At Luna Play Therapy our therapeutic approach when working with traumatised and vulnerable children is to address the child’s sensory needs before moving on to their emotional, behavioural and cognitive needs.
This is because the sensory needs are the first needs damaged by early years trauma.
This is completed by our Occupational Therapist who is qualified in Sensory Attachment Intervention (SAI).
Sensory attachment intervention is an integrative approach to the treatment of children who have suffered abuse and severe neglect and is used primarily with children who are in foster care or who have been adopted.
Negative experiences in the womb and in early childhood impact on a person’s capacity to cope with the stresses of life, this results in them either, fighting, flighting or freezing and leaving them in a continual state of hyper vigilance.
Traumatised children, therefore are unable to filter out the ‘irrelevant’ sensory experiences such as background sounds and sights.
Sensory Attachment Intervention recognises’ the need to target the areas of the brain that are the source of dysfunction in order to establish regulation and shift from the fight. flight and freeze response before moving forward in the therapeutic process.
What kind of changes do you aim to achieve with Sensory Integration for adopted and fostered children?
The changes hoped to be seen in foster and adopted children can be significant for both the children and parents as it is a joint process. The therapist is a facilitator for the play between child and the parent and the parents are taught, separately from the child, what type of attachment style maybe being exhibited by the child.
There is generally two attachment styles seen in adopted and fostered children, they are:-
Avoidant/Cognitive bias – These children tend to fear rejection and or/intimacy. They often pretend everything is alright, never want support and take on the caring role to the parents and younger children within the family. These children find it hard to open up and share feelings so building on trust in a safe and playful way is imperative.
Coercive/Emotional bias – These children tend to fear separation from key care givers. They will be difficult to manage and are the ones who get into trouble the most. They will pull you in and push you away, fight, get jealous and be in your face. They can also present as very sweet and charming which disarms parents as this is another way of getting attention drawn to themselves. These children need containment and boundaries as they feel unsafe and insecure without it.
In sensory attachment intervention sessions the Occupational therapist uses play to enable the child to find what makes them feel ‘just right’. If a child cannot achieve something the reasons could be physical, emotional or sensory therefore it is the Occupational therapists job to see what is inhibiting the process. Children who attend sensory integration clinics have the opportunity to play on swings, climb and explore their physical environment. Sessions usually last an hour working closely with parents and the young person understand why they cannot do something and to analyse activities to make them easier so that they are provided with the ‘just right’ challenge. Once the child can identity what makes them feel physically, sensorally and emotionally regulated exploration of more difficult attachment based subjects can begin.
The therapist will work alongside the child to :-
- Explore the environment and learn to develop a secure base from which to develop confidence in their bodies and emotional security.
- Understand what makes them feel ‘just right’ through the use of physical activity.
- Understand what food makes them feel ‘just right’.
- Understand and recognise survival behaviours such as ‘fight, flight, freeze and shut down’
- Learn to trust and engage reciprocally with one another.
- An increased ability to open up and share painful experiences in a safe and trusted environment.
- To have fun together and be happy.