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Ayres’ Sensory Integration: Making The Ordinary Come Alive

Today I was sent a copy of this poem, thanking me as an occupational therapist, for doing Ayres’ Sensory Integration therapy as this little person’s occupational therapist, I play with him in my therapy space, and it is changing his life; his confidence, his mastery of the world around him, and his ability to actively participate in his everyday life at school and at home.

Make The Ordinary Come Alive

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and animals die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself!

Poem by William Martin in The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

This is indeed the art and the essence of Ayres’ Sensory Integration, wherever we do it.  We use playful interaction with boxes, swings, balls, scooter boards, tunnels, tyres, blankets, beanbags and whatever we can to create playful spaces; fun imaginary lands, outer space, picnics and adventures and army style obstacle courses or dance challenges  – making sure the person can access information and input from the sensory world around them and from their deep body sensors. Why do we do this? We do it to support learning and development; movement skills, to make tricky touch easier, to reduce sensitivity to sound, to help the person to balance and adjust their posture, to help a person to be able to have an idea, make a plan and make it happen – we call this praxis.

We do all of this things and make it look like fun, and the more skilfull we are, the more it just looks like play. This parent is right,  we are indeed making the ordinary come alive – that is the way we draw on the person’s intrinsic motivation, so that they engage and meet the small tiny challenges we discreetly insert into the activities, to challenge and the develop their sensory and motor skills.

When we do this, we are working towards goals we have set with the people we work with to help them develop skills and abilities that make everyday life easier – as we are occupational therapists and this is just what we do! We are not just playing or messing about. We have special assessment tools to suggest what we should be addressing and then they help us to measure what we have done and if the change we carefully planned has happened. The fact we make the ordinary come alive and look like fun and be playful is not just a part of what we do, it is essential!  What we do is not about a piece of equipment or a daily regime of exercises of the muscles of the face or body – and sometimes, this is what confuses people. How can something that is so ordinary as playful fun possibly help, or be linked to a person’s ability to participate in everyday life? Well, that is just what Ayres’ Sensory Integration is all about…

We make the ordinary come alive so development and learning can happen – ultimately making sure that the extraordinary will just appear to take care of itself!

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