It is stability that long time OT Els Rengenhart has given to children in The Netherlands. She was fortunate to study under the late Jean Ayres in 1972 and she has brought that passion and knowledge back home and carried throughout the years.
In the Netherlands not only are OT’s treating children with Sensory problems they can also be helped by Physical therapist and Speech Therapist. The Dutch are not ahead of us in treating children for SPD/SI over other conditions, some being the medication route. Els has seen children after the parents report medication alone is not helping their children enough, she also sees a lot of children whose parents seek more refined answers for their children’s issues.
Typically a parent will discuss their concerns with a family doctor who will then refer that child to a therapist. Els had been instrumental at training therapists to treating Sensory Integration all over The Netherlands, including lectures in Ireland. After her training with Dr. Ayres, Els traveled throughout the US for 3 months working with other therapists. Her experience with children in The Netherlands has taught her what works and what does not.
One of the easiest pieces of advice Els includes on her very informative website, is to stand behind your child. Here she addresses this technique even more.
I have used this with my child and feel his confidence rise in his shoulders as I stand behind him and give him the support, it is a great habit for parents to get into.
A habit of the Dutch system is to have therapists also visit a child’s school after they have had a formal evaluation. During this time the parents, therapist and teachers come together and find ways to incorporate the needs of the child in the classroom. Els still finds teachers to be skeptical about her suggestions, but once they try the tools, they see success.
“If they have a child that moves they want that child to sit still. Then you say the child should sit on a ball perhaps, the teacher says, “he is moving all the day!”. Then you must explain that if you give a child only visual and auditory information he needs other sensory input, this helps him concentrate.”
Els has gotten positive feedback about skills for helping children cope in a classroom, though she is still hoping to see more improvement. She hopes that by speaking about Sensory issues more parents and professionals will become aware of these problems and be open to the treatments.
Education of the professionals is one way to get children the right treatment, understanding the sensory system and why the activities she has posted will also help aide in continued treatment. She finds with simple activities that parents can do at home and lets the child have fun, playing games and bonding with parents, it becomes part of home life.
Floor time is a big part of where she suggests her activities take place. She explains to me that a baby learns support by the parent, first the upper body and head, and as they grow the parents hands move down to support the upper body. A child that has a lot of play time on the floor then learns the support of the floor supporting their tactile system. They then learn to support themselves turning on the proprioceptive system. Without feeling good tactile support the body creates a strong warning system and this can lead to tactile defensiveness. The opposite is also cause for concern when support is not learned and no warning system is created leading to problems in proprioceptive problems.
Getting on the floor with your children, rolling them around and getting their bodies used to all that tactile stimulation can help with their sensory system later. Even a school aged child can have lots of fun on the floor, under blankets and in caves. Older children can sit on a ball and bounce to music to help their system, and it is cool to do.
The best advice from a country known for being under sea level is to get down on the floor, have some fun, and if you are ever in The Netherlands be sure to visit one of many wonderful sensory entertaining playgrounds there, maybe you will find Els there.
Ik heb met Els uit Nederland gesproken, klik hier voor het interview . . .
To read more about Els click here.