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Use of sensory integration-informed approaches with adults with intellectual disabilities: An evaluation survey of current practice

Anecdotal evidence suggests occupational therapists working with adults with intellectual disabilities frequently work with individuals with sensory integration and processing differences, and often use sensory integration theory to inform their work. However, the research evidence in this clinical area is limited and day-to-day practice is not well understood.

Helen Justice conducted an online survey to examine current practice of intellectual disability occupational therapists working with adults in the UK and Ireland, regarding their use of sensory integration-informed approaches. The research was supported by Dr David Haines.

89 occupational therapists participated in the survey. Over 50% of respondents worked in community intellectual disability teams; with others working across a range of services including enhanced or intensive support teams, inpatient and forensic units, residential settings, and specialist colleges.

92% of participants reported using sensory integration theory to inform their work. Findings from the survey indicate that intellectual disability occupational therapists in the UK and Ireland use a wide variety of sensory integration-informed approaches, the majority of which are delivered using indirect techniques rather than direct therapy. Multiple terms are currently employed to describe the approaches used.

Provisional themes have been created from the qualitative survey data collected. Final themes will be shared on the SOLID blog once confirmed.

This research was funded by a Small Project Grant from Sensory Integration Education and a Research and Innovation Grant from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists Specialist Section - People with Learning Disabilities (RCOT-SSPLD). The latter supported a student research placement that enabled Jo Ward, Rosie Macrae and Emma Curran, occupational therapy students at the University of Brighton, to participate in analysis of the data and dissemination of findings.


Poster for Sensory Integration Education Conference: " Sensory inclusion of adults with intellectual disabilities: What is the current practice of occupational therapists using sensory integration-informed approaches in the UK and Ireland?" (18th-21st September 2023)

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