This year’s 27th Annual Psychological Trauma Conference focused on a subject deeply aligned with our Trauma-Informed Education practices at All-In!: Neuroscience, Self-Identity, and Therapeutic Interventions. The conference explored how trauma, particularly relational trauma occurring during early childhood, impacts brain development and the incipient internal working model. I wanted to share one exciting treatment practice currently being used with youth and one example of how healing can occur via neuroplasticity.
Sensory Integration & Arousal Regulation in Child Complex Trauma Treatment
- Sensory Motor Arousal Regulation Treatment (SMART) is an approach to the treatment of Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) developed by the Trauma Center at JRI in partnership with the late Dr. Jane Koomar
- SMART synthesizes Attachment Theory and Treatment, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, and Sensory Integration Occupational Therapy
- SMART utilizes 8 tools of regulation, weaving together arousal regulation and embodied trauma processing with a focus on the development of self-identity
- Tactile input
- Proprioceptive input
- Vestibular input
- Sensory satiation
- Combining inputs
- Varying intensity, duration, frequency
- Safe space
- For example, vestibular input (see video below) supports with spatial orientation and adjustment to surroundings, which are essential to assessing safety. Some ways to use this tool include allowing a student to rock, spin, jump, balance, and roll. Rhythmicity engages children’s natural organization and regulates the nervous system. Some ways to use this tool include supporting a student in bouncing to a beat on a fitness ball or tossing a ball in a rhythm. Rhythmicity may also be used for attunement and can serve as an attachment intervention.
- Be creative and use what you have in your environment – you can use things like swings or office chairs for vestibular input. Students can be swaddled in a blanket for tactile input, and I’ve used a pop-up tent as a safe space for students at Rocketship Mosaic Elementary
- You can find out more about SMART by checking out “A Manual for Therapists Working with Children and Adolescents: A "Bottom Up" Approach to Treatment of Complex Trauma”, located in the All-in! training library
- Dr. Norman Doidge, author of “The Brain That Changes Itself” and “The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity” presented on how injury and/or dysfunction in the nervous system can impact physical and mental functioning and ways in which neuroplasticity can be leveraged to make powerful change
- Dr. Doidge indicates that unhealthy brain cells (neurons) misfire and emit “noise” that render healthy neurons ineffective. For example, individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often experience heightened sound sensitivity, which may be a result of difficulties with something called “auditory zoom.” Auditory zoom enables us to focus in on human voices while filtering out other low frequency sounds. These background sounds can be experienced as threatening, resulting in continual activation of the fight or flight response and impacting social functioning. Listening Therapy, based on the work of Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis, utilizes changing frequencies in voice and music to “re-wire” the ear-to-brain connection. During his presentation, Dr. Doidge showed a video featuring the Listening Centre in Toronto and a young man named Jordan Rosen who received treatment there. After treatment, Jordan no longer met criteria for ASD.
You can read more here.
Jenn Simeone, UE Coach and Clinical Intervention Specialist