Occupational therapists work collaboratively with young people experiencing mental ill-health to enable meaningful occupational participation in daily life. Sensory modulation is used as a means of developing self-regulation and enabling occupational participation. Published literature on sensory modulation in mental health settings is primarily located within acute inpatient settings and focuses on self-regulation. Little is known about the use of sensory modulation within community settings to enhance occupational participation in daily lives of people with mental-ill health. This study investigated the experiences of young people and their families who engaged in sensory modulation assessment (Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile) and intervention (between one and twelve sessions) as part of community mental health care at a large area mental health service in Melbourne, Australia.
The qualitative study used naturalistic inquiry methodology involving semi-structured interviews with six young people and three families. Nine interview transcripts were thematically analysed to elicit the experiences of sensory modulation assessment and intervention, and how this may influence daily life.
Thematic analysis revealed that young people and their families' positive experiences of sensory modulation were underpinned by processes of co-creation: (a) knowing yourself; (b) understanding 'the why': developing shared reasons for engaging in sensory modulation; (c) creating comfort; (d) creating connection; and (e) constantly learning. Sensory modulation supported occupational participation in young peoples' daily lives in the areas of sleep, study, relationships, self-care, independent living, being in the world, and doing new things.
Young people and their families valued the process of co-creating sensory modulation assessment and intervention to enhance occupational participation. Results revealed that sensory modulation assessment and intervention was optimised when it was a process of co-creation. Future research should investigate the effectiveness of sensory modulation in enhancing occupational participation in these domains that influence daily life.