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Sensory learning bringing out the best in children

By Lisa N. Knodel

The Western Star

Seth’s 11th birthday wasn’t the only significant change this fall. After participating in the 30-day Sensory Learning Program at the Therapy Learning Center in Lebanon, Seth’s parents noticed significant changes - improved motor, cognitive, emotional and speech and language skills. “He no longer forgets what he wants to say and is able to talk at a normal pace, instead of struggling to stay focused on what it is he’s wanting to say,” explained his mother, Sandy. “We noticed this change after day one of the program and he hasn’t struggled since … It’s amazing to me that it was so easy to improve his confidence and life.” The pediatric therapy clinic is one of 19 centers, and the only in Ohio, certified as a sensory learning provider. “The Sensory Learning Program is a multi-sensory approach to learning,” explained Susie Jividen, director of the Therapy Learning Center. “It’s a 30-day, drug-free intervention that uses light, sound and motion simultaneously to stimulate the visual, auditory and vestibular systems.” Jividen said the intervention challenges the three sensory systems to work together and adapt to multi-sensory input. The result is functional improvements in speech, perception, understanding, social interaction, gross and fine motor coordination and ability to learn.

The program, created by Mary Bolles in 1990, is for children with varying sensory challenges, including those associated with autism, Aspergers, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), acquired brain injury and learning and developmental delays.

Participants attend two 30-minute sessions each day for 12 consecutive days at the center followed by two 20-minute sessions at home for the next 18 days. During the in-center sessions, children listen to music and watch changing colors while lying on a table that slowly rises and descends in a circular pattern. Jividen said children who have completed the program more easily respond to sensory-rich environments. “We often see results within the first 12 days,” she said. “It’s amazing to see the results, and see the results so quickly. It’s a very exciting program,” added Barb Armstrong, director for sensory learning at the center and a registered nurse with 30 years of psychiatric experience.

Jividen, who has been an occupational therapist for 19 years, said she has had a vision to open a pediatric therapy center for years. “The time was right. Lebanon is my hometown, and it doesn’t have any private therapy services,” she explained. “I wanted to be able to spend more time with my family and have them be a part of it.” The Therapy Learning Center, which opened Aug. 22 on Belvedere Drive, specializes in an array of pediatric therapies, including occupational, physical, massage and speech and language. It provides support and training for families of children with ADD, ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, developmental delays and speech delays. The center also offers specialty camps for children. Current offerings include The Write Stuff for children demonstrating frustration with writing tasks, Leap Frogs for typically developing children with movement challenges and String Beans for expanding children’s diets. For more information, call 513-934-1226.

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