Erikson Institute

Training & Events

The Intersection for Sensory Processing Disorders and Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health

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Sensation is the raw material mediating the formation of the earliest relationships, contributing to the regulation of emotion and behavior and the construction of knowledge-all key components of Infant Mental Health. The manner in which children register, process and interpret sensation, contributes significantly to the way they perceive and interpret reality and consequently behave. If a child’s registration, processing and interpretation of sensory information is distorted because of a sensory processing disorder (SPD), then her/his behavior is likely to follow “perception” and be at-risk for being “out-of-synch”. The preschooler with tactile hypersensitivity may misperceive a benign brush or accidental bump-in-a-shuffle as aggressive and lash out accordingly, but not be truly aggressive intent.

This case-based presentation discusses the developmental links between sensory processing and the organization of the key components of infant mental health- relationship formation, regulation and the ability to learn. The clinical presentation of SPDs will be examined through a psychological lens and address, in-depth, the ways they mimic and contribute to mental health disorders of infancy and early childhood. Interpreting behavior through the lens of sensory processing may dramatically alter how professionals understand behaviors that appear primarily psychological in origin and open parent-friendly “ports-of-entry” that support families to be more open to help and to participate in intervention.

The sensory processing/SPD knowledge base is Occupational Therapy driven but will be interpreted through a psychological lens with respect to scope of practice with applicability across disciplines. Interventions pertinent to classroom and clinic that are therapist (OT)-supported as well as those that include sensory strategies and environmental supports and modifications for young children with sensory challenges will be presented and discussed in-depth with participant participation.     


Gilbert M. Foley, EdD, IMH-E serves as Consulting Clinical Psychologist at the New York Center for Child Development (NYCCD) in New York City and Co-Clinical Director of the New York City Early Childhood Mental Health Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC): a collaboration between NYCCD and McSilver Institute, New York University. He recently  Co-Directed the Personnel Preparation Program in Infant Mental Health and Developmental Practice at the Adelphi University Institute for Parenting, Garden City, NY. He is a senior faculty member of Profectum (DIR) and is an Endorsed Infant Mental Health/ Clinical Mentor, Level IV.  Dr. Foley is a retired tenured faculty member of Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology where he taught for 20 years in the Department of School-Clinical Child Psychology and coordinated the infancy-early childhood track. As Senior Clinical Supervisor in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine-Bellevue Hospital Center, he was an innovator in the technique of reflective supervision. While serving as the Chief Psychologist in the Pediatric Department of the Medical College of Pennsylvania, Dr. Foley trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and also completed a fellowship at the Yale Child Study Center with the late, Sally Provence M. D. For eleven years Dr. Foley served as the Director and Principle Investigator of the Family Centered Resource Project, a Federally Funded model/demonstration, outreach and technical assistance agency providing training to the infant/early childhood intervention community nationally. Dr. Foley‘s clinical and teaching career has been devoted in large part to working with infants and young children with special needs and their families. He is the author of several books and numerous articles. His most current book with Dr. Jane Hochman, “Mental Health in Early Intervention” is published by Brookes. The Loss-Grief Model developed by Dr. Foley, is the official approach of the Colorado Department of Education parent program. He lectures and consults widely, nationally and internationally, having recently returned from South Africa, China and Israel. He was an invited presenter at the First International Conference on Preschool Education in China sponsored by UNICEF and Nanjing University. Dr. Foley began his career as the psychologist for the Berks County Childcare and Preschool Education Programs of the Berks County Intermediate Unit.

Early Registration Fees Before September 27th- $99.
September 27th and after- $115


As an outcome of taking this workshop the participant will be able to:

  1. Describe how sensory processing contributes to the development of early relationships, regulation and learning
  2. Identify the essential features and “red flags” of sensory processing disorders
  3. Discuss how SPDs contribute to and sometimes mimic mental health disorders
  4. Formulate alternate hypotheses through an SPD lens for explaining a range of behavior and relational challenges in young children
  5.  Provide parent-friendly explanations of the contributions that SPDs may contribute to behavior and relationship challenges
  6. Apply sensory strategies and environmental supports and modifications to improve sensory function and support a child’s sensory needs within a specific environment 

Who Should Attend?

The emotional and behavioral challenges seen as children grow older are often related to gaps and lapses in the foundation of their development. These gaps can derail basic capacities to relate and communicate, share attention and self-regulate. Developmental disturbance can disrupt the formation of empathy and comprehension of the world around and the capacity to communicate thoughts and feelings with words, play and other symbols. These disruptions in development can have life-long consequences without intervention.

The focus of this series i.e., understanding the foundations of development and early experiences, make sense for any clinician who is interested in training that will support and enhance their work with families and children of all ages such as Social Workers, Developmental Therapists, Pediatricians, Psychiatrists, Neonatologists, Nurse Practitioners, Midwives , Speech Pathologists, Psychologists, Early Care and Education providers and teachers, Obstetricians, Family Therapists, Professional Counselors, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and others whose work impacts the lives of infants, young children and families.

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