in a joint. Chiropractic helps people with SPD by specifically addressing the structure and function of the nerves, muscles and joints controlling posture and movement that influence our ability to interact with our environment.
CranioSacral Therapy (CST)
The Upledger Institute www.upledger.com
Professional: Occupational therapist, Physical therapist, Chiropractor, Osteopath, Massage therapist, or other Registered Craniosacral Practitioner (RCST)
CST is a gentle method of evaluating and enhancing the function of the craniosacral system (the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that protect the brain and spinal cord). CST involves light-touch manipulation of the bones in the skull, sacrum and coccyx to correct an imbalance that can adversely affect the development of the brain and spinal cord and can result in sensory, motor, and neurological dysfunction. Developed by Dr. John Upledger, CST is used by a variety of healthcare professionals.
Hippotherapy (therapy with a horse)
Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International at http://www.pathintl.org
Professional: Certified Instructor
Hippotherapy means “treatment with the help of the horse.” Occupational, physical and speech therapists use the horse as a modality to improve the posture, movement, neuromotor function and sensory processing of people with disabilities. The movement of the horse, with traditional therapy intervention, influences muscle tone, encourages muscle action, and improves vestibular reactions, sensorimotor integration, and midline postural control.
Perceptual Motor Therapy
Professional: Perceptual Motor Therapist
Perceptual motor therapy provides integrated movement experiences that remediate gross motor, fine motor, and visual perception problems. Activities, including sensory input techniques, stimulate left- and right-brain communication to help the child interpret incoming information to the nervous system. Goals are to improve visual motor perception, develop more mature patterns of response to specific stimuli, improve motor skills and balance, and stimulate alternate routes to memory and sequencing for those children who do not respond to the methods taught in the conventional classroom.
Also see www.spdstar.org/treatment-directory
Professional: Psychotherapist, Clinical Psychologist, Licensed Clinical Social worker, or Psychiatrist
Psychotherapy is sometimes appropriate, particularly if the individual has behavior or self-image problems or is depressed. (Psychotherapy deals with the effects of SPD but not the underlying causes.) Psychotherapies include behavioral therapy, to help the person deal with problematical symptoms and behaviors; family therapy, to help the child, parents and siblings become a healthier unit; and play therapy, to promote the child’s social-emotional development.
Speech and Language Therapy
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) www.asha.org
Also see www.spdstar.org/treatment-directory
Professional: Speech/Language Pathologist (SLP)
Speech-language therapy includes activities designed to meet specific goals for the individual. A child may need help with speech skills, such as pronouncing “L,” “K,” or “Sh” sounds; monitoring the pitch of his voice; and strengthening oral-motor control in the muscles of his mouth. He may also benefit from activities designed to expand his language skills, such as retelling stories, conversing, and playing games to develop memory and vocabulary. As many people with SPD are picky eaters, therapy with a speech pathologist trained in oral-motor and feeding issues may be very helpful. Indeed, when the client receives co-treatment simultaneously from an occupational therapist trained in this area, optimal benefits of getting in the mouth occur.
Vision Therapy, or Vision Training (VT)
Optometrists Network at www.optometrists.org
Optometric Extension Program Foundation at www.oep.org
Parents Active for Vision Education at www.pavevision.org
Also see www.spdstar.org/treatment-directory
Professional: Developmental (or Behavioral) Optometrist
Vision Therapy (VT), akin to PT or OT, is specifically for the eyes and brain. A doctor of optometry, called a behavioral or developmental optometrist, addresses problems including lazy eye, crossed eyes, double vision, and convergence insufficiency. The optometrist may help the person integrate visual information with input from other senses, such as hearing, touching, and moving. VT may include eyeglasses with traditional or specialized lenses (prisms), in addition to sensory-motor and educational activities that strengthen the person’s ocular-motor control, visual discrimination, and eye-hand coordination. (See optometrists.org, covd.org, or spdfoundation.net/treatment/directory/)
Other Therapies and Alternative Approaches
- Deep Pressure and Proprioceptive Technique (known as brushing), for helping reduce tactile over-responsivity
- Nutritional Therapy, identifying and addressing difficulties with health, diet, and daily functioning
- Martial Arts, using physical skill and coordination without weapons, such as karate, aikido, judo, or kung fu
PUBLICATIONS, CONFERENCES, INFORMATION
Visit these informative websites to find support and and learn about conferences and publications on many disorders affecting children today.
