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SPD and Other Therapies

Children and adults with Sensory Processing Disorder, or the older term Sensory Integration Dysfunction have difficulty making sense of the world around them. Impaired sensory information makes decisions about how to respond to the world and what to focus on and what to filter out as inaccurate.  It can also mean an extreme reaction to an ordinary situation involving parents, teachers, employers, friends. Some characteristics are:

Oversensitivity to or avoidance of touch, sound, movement, smell, tastes and sights

Conversely, under-reactivity to touch, sound, movement, smell, tastes and sights

Learning challenges

Speech and language difficulties,

Difficulty with transitions or changes in routine

Impulsiveness or distraction

Behavioral problems -social & emotional issues

Sensory integration and sensory processing disorders make so many things difficult for those with SPD and they work so hard all of the time to compensate or regulate their thoughts and actions that sometimes they have poor self esteem, social shyness, anxiety, depression as time goes by. Often they are misdiagnosed as having ADHD in school and other settings. Almost always adults and children with Sensory Processing Disorder suffer with poor attention, moodiness and extraordinary frustration and are often misunderstood and judged harshly.

My background in craniosacral therapy, teaching, trauma resolution and SPD can help a great deal. My personal experience with myself and my family adds to my insight in working with SPD. My main website is craniosacraltherapies.com but this SPD website reflects this specific area of Sensory Processing Disorder, the application of Craniosacral Therapy, Strategy Sessions and other modalities and information related.

In my own experience, both as a therapist and as a parent, a Craniosacral Therapist and/or Occupational Therapist specifically trained in sensory integration therapy & SPD techniques can make a big difference, working with proprioceptive, vestibular and tactile approaches. Along with the help of craniosacral therapy, sensory tools, a Sensory Diet, Strategies and often trauma resolution it is possible to integrate, regulate, retrain and regain balance in the sensory system.

Craniosacral therapy is a non-invasive technique that facilitates the body’s own healing process, balancing the nervous system. Used in conjunction with Sensory Integration therapy or alone, CST can lay the groundwork for improved neurological functioning, processing and integration of sensory information.”  Upledger Clinic

There is evidence that trauma resolution is an important component of treating Sensory Processing Disorder as well and is often a missing element in determining the best program for SPD.
I first trained in SPD techniques with Dr. Robert Scaer, trauma author and neurologist (The Trauma Spectrum, and The Body Bears the Burden), and Ana do Valle, OTR, SEP in a Sensory Processing Disorder workshop. Since then a number of workshops including Upledger's Sensory Integration training has added to my practical experience with clients.

Ana do Valle describes:

"Sensory Processing Disorder is recognized as a major cause of self impairment in children, adolescents and adults. It is commonly present in behavioral conditions such as anxiety disorder, PTSD, ADHD and learning disabilities. SPD may contribute to the development of many poorly understood physical diseases and syndromes."

Because there is often a causal element of early or later trauma with SPD, Ana do Valle practices Somatic Experiencing with her patients, especially when she is working internationally in crisis settings. That link of SPD and kindling or cumulative trauma leads to experiencing the world with over responsive or under responsive sensory awareness which has an impact on learning and skill.

In an interview with me, Dr. Scaer further discussed this connection of SPD and complex trauma:

" SPD is the behaviorial seed that sprouts and flourishes, rendering the child exquisitely sensitive to events that might be at all traumatic. It is based on the cyclical autonomic dysregulation of trauma, with both extremes of autonomic expression. But rather than the restricted and inadequate diagnosis of PTSD, the syndrome that emerges with maturation is complex trauma...SPD and complex trauma are the closest of relatives. In both cases the treatment is primarily somatic in nature and quality because words only address the tip of the iceberg."   (Interview with Robert Scaer, MD and Victoria Behrends, 9/19/11)

The significance here is that SPD work must ideally include trauma resolution work in addition to other therapies in order to address the origins of sensory disorders that have resulted from trauma, physical or emotional.

Dr. Scaer and Ana do Valle are pioneers in this research and conduct seminars for other leaders in this field illustrating how to understand and work with this connection of SPD with trauma.

Other leaders in the field of trauma resolution are making the connection with trauma and sensory disorders, historically with PTSD and now with SPD.

Dr. Stephen Porges developed the PolyVagal Theory and the Social Engagement Nervous System approach to treating trauma and he has worked specifically with sensory disorders, including Autism for years....and NOW he has developed the Safe And Sound Protocol, a five day Listening Program Implemented by therapists trained by Integrated Listening Systems--addressing Autism, PYSD, Anxiety and other related conditions.

Peter Levine, pioneering psychologist in trauma developed SE, Somatic Therapy Waking the Tiger, Trauma and Memory, and other excellent resources, and it is a huge experience for me to be taking his workshops over the years.

Trauma Connection to SPD

It was in Dr. Porges' workshops that I was introduced to the trauma connection, and then again with Scaer and do Valle, and Levine and since then I have worked with these ideas and have applied them to the clients that I have with SPD and other disorders as well--Autism, Aspergers, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, anxiety disorders and difficulty with self-regulation and stress.

