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One of the evidence based treatment approaches used when working with children with this kind of background is sensory processing and integration. Sensory integration refers to how people use the information from their environment and their senses. For most of us sensory integration occurs without conscious thought or effort.


Sensory processing refers to the way the brain ‘translates’ information back to the sensory receptors, for instance our skin, and our eyes. Sensory processing difficulties can influence self-regulation, movement, learning, and interactions with others. A child with sensory processing difficulties does not receive and interpret ‘information’ in the same way as other children.

Left untreated children with sensory processing difficulties struggle to engage in relationships with parents and primary caregivers, resulting in difficulties with co-regulation and self-regulation, and find it increasingly difficult to engage in the ever more complex activities of daily living, including those required for academic learning.

It can be difficult to understand why these children react differently to us. Intervention helps the child/young person to develop the necessary foundations for skill development in emotional, social, motor, and cognitive areas.


Sensory Attachment Intervention is a treatment approach for children and adults who have suffered early life trauma.  It was developed by Occupational Therapist Eadaoin Bhreathnach and aims to “enable parents and children to learn the art of self-regulation through the use of sensory and engagement strategies”. (Bhreathnach 2013).

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Negative experiences in utero and early childhood impact on the person’s capacity to cope with stress throughout life. Frequently the individual will quickly demonstrate survival responses (fight, flight, freeze and dissociate). If a child is ‘stuck’ in survival mode, or quickly escalates into survival mode, it can leave them unable to access the cognitive (thinking part) of their brain. In terms of sensory processing, we tend to see that the child has over-responsive vision and hearing, leaving them in a state of hypervigilance.


Often children will be defensive to touch, especially nurturing touch or touch that is not on their terms. We also can see that children are struggling with their processing of proprioception (body awareness), vestibular (balance) and interoception (regulate hunger, thirst, toileting, temperature etc). Children sometimes struggle to adequately process their taste and smell sense.​

Further Information can be found at:

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