Last week at Future Steps we had the amazing opportunity to host and attend a 3-day Sensory Babies course ran by Emily Hills and Lindsay Hardy. Both were an inspiration to the team with their vast amount of passion and knowledge.
Emily Hills is a Clinical Specialist Neonatal Occupational Therapist at the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust. Emily works at the “Starlight” neonatal unit at Barnet Hospital where she leads on developmental care, neurodevelopmental assessment and developmental interventions; including follow-up after discharge. Emily is an Advanced Practitioner in Sensory Integration (SI) and leads on the OT-SI intervention clinic at Royal Free Hospital, which particularly focuses on early years intervention for the ex- preterm infant.
Lindsay Hardy is Director of Clinical Services at Pace, a therapy and education centre for children from birth -18 years. At Pace, Lindsay leads a team of occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech & language therapists who provide Early Intervention Services for ex-preterm infants and those at risk of developmental delay, therapy for children with cerebral palsy, Autistic spectrum and other learning difficulties and emotional-behavioural challenges. Lindsay is a recognised teacher for Ulster University and coordinates and lectures on the Level 4, Advanced Practitioner module for the Sensory Integration Network UK & Ireland.
The course was a great success with both Future Steps employees and OTs from around the UK benefiting from this fantastic course that provided interactive learning about;
- Sensory development– sequential development from conception to 2 years (1001 critical days)
- Behavioural cues and the language of the newborn
- Co-regulation leading to self-regulation and the impact on development
- The theory of attachment and attunement and how this affects development
- To explore baby occupations through the senses: eat, sleep and play
- To discuss causes for atypical development both, environmental and neurological from a sensory perspective
The course was amazing for all; for those starting out their journey at Future steps it offered great foundations to further develop their knowledge. For those with more experience it offered a refresher in relation to the knowledge of sensory systems and more in-depth learning about the development in the womb, premature baby development and the importance of the first 2 years of a baby’s life in terms of their emotional, social, and sensory development. This will not only inform our practice in relation to older children, what stages of development they may have missed and what approach we should be taking, but also inform our questions during the assessment process and help to develop a new exciting strand to the company focusing on younger children.
Little steps will be an occupational therapy led sensory motor group for babies and toddlers, which will develop the child’s sensory motor foundations, enabling them to meet their potential, in terms of milestones, regulation, and preparation for Nursery and School. As the first years of a baby’s life are so important for development the earlier we provide intervention the better outcomes that child will have.
Key points that were taken away from the course include:
- The importance of the first 1001 days in terms of nervous system development and the importance of a nurturing environment and the importance of using each aspect of our brain at this point to promote development.
- If a child has been brought up in an environment that is not nurturing their central nervous system will function to survive as that is the most important aspect for that environment, but they may lose some aspects of development in terms of social skills and function.
- The tactile system is the first to develop with the skin starting to develop in the fourth week of foetal life with the most sensitive areas (due to the number of receptors) around the mouth, hands and feet.
- The importance of rhythm and music for regulation.
- It reaffirmed the importance of parents/carers engaging in therapy – parents/carers support is needed to have positive developmental outcomes as these are the most important people in that child’s life.
- The importance of co-regulation- parents and therapist are required to be in a relaxed and calm state to be able to help support a child’s regulation.
- The importance of a baby’s occupations; including playing, feeding and sleeping and what these mean in terms of development.
- The sensory experiences that premature babies may have experienced which will inform our practice.
- The type of environment that each child may require within therapy and what this would look like.
Overall, Sensory babies was a fascinating well-rounded course that has provided us with a vast amount of new knowledge. The use of research and case studies made it understandable and truly fascinating and we all look forward to continuing our learning in this area and putting strategies into practice.