Our history

In 1979 Marj Concha, from the University of the Witwatersrand, invited Pat Wilbarger from America, to introduce occupational therapists to Sensory Integration and the first SI Theory Course was presented in South Africa.   The South African Institute for Sensory Integration (SAISI) was formed in 1981.

The first 10 years of SAISI mainly consisted of getting the training processes in place with annual courses in theory, testing/interpretation of the Southern Californian Sensory Integration Test (SCIST) and treatment and conscientiously monitoring the stages of observation, testing 10 “normal” children and marking the 2/3 protocols.  Yearly board meetings were held with AGM Workshops the day prior to the board meeting.

The Newsletter was an important mouthpiece of the Institute and kept members up to date with local news as well as news on research within the field if sensory integration. Contributions were from SA and abroad.
The first SAISI Clinical Observations training video based on the work of Jean Ayres was produced in 1985.
The first introductory course on SI for adult psychiatric patients was held in 1986.
Jean Ayres passed away on 15th December 1988.

In 1988 the use of the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT) was investigated by SAISI but due to costs and time realities (final scoring had to be done by Western Psychological Services (WPS) in Los Angeles) it was thus not practical to be introduced in South Africa.

1996 was a landmark in the existence of SAISI.   The first SI-NDT International Congress was organized by SAISI in collaboration with SANDTA and presented in Cape Town during this year.
2003 saw the 2nd SI-NDT congress, “In Touch with SI Worldwide – Under African Skies”.  The Clinical Observations of Gross Motor Items was published by SAISI.

In 2006 negotiations were held between SAISI and WPS regarding the use of the SIPT in SA. Susanne Smith Roley of the US was instrumental in the positive outcomes of the negotiations and in October 2006 the first SIPT conversion course was held for 60 OT’s that was certified in the use of the SCSIT to convert in the use of the SIPT. Zoë Mailloux and instructor of the University of Southern California and Western Psychological Services (USC/WPS) presented this first conversion course. Over the next few years and in collaboration with USC/WPS SAISI presented their own ASI® courses.

In 2008 the International Coalition for Education in Sensory Integration was founded and SAISI was part of that. The founding organizations USC/WPS (USA), SI-network (UK, Ireland), SAISI (South Africa), SI Finland and GSIO (Austria) wanted to demonstrate their common understanding of Sensory Integration and the common standards of the curricula they have been developing and implementing. Despite all formal differences, the SI-training of the member organizations share the level of the training and the orientation at Ayres Sensory Integration®.

In 2009 SAISI also received accreditor status for the presentation of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) activities.

Annamarie van Jaarsveld (with co-authors Zoe Mailloux and Dave Herzberg) did research in collaboration with SAISI on the use of the SIPT with children from South Africa. Although the research was done on a convenience sample of typically developing children, it included 775 children and the results indicated that with some adaptations to the primary scores of children 6 years and older, the SIPT can be used on the South African population.  An article on this research was published in the December 2012 edition of the South African Journal for Occupational Therapy.

The “Introduction to Sensory Integration” course was introduced in 2010.  This course caters for disciplines other than occupational therapy, i.e. speech therapy, physiotherapy, psychology and medical doctors.
Last but not least the possibility of introducing a SI qualification excluding the use of the SIPT, is being investigated.