Better Care

Sensory integration boosts LD therapy

A new ‘sensory integration’ room  is delivering a major boost to assessment and therapy of people with learning disabilities thanks to the “vision and passion” of two BCHC occupational therapists.

Laura White and Sanjeev Badwal first presented their innovative plans for a new assessment clinic to be considered for Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN) funding.

The project was supported by commissioners at Birmingham City Council and plans to enhance the project further were developed after recognising the potential of sensory integration (SI) to reduce challenging behaviour and help increase understanding of individuals’ sensory needs. 

Pictured at the launch of the sensory integration room at Sutton Cottage are (back row) Sanjeev Badwal; Birmingham Commissioning Centre for Excellence clinical lead Joanne Durrant; Laura White; (front row) head of learning disability service Faye Pem

SI is the neurological process that organises sensations from the body itself and the environment around it to enable appropriate motor and behavioural responses.

That constant processing contributes to humans’ management of emotions, learning, behaviour and participation in day-to-day life. Click here for more detail about SI.

Sanjeev explained that, while SI has been used more widely in children’s therapy, its potential in assessing and treating adults is relatively untapped.

“There is a growing interest in SI and we’ve found it very useful in assessment of people with a range of learning disabilities,” she said.

“We’ve used this approach in clinics but it is limited - there was a need for a dedicated space in which to realise the full potential.

“As far as we are aware, there are only four or five rooms like this nationally delivering SI assessment for adults. So we like to think it’s a visionary approach that we can expand upon.”

Laura added that the ability to be flexible to meet the different needs of clients is a key strength of the SI room.

“SI is about active participation, using clients’ motivation and offering a rich intensity of movement,” she said.

“Some clients who come to clinic are quite fragile emotionally. The SI Room gives us access to a wide range of strategies to regulate arousal so we can tailor our interaction quite precisely to their particular needs.”


Clinical director of specialist services Imad Soryal paid tribute to the collaborative approach that had brought the project to fruition.

“What is most pleasing about this project is the way the passion from the clinicians influenced everything – from the development of the ideas to the discussions with commissioners,” he said.

“The need was so clear in their minds and their problem-solving attitude has made their vision a reality.

“I feel sure this work has the potential to go way beyond this room – not just in terms of adopting the approach elsewhere, but in terms of influence on team-work and influencing ideas about research activity.

“It’s a really exceptional piece of work; I’m very proud of Laura and Sanjeev.”

Specialist services divisional director Marie Ward added: “The next steps are to look at how we expand this approach.

“Laura and Sanjeev have given us a wonderful opportunity and we are grateful to the commissioners for their support.”

The SI room project was funded through the CQUIN commissioning payment framework. Short for ‘commissioning for quality and innovation’, CQUINs require service providers to evidence continuous improvement and enable commissioners to reward excellence by linking a proportion of income to the achievement of quality improvement goals.