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Fine and gross motor skills, visual perceptual skills, and self-regulatory skills all play an important role in a young person’s ability to participate in learning, playing, and socializing, but as an occupational therapist working with children, adolescents, and young adults, Lindsey Biel focuses on what she says underlies all of these skills and serves as the foundation for them: sensory processing. She provides the listener with an image of a paper plate that holds a hot dog, then a handful of chips, followed by some coleslaw; it isn’t until it’s asked to hold just a little bit of potato salad that the whole plate falls apart. “Teachers and parents need to figure out how much you can put on a person’s paper plate before they fall apart, and as a therapist, I need to start building a stronger paper plate,” says Biel. She goes on to explain how she goes about doing that, which is a process that always begins with a thorough assessment of the individual’s strengths and challenges.

Biel explains that sensory sensitivities exist on a continuum, with what most people would consider “pet peeves” on one end and extreme, disabling sensitivities on the other. She also discusses the relationship between sensory sensitivities and autism, examples of the range of sensitivities people can experience, a growing body of science that points to the potential causes of sensory sensitivities, and how stress impacts an individual’s already compromised ability to self-regulate.

Having been in the field for over 20 years and authored two books, Raising a Sensory Child and Sensory Processing Challenges: Effective Clinical Work with Kids & Teens, Biel is a wealth of knowledge on the subject.

Visit sensorysmarts.com for a downloadable sensory checklist, information on strategies for sensory difficulties, webcasts, and magazine articles, and check out Amazon or your local bookstore for her books.

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