On March 24, at Microsoft’s offices in Waltham, MA, the Spiral Foundation will present “Utilizing SAFE PLACE for Professionals.” Attachment (the affectionate relationship that binds a child to a parent or caregiver) and sensory processing (the ability to take in information from our worlds and stay regulated and able to perform our daily activities) are critical for building a foundation for subsequent emotional development in children. Over the last few years, Spiral Foundation President Jane Koomar, Ph.D, OTR/L, and clinical psychologist Daniel Hughes, Ph.D., have worked together to increase awareness of the importance of these dynamics in early childhood.

With additional work by their Boston-based colleagues Deborah Rozelle, Psy.D., and Stephanie Shellie, LMSWC—who trained with Dan in his Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)—and Jane’s occupational therapy colleagues at OTA-Watertown, there is growing evidence that a combination of sensory occupational therapy and psychological counseling can best address the needs of a child who has experienced attachment issues due to abuse, neglect or multiple foster placements.

To provide an overview of their work, Jane and Dan developed a two day course for parents titled “SAFE PLACE.” While the intention of this model is to create a literal “safe place” for children, the name stands for additional concepts. Sensory Attunement Focused Environments or Sensory Attunement Family Enjoyment derive from the OT’s fun and physically stimulating sensory integration work. PLACE stands for Playfulness, Love, ACceptance and Empathy, the core concepts of Dan’s DDP model. In the SAFE module parents learn how to create environments and activities at home to help their child with sensory regulation, and to stimulate rhythmic, mutually enjoyable interactions. The PLACE module offers the ability to develop strong interconnected relationships as the basis for all other parts of development.

SAFE PLACE works best when mental health professionals and occupational therapists work together with parents and children, providing co-treatments when possible, and sharing their observations with the family. This weaving-together of support for the child and parent in multiple developmental areas creates support and respect for what can often be felt as deep pain when working to parent a child who has trauma and attachment difficulties.

An introduction to SAFE PLACE is available on DVD for $25.00, and contains excerpts from the one-day workshop presented by Dan Hughes and Jane Koomar. The event on March 24 is the pre-conference institute for Spiral’s 2011 Boston Symposium titled “Sensory Processing, Emotion & Behavior: Clinical Innovations & Research.” The symposium gathers nationally recognized speakers on SPD, attachment, trauma, bullying and sensory integration-based therapeutic interventions. In addition to Dan and Jane, speakers include Spiral Research Director Teresa May-Benson, Dr. Marty Teicher, Tina Champagne and Deborah Rozelle.

For more information on the video or events please contact the Spiral Foundation at (617) 923-4410, ext 102.

The Spiral Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and as such your donation is tax deductible.

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