Attachment and The Journey of Future Steps


Over 18 months ago Julie felt there was something we needed to do more for our families and children, and therefore Julie started her attachment training journey. Julie started her training of Sensory Attachment Intervention level one, which combined the theory of her SI training with attachment. After completing this Julie then trained in the “Just Right State for Parents and Children” in Ireland.

From this Julie went onto training in The School-Age Assessment of Attachment which is a clinical tool that offers reliable and valid assessment of children’s attachment, taking into account the developmental implications of children’s behaviour at this stage in their lives.We are now able to assess children with this method and analysis the discourse markers the children are using which effect their ability to be taught and function in their everyday life. From completing our training Lynn Mitchell (Therapy Lead) and Julie Davis travelled to Reggio Emilia (Italy) to complete our Advanced Clinical SAA course, which focused on the functional formulation of the child/family’s troubles.


Our new model thanks to the comprehensive training currently undertaken provides the following:

An understanding of the strategic framework of the child. What strategies they apply both subconscious and consciously to help them in their everyday life, and how this would affect their ability to function and learn. Through a comprehensive analysis of the child, with a combination of assessments, Future Steps will be able to help parent/carers and the education staff understand the child’s needs and how to adapt their environment, and what activities/programmes and treatment will assist their ability to engage; helping them learn more effective by regulating their sensory framework. By altering the way their body responses to sensation that can lead to disengagement, flight, fight behaviours, assisting them emotionally and socially.

Specialist Questionnaires – provide us with an accurate understanding and background to the child’s attachment, sensory and behaviour difficulties, providing us with an immediate understanding of the child

Assessment will be conducted via the School Aged Assessment of the child (SAA)

Sensory and motor assessments via SI trained therapist to understand other challenges the child/young person is experiencing.

Free training for families on the ‘Just Right State’ ran by advanced and specialist OT’s and the AWARE programme ran by our psychotherapist Cath Goodwin thanks to Future Steps Community Interest Company

Treatment can be provided in a variety of forms:

Individual

Just Right State for Children (group intervention)

Home and School programmes, putting in place strategies for Parents and education to understand there emotional and sensory needs to effect change.

Parents – Adult attachment interview can also be administrated to provide a holistic view of the family and ever body’s needs.References

What is SAI?

Sensory Attachment Intervention (SAI) is an integrative approach to the treatment of children and adults who have suffered abuse or severe neglect. Negative experiences in the womb and in early childhood impact on one's capacity to cope with stress throughout life. There is a tendency to either: flee and fight, freeze and dissociate, or fluctuate between these stress states when there is a hint or a reminder of traumatic events. Traumatised children and adults tend to operate in persistent fear mode. They maintain a state of hyper-vigilance. This impedes the capacity for filtering out "irrelevant" sensory experiences such as background sights and sounds. There is a tendency to be sensory defensive, as the sensory systems have become sensitised to the possibility of danger.

Children develop behavioural strategies early on in order to survive their attachment environment. The goal is to either maintain the attention, or regulate the response, of their attachment figures or to elicit their attention and approval. While these self-protective strategies change in sophistication across the lifespan the basic functions of attachment do not (Crittenden 2015).

SAI recognises the need to target the areas of the brain that are the source of the dysfunction. The first requirement is to establish regulation of arousal states i.e. to shift from the Autonomic Nervous System bias of either freeze dissociation or flight fight responses (Schore 1994). It then focuses on facilitating modulation of the body senses through the just right combination of up regulating and down regulating experiences. This in turn enables higher level sensory, emotional and cognitive functioning.

SAI follows the neurological principle of use-dependent learning i.e. all parts of the brain can modify their functioning in response to specific patterns of activation. (Perry 2001) This is achieved through changing daily living routines in ways that are regulating. For example briskly washing and drying the skin is highly alerting and can inadvertently add to stress levels. In the case of children, the sensory and attachment patterns of Carers are also addressed, as attachment is a co-regulation process.

Taking advice from Eadaoin Julie then set about my DMM training in Cork in 2016 by Patrician Crittenden and then started training with Rebecca Carr-Hopkins in the school aged assessment (SAA). 2016- 2017 with her team members Lynn Mitchell and Kate Smith

The School-Age Assessment of Attachment

The School-Age Assessment of Attachment is a clinical tool that offers reliable and valid assessment of children’s attachment, taking into account the developmental implications of children’s behaviour at this stage in their lives. It is intended to provide information on:

(1) children’s self-protective strategies (i.e., why they do what they do when they are under stress),

(2) the sorts of stressors that are most troubling to them,

(3) how they process information to arrive at their understanding of their experience. Knowing the strategy will be helpful for parents and professionals as they consider how best to respond to children, knowing the stressors can help everyone to prevent problems, and knowing how information is processed can help mental health professionals to structure beneficial treatment (and avoid inappropriate interventions). This course has transformed our practice in Future Steps and has guided our understanding and treatment of children with attachment disorders.

We are now able to assess children with this method and analysis the discourse markers the children are using which effect their ability to be taught and function in their everyday life.

From completing our training Lynn and Julie travelled to Reggio Emilia (Italy) to complete our Advanced Clinical SAA course, which focused on the functional formulation of the child/family’s troubles.

This allowed us 7 days to work alongside Pat Crittenden, Rebecca Carr-Hopkins and Andrea Landini. A truly amazing experience which allowed us to code and consider our ability to reliable code children and adults. As a service we want to be able to code using the SSA and train professional and educators from an attachment and sensory integration perspective. Therefore in September Julie and Lynn will be offering new courses for educational staff, families and intervention to children. The next steps of the Future Steps journey is to be training in the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) so we can carry out interviews on the parent/carers of the children to provide the most holistic interventions.

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Does my child have attachment issues?

Amazing service staff were excellent! Loved the fact that I could watch the assessment from outside of the room.

Paul Jones-King

Paul Jones-King

Assessment Experience