2011 Caroline Thompson Memorial Lecture

OT student doing research with child


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2011 Caroline Thompson Memorial Lecture

Diane Parham, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Professor and Director, Occupational Therapy Graduate Program
University of New Mexico
“Assessment of Sensory Integration Through the Eyes of Parents and Teachers”

Thursday, October 13, 2011

About Diane Parham

photo of diane parham

Parham earned her B.S. degree in occupational therapy at the University of Florida, and initially practiced in the field of mental health. She earned an M.A. in occupational therapy at the University of Southern California (USC), and a Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). She was mentored directly by A. Jean Ayres, and for 20 years she taught a 4-month course on sensory integration that Ayres had originally developed. Her research interests include physiological correlates of sensory behaviors, sensory characteristics of youth at high risk for psychosis, clinical evaluation of sensory integration and praxis, fidelity of intervention, and the phenomenon of play. Dr. Parham is a co-founder of the PhD program in Occupational Science at the University of Southern California, and is a founding member of the national Sensory Integration Research Collaborative (SIRC).

Overview of the Presentation

Since the inception of the field of sensory integration in the 1960s, occupational therapists have evaluated sensory processing of children by gathering information from parents and teachers using interviews and questionnaires. For several decades, this was done using informal sensory history questionnaires that therapists created themselves. Interpretation of questionnaire responses was also conducted informally and intuitively, without the benefit of data to guide judgments regarding how typical or unusual the responses were. In the early 1990s, researchers began to systematically develop and standardize sensory questionnaires to systematically guide practice. This presentation discusses one such questionnaire, the Sensory Processing Measure (SPM) for elementary school children, and its preschool edition, the Sensory Processing Measure-Preschool (SPM-P). The purpose and structure of the SPM instruments will be presented, as well as how they were developed and standardized, what kinds of scores they provide, how scores can be used in screening or for diagnostic interpretation, and how these tools can be used in research. Case examples will be shared, with emphasis on clinical reasoning using SPM scores in conjunction with other important sources of information. Examples of research using SPM data will also be presented. Throughout the presentation, emphasis will be placed on the selective and critical use of questionnaire data, with an appreciation of the value as well as the drawbacks of using parent and teacher reports to assess sensory processing.

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