Here’s an on-line resource offering strategies and support not only for ADHD and LD, but also for “look-alikes” such as SPD. Offerings include webinars, an e-magazine, blogs, events, etc.
Autism-Asperger’s Digest Magazine
Division of Future Horizons, Inc.
Autism-Asperger’s Digest magazine has been created especially for parents & family members, education professionals and aides, caregivers, speech therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and diagnosticians specializing in autism. Six issues per year, featuring full-length excerpts from ground-breaking new books on autism, original articles from top specialists in the field, and regular columns by noted autism professionals, including Temple Grandin.
Autism Parenting Magazine
Up-to-date news and professional guidance for parents and their children on the subject of autism, including solutions for dealing with sensory issues, advice for handling transitions, and real life stories from parents as well as adults with autism to inspire and bring hope.
Autism Awareness Centre
Autism Awareness Centre hosts conferences across Canada and the UK, while ensuring books, articles and resource supports are readily available to all communities keeping parents and professionals on the cutting edge of new information. The director, Maureen Bennie, is the mother of two teenagers with autism.
Blindfold Sensory Exploration
Read about Andrew Short’s suggestions for visual and tactile blindfold activities to improve sensory processing.
Clear Light Ventures
Eliminating toxic environmental factors such as wireless radiation, electromagnetic fields (EMF), chemicals and additives can greatly improve the lives of children and adults with autism and SPD. Peter Sullivan’s website offers articles and videos on these topics.
Coming to my Senses: A Journey Into SPD
Rachel S. Schneider, with an MA in Mental Health Counseling and a BA in Psychology, is an SPD adult and author of Making Sense: A Guide to Sensory Issues, written especially for adults who are beginning to learn about their sensory challenges. She invites readers to join her on her journey to explore and explain SPD.
Clinical nutritionist, speaker, and award-winning author, Kelly Dorfman, M.S., L.D.N., is a leading expert on using nutrition therapeutically.
By focusing on causes not consequences of health out of balance, this organization proposes that the “new childhood epidemics” of autism, ADHD/ADD, allergies, SPD and others can be reversed. Epidemic Answers’ mission is to educate and empower parents and caregivers so that they can facilitate their child’s return to wellness.
“Information that matters, from people who care.” Magazine and online resource. Exceptional Parent also publishes a guide to national organizations, associations, products and services to support parenting your child or young adult with a disability or special healthcare needs.
Sensory World offers the largest collection of sensory related books, CDs, and DVDs available for your use and education and informative conferences across the nation. With the help of experts like Carol Kranowitz, Britt Collins, and Dr. Temple Grandin, more and more people are becoming aware of how Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) might affect any one of us, and more importantly, how to help overcome whatever challenges each person might face.
Lindsey Biel, OTR/L, author of Sensory Processing Challenges: Effective Clinical Work with Kids & Teens and of Raising a Sensory Smart Child (with Nancy Peske), has much to share on her website, including strategies, sensory smart tips, suggestions for gifts, webcasts and articles, and much more.
SPD Life is an unofficial organization founded in 2008 by Daniel Travis, an adult with sensory issues seeking to spread the word about SPD throughout the world and to help those whose lives are touched by the disorder. A place for adults with Sensory Processing Disorder, this website offers support, information, tips and advice, success stories, the lighter side of SPD, resources, a forum and a store.
Find information and essential resources, including editorial contributions from authorities in various fields, stories of medical breakthroughs, and thousands of articles and publications that help families successfully navigate raising a child with special needs.
Reliably fun and educational toys for children with and without special needs.
Dye-namic Movement Products, Inc.
Equipment for movement, physical therapy, and exercise, made from the highest quality stretch band fabrics to promote strength and flexibility, body awareness, creativity, and group participation. Dancer/dance therapist Kimberly Dye has developed unique products, including Elastablast, BodySox, Airwalker, Stretch-eze, and CoOperBlanket. Videos demonstrate children and adults creatively using the materials in many activities.
The HowdaHug is a one-of-a-kind seat that cradles and rocks, creating a cozy embrace and giving children the feeling of comfort and security. It is especially beneficial for children with sensory processing differences. The HowdaHug seat can be used at school during circle time and for individual study; recreationally indoors or outside; at home on the floor or in a chair; or anywhere and anytime your child needs the comfort and containment of a “hug.”
This company specializes in sensory playgrounds focusing on design and innovation, such as the sensational one at STAR Institute in Colorado. View it here: https://www.playlsi.com/en/company/partnerships-memberships/spd-foundation
Pocket Full of Therapy, Inc.
Therapeutic equipment and fun materials and toys for therapists, teachers, and parents to use to motivate children with special needs.
Specializing in educational and sensory-based toys. For parents, the company highlights what skills each product develops and how it might be used to increase fine motor skills, visual tracking, bilateral coordination, finger strength, motor planning, speech development and more. For therapists, products are available for occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, play therapy, and more.
Sensory integration and developmental equipment, including bolsters, weighted vests, and inflatable equipment for therapeutic professionals to use with children with special challenges.
This is “the therapy resource for families and professionals,” offering therapeutic equipment and toys for sensory processing, including unique kits and oral-motor skills. Items include stretchy bands and tubing, beanbag chairs and “peanut” balls, carpeted scooter boards, Theraputty, whistles, oral-motor toys, and an extensive list of publications. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, they’ll find it for you.
Therapy Shoppe®, Inc.
A specialty “shoppe” for sensory-motor equipment for use by school and pediatric therapists, parents and teachers. Merchandise includes pressure vests, weighted blankets/vests/gloves, handwriting specialties, therapeutic toys and games, everyday therapy essentials, and hard-to-find favorites such as activity hoops and T-stools.
Equipment for sports and games, suitable for recreation, health, and Adaptive P.E. Products include stretchy bands, tunnels, folding mats, scooter boards, and ropes for climbing, balancing, jumping and tugging.
Everything for musical fun and education for all ages. Products include slidewhistles, early childhood rhythm band instruments, drums and resonator bells, metronomes, and props for musical games, such as beanbags, streamers and scarves. Also, music educators and a music therapist are available for consultation by phone.
Children’s Institute for Learning Differences (CHILD)
The mission of CHILD is to promote social, emotional, and academic development for children with special needs. This nonprofit organization provides innovative, therapeutic day-school services; pediatric clinical therapy services for students and private clients (ages 3-18); and support and training for parents and professionals. CHILD serves approximately 50-60 full-time students — placed by parents or in partnership with up to 20 school districts — who live in King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap counties and commute daily to the Renton campus.
St. Columba’s Nursery School
The philosophy of St. Columba’s Nursery School affirms that every individual connected with the school is regarded as a person with an inestimable capacity to grow and learn — children, parents, and staff. Young children, of course, are the primary focus of the school. Discerning the child’s level of development and challenging him or her with new and varied experiences are the goals of the school’s approach to teaching and learning.
At St. Columba’s the teachers guide and support their students as they grow in self-sufficiency, motivation to learn about and explore the world around them, and in becoming eager collaborators in the classroom. The best preparation for on-going school and for life is to help children learn to take care of themselves and their belongings, to express themselves in acceptable ways, and to learn the give-and-take of leadership and collaboration.
Children need space to grow in mind, body, and spirit, and so half of each school day is spent outdoors. The large well-equipped playgrounds with their paved areas for riding vehicles, wide-open slopes for sledding and rolling hoops, places to dig and burrow, sandboxes, gardens, running water, slides, climbing structures and swings has no equal in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. The full-time playground coordinator ensures that the playgrounds are ready and inviting for play each day. Similarly, the six classrooms, music, and environmental science spaces are light-filled, spacious and attractive and filled with materials and equipment to promote children’s learning and exploration.
Since 1959 St. Columba’s has been a haven for childhood, embracing play as the child’s most natural and effective way of learning. Carol Stock Kranowitz was the music, movement, drama, and playground teacher here for 25 years (1976-2001) and considers it her sensory home. Please plan a visit to see children of all abilities enjoying a rich, joy-filled, and exuberant first school experience.