Safe And Sound Protocol

Now, in this past March, 2017---the Safe And Sound Protocol, developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, is a sound therapy program, originally called The Listening Project and discussed in his book The Polyvagal Theory written in 2011. I've been waiting for it since 2010 when I took workshops with Porges--it is now here and has been studied with excellent results with many sensory disorders, particularly Autism-- and with anxiety and trauma as well.

 See stephenporges.com for the research and effective studies done on the use of Safe And Sound Protocol or SSP by professional therapists.

Also see the description form the iLS website at the bottom of the page----
As of March, 2017, I am an Associate therapist, and can refer locally.

In addition, in my own work I use sensory resources and techniques for the teen or adult of all ages with well planned interactive Strategy Sessions--I may use any or a combination of these---and more:  contact me here

Craniosacral therapy for physical, emotional work and to balance the nervous systems
Stress and trauma resolution, anxiety help, (Brainspotting developed from EMDR), Comprehensive Resource Model, Somatic CST
SPD techniques, self-regulation, Sensory Diet and sensory activities
Activity cards from Brainworks® (sensationalbrain.com), developed by Gwen Wild, OTR, MOT as a communication tool for the sensory diet and activities--and Onionhead® emotion cards to help in expression of feelings
An individual Hair Analysis report with my interpretation to determine specific nutritional deficiencies or toxic substances to be removed or balanced
Sensory Processing resources----------------Safe And Sound Protocol, Biofield Tuning---assigned physical and creative activities to empower !

These strategies are also effective plans for other disorders that may or may not involve SPD, already mentioned--Autistic, Aspergers, PTSD, ADHD, and anxiety disorders.

Much of this work can be done effectively by distance and often I can help to find local resources for parents and therapists. When a Strategy Session is combined with occupational and/or craniosacral therapy and there is great communication and synergy among the members of a team--parents, therapists, teachers, great improvement in sensory processing and self-regulation can be made !

A Strategy Session can also be for the parent or partner of a teen or adult who has sensory processing difficulties to help understand what is going on, and to have a way to express their thoughts, and work with stress/trauma resolution or their own health.

Victoria Behrends - RCST®, HHP, MH, CA teaching credential, M.A., 760-753-1493

I can be found here and at craniosacraltherapies.com

Safe And Sound Protocol Description: from  iLS  integratedlistening.com

The "Safe And Sound Protocol" (SSP) is now available as of March 7, 2017-- for professional use!
The SSP, formerly known as "The Listening Project Protocol" is based on more than 40 years of research investigating relationships between the autonomic nervous system and social-emotional processes.

The SSP protocol is designed to exercise the neural regulation of components of auditory system involved in listening with specifically processed music.

Research suggests that following completion of the intervention, individuals will have reduced auditory hypersensitivities, improved auditory processing, improved behavioral and emotional regulation and will be better able to focus and attend in school, therapy and everyday life. stephenporges.com
What IS THE Safe And Sound Protocol ?
Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges --------
the originator of The Polyvagal Theory

SSP is a five-day intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience. By calming the physiological and emotional state, the door is opened for improved communication and more successful therapy.

Research-based therapy is showing significant results in just five days in the following areas:

Social and emotional difficulties

Auditory sensitivities

Anxiety and trauma related challenges

Stressors that impact social engagement


Emotional and physiological state are critical to how we approach a task at hand. So when a client has better state control, not only can they be more socially engaged, they are more open to therapy. Better state regulation improves therapeutic outcomes.

This non-invasive intervention involves listening to music that has been processed specifically to re-tune the nervous system (regulating state) to introduce a sense of safety and the ability to socially engage. This allows the client to better interpret not only human speech, but, importantly, the emotional meaning of language.

Once interpersonal interactions improve, spontaneous social behaviors and an enhanced ability to learn, self-regulate and engage are often seen.

The SSP is available to professionals only – implemented over 5 days in a row, an hour a day.

Calms the emotional and physiological state by improving vagal regulation of the heart and improving auditory functions
Addresses difficulties in social communication 
One hour of vocal music per day for five consecutive days, may be implemented in 30- minute segments
Accelerates subsequent therapies


Based on Dr. Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, the program is derived from nearly four decades of research on the relationship between the autonomic nervous system and social-emotional processes. It is designed to stimulate nervous system regulation by exercising systematically challenging the auditory system with specifically processed music.

The music trains the auditory pathways by focusing on the frequency envelope of human speech. As the client learns to process these speech-related frequencies, they improve the functioning of cranial nerves that are important for promoting overall social behavior.

Cranial Nerve VII (Facial Nerve) helps clients focus on human voice and tune out irrelevant frequencies.

Cranial Nerve X (Vagus Nerve) enables self-soothing and autonomic regulation.

Following successful completion of the intervention, individuals will be better able to focus in school, therapy, and everyday life and experience a calmed emotional and physiological state. This is based on studies that suggest that skills such as attention, state regulation and the ability to engage socially will be enhanced.

Dr. Stephen W. Porges, author of The Polyvagal Theory, is a Distinguished University Scientist at the Kinsey Institute, Indiana University and professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.  stephenporges.com

Associate Provider for Safe And Sound Protocol---SSP

Contact Victoria Behrends - RCST®, HHP, M.A., CA Teacher Credential
www.craniosacraltherapies.com        760-753-1493 or on contact page