There are increasing demands placed on health professionals to ensure their practice is based on sound evidence. Evidence-based practice is an approach to clinical decision making that has gained momentum both within Occupational Therapy and externally. As government initiatives such as Medicare and NDIS aim to extend opportunities to all clients, Evidence-based practice has ensured that these practices meet the needs of clients within a specific framework.
For Occupational Therapists, evidence based practice is essential to ensuring the credibility and consistency of therapies offered. The article – The process of Evidence based practice in Occupational Therapy; informing clinical decisions.(Sally Bennett and John W. Bennett Division of Occupational Therapy, The University of Queensland, Australia. & Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, The University of Queensland, Australia) describes and explains the process of evidence-based practice and its application to clinical occupational therapy practice. Directions for resources that may assist therapists’ self-directed learning are also provided.
Sensory Integration Therapy has been considered by many, both within Occupational Therapy and externally, to lack evidence-based practice. In truth, the research and literature falls short in quantity when compared to other OT based approaches. Many research articles and literature searches that base their findings on the effectiveness of Sensory Integration Therapy fail to properly understand the specific framework and guidelines that must be adhered to in order for therapy to be considered ‘Sensory Integration Therapy.’ In fact, true “Ayres’ Sensory Integration therapy” or “Ayres’ SI” incorporates a clear and stringent set of guidelines that must be met, otherwise a therapist and indeed a practice cannot use the trademarked term in any information or advertising.
In 2007, Occupational Therapists with clinical and academic backgrounds with significant experience and expertise in Sensory Integration developed a set of guidelines that not only clearly defines ‘What constitutes Sensory Integration Therapy’ but also what ‘criteria must be met when research is used to assess the validity and effectiveness of Sensory Integration Therapy.’ The article Development of a Fidelity Measure for Research on the Effectiveness of the Ayres Sensory Integration Intervention (L. Diane Parham; Susanne Smith Roley; Teresa A. May-Benson; Jane Koomar; Barbara Brett-Green; Janice P. Burke; Ellen S. Cohn; Zoe Mailloux; Lucy J. Miller; Roseann C. Schaaf American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March/April 2011, Vol. 65, 133-142. doi:10.5014/ajot.2011.000745) discusses many clear and defining points of reference that guide therapists and assist parents / carers in making decisions. In brief, in order to achieve fidelity measures to meet the criteria for Sensory Integration an Occupational Therapist must: