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Diverse Thinking Different Learning

Aug 10, 2021

In today’s episode, we’re discussing Sensory Processing Disorder. As with many other topics, this episode could really be turned into multiple conversations, so today we’re starting with what Sensory Processing Disorder is and our guest will help us understand how it manifests and interacts with other disorders.


My guest today is Courtney Duckworth-Harris, an Occupational Therapist and owner of Kinder Clinic in Los Angeles, California. Some children slip through the cracks and are misunderstood because they may not qualify for a diagnosis but are still struggling. These kids often present with Sensory Processing Disorder. Although SPD is becoming more understood in society, it still carries labels such as "bad behaviors" or "difficult kid." Courtney’s mission is to educate and empower families to look beyond the behaviors and understand their child's sensory needs. Through today’s conversation, she makes it clear that there are many ways sensory problems can impact a child’s daily life and how things will look for a child who struggles.


Listen on for a better understanding of Sensory Processing Disorder, how it affects day to day life, and how occupational therapy can help provide processing strategies.


Show Notes:

[2:14] - Sensory - Courtney explains what it means.

[3:36] - As adults we can feel anxious or overwhelmed when our visual and auditory systems are flooded.

[4:18] - A Sensory Processing Disorder means that one’s sensory systems are not communicating or relaying information to your brain smoothly.

[5:40] - Courtney explains that it is not exclusive to one sense and children are impacted by a combination of sensitivities.

[7:51] - Children with autism are more prone to have sensory processing issues. But, sensory processing issues do not always indicate an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.

[9:31] - Courtney shares examples of children working with her in sensory integration therapy.

[11:21] - Courtney begins by breaking down each sensory system but states that they do not exist separate from each other.

[11:44] - Auditory processing issues can manifest differently for each child.

[12:46] - How do visual processing issues show up?

[13:31] - Tactile sensitivity is a little more understood. Courtney gives some examples.

[14:09] - There are some lesser known sensory processing concerns that Courtney explains including vestibular and proprioceptive.

[16:14] - Courtney explains the difference between discrimination and modulation processing and gives several examples of what this looks like.

[17:19] - Sensory Processing Disorder impacts many aspects of a child’s daily life.

[19:12] - These difficulties can lead to high levels of anxiety.

[20:36] - Occupational therapy (OT) can address social emotional skills that are impacted by sensory processing.

[22:01] - With OT and other therapies, it starts with an assessment. Courtney describes the process of getting started in OT for sensory issues.

[23:41] - Although children of any age can benefit from services, Courtney states that working with children ages 4-12 is where she sees the most progress.

[25:27] - Courtney describes her facility and all the equipment she uses. She also explains what a typical session could look like.

[27:58] - There are many things that parents can do at home to support services.

[29:22] - We are all sensory beings. We all have strategies to help us process, calm, or stimulate our senses. Some children need guidance in order to regulate.


About Our Guest:

Courtney Duckworth-Harris received a Bachelors in Psychology from California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks in 2007, and then her Masters in Occupational Therapy from USC in 2009. While in grad school she had the opportunity to take courses in sensory integration and fell in love with this type of therapy. As she was finishing up her masters, she completed her final fieldwork at Kinder Clinic, then owned by Aneeta Sagar. There, her education in pediatric OT and sensory integration was expanded and it confirmed her passion for this field. Since then, she has focused her career in pediatrics and specialized in sensory integration therapy. In September 2020, all these years later, she was presented with the opportunity to take over Kinder Clinic. At Kinder Clinic, Courtney works closely with families and provides individualized therapeutic support so the child can become a happier, and more confident, independent, and successful member of their family and community. 


Connect with Courtney Duckworth-Harris:

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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.