(Course D)
SENSORY DEFENSIVENESS: A Comprehensive Treatment Approach

SENSORY DEFENSIVENESS: A Comprehensive Treatment Approach

COURSE D: July 16 – 17, 2011 (Sat – Sun)


Sensory defensiveness (SD) is a serious sensory modulation problem that is rarely identified correctly and infrequently treated directly or effectively. This workshop will introduce an in-depth, clinical approach to treating sensory defensiveness. Sensory defensiveness will be described across multiple age and diagnostic groups. The relation between sensory defensiveness and emerging psychological and neuroscience theories of behavior will be considered. Clinical labs consist of training in specific assessment and treatment techniques including the protocols developed by Patricia Wilbarger. Practicum exercises incorporate detecting and analyzing sensory based behaviors, activity planning (the “sensory diet”) and the management of individual cases using advanced clinical reasoning procedures. Clinical work over four decades and advances in basic neuroscience have resulted in a specific, multidimensional treatment approach that has had a dramatic impact on client outcomes. This integrated approach is client centered and requires advanced clinical reasoning. Casual exposure to these procedures has resulted in misuse and misinterpretation of our approach to training clinicians. Direct training is vital for appropriate application of the Wilbarger approach to treating sensory defensiveness.

Suggested Audience:

This course is offered for 1.55 AOTA CEUs. CEUs will be administered by Vital Links.


Participants will be able to:

  • Understand the key features of sensory defensiveness and how it disrupts occupational performance.
  • Identify symptoms of sensory defensiveness at different ages using a specialized clinical interview.
  • Provide direct clinical management for the treatment of SD including developing client awareness, creating a sensory diet, and applying a direct treatment approach to various clinical populations across the age span
  • Design a ‘sensory diet’ for a variety of individuals with sensory defensiveness.
  • Have an overview of the emerging psychological and neuroscience theories related to this condition as a basis for further study and research.

Schedule * (12 contact hours)

Day 1
8:30 Introduction & Overview of Key Issues
10:30 Neuroscience Basis of Sensory Defensiveness
12:00 Lunch is provided
1:15 Integrated Treatment & Assessments
3:30 Sensory Diets & Professionally Guided Treatment
5:00 Dinner Break (on your own)
*Mandatory Evening Lab Session
6:30 - 9:00 Lab 1
         Group Practice of Assessments
         Using The Therapressure Program and Oral Technique (The Wilbarger Protocols)

Day 2
8:30 Neuroscience Concepts related to the Treatment of Sensory Defensiveness
9:30 Protocol Check-out & Problem Solving Exercise
11:00 Ages and Stages: Infants and Young Children
12:00 Lunch is provided
1:15 Treatment Planning & Problem Solving
2:15 Ages & Stages: School Aged Children
3:30 Ages & Stages: Adolescents and Adults
4:15 Clinical Reasoning across Populations
5:00 Adjourn

*Topic times may vary; contact hours do not

About The Speakers

Patricia Wilbarger,MEd,FAOTA, has a background in occupational therapy and counseling psychology. She has been working with some aspect of sensory processing theories for over forty years. She is cofounder of Avanti projects. She has lectured worldwide and has contributed to the development of sensory integration organizations in several countries. Ms. Wilbarger is well-known for her clinical work with newborns, infants, and children with diverse diagnoses. She was one of the first occupational therapists to work in the NICU. She lectures nationally and internationally on sensory processing disorders and sensory integration.

Julia Wilbarger, PhD, OTR, received a BS in Physiological Psychology from UC Berkeley, a MS in OT from Boston University, and a PhD in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Denver, Colorado. She has worked as an OT in early intervention with high risk and developmentally delayed infants and toddlers in diverse settings. She served as a clinical specialist in sensory integration at The Children’s Hospital, Denver. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin in the Department of Kinesiology. Her research is focused on the study of affective and sensory processing in a range of clinical populations

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