Plato's response to the state of 'certificates' and 'certification' for sensory integration

I received my "certification" to administer and interpret the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests in 1992. I believe that the test battery was published in 1989 so it was still fairly new at the time I was certified. At that time there was a certification examination that you had to pass. I don't know how psychometrically sound the SII program was - but they claimed that it was a certification program. SII never wanted me to 'recertify' though - which is a little scary.

In the past twenty years the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests have not been updated and there are no new norms. I have never heard of an occupational therapist talking about the Flynn Effect or heterosis so I don't know if anyone believed that there is a useful lifespan of an assessment tool. Some OTs still use the old Bruininks-Oseretsky test that has 25 year old norms - they just got around to updating those norms recently but I still see a lot of reports with the old test given. Personally, I (mostly) stopped using the Bruininks in 1995, and I stopped using the SIPT heavily around 2002. I don't get nearly as many requests for the SIPT anymore, but I still administer it episodically.

OTs are a little funny with using old and outdated things, I guess. That is not a good characteristic. Maybe we would be less willing to use such outdated material if more information was readily available about the problems with this kind of material.

I got to thinking about this today because of an article that appeared in the Advance for OT magazine about Sensory Integration International. According to the report, SII is barred by the Superior Court of California from conducting business. If you do a Google search you can find a lot of people complaining about being charged for goods or services that were never delivered. That is an embarrassing thing to find if you are Googling 'sensory integration' on the web!

So I got my certification from SII a long time ago - and I imagined that by now it was a worthless certification anyway. The news reported in Advance for OT makes SIPT certification that much more worthless. If the reports in the Advance for OT article are true, this case is essentially as bad (and comical) as a modern day Doc Terminus.

There is a new/competing SIPT certificate now that you can get from Western Psychological Services. I am not certain how useful certificates are that don't require competency testing or that don't require any kind of recertification process. At least they acknowledge some conflicts of interest: "Note: WPS receives financial consideration for publications recommended for use during the Comprehensive Program in Sensory Integration through USC/WPS. Individual course instructors may be authors of such publications and as such may receive royalties or other compensation."

I have hope that therapists and consumers will learn to be savvy about these things. I would bet that WPS and USC know that they don't actually have a "certification program" and that is why they are careful about their wording about receiving a 'certificate' and not a 'certification.' Still, they claim that their certificate "acknowledges basic competency." That is just about as close to the line that their lawyers let them walk, probably.

For a profession that wants to be taken seriously and to have the concept of sensory integration taken seriously these are not good signs.

Most consumers don't spend time on the NOCA website ( and don't know about standards of certification programs. Because consumers don't spend a lot of time on these sites that means that ethical professionals have to educate them about certificates and certification programs.

I encourage OTs to gather more knowledge about certification and certification programs. The example of Sensory Integration International makes an interesting case study in how a good idea being promulgated by well-meaning professionals can go very badly - very quickly.

What is the truth about sensory integration and certificates and certification? Like the people in Plato's cave - we have to have a willingness to 'see' both the unhidden and the hidden information. I'm glad that Advance for OT published that story - but still a little sorry that it took so long to really 'bring the issue into the light.'

I also have hope that the USC/WPS program will distinguish itself in ways that the SII program never accomplished. They have a real opportunity and could start by clearing up the whole certificate/certification issue. Then they could get to work on updating the norms for the SIPT. ABC Therapeutics will volunteer as a normative testing agency if anyone ever takes on this project.


Anonymous said…
I'm addicted to your blog tonight. Being an OT out in SI Land, we get requests for only SIPT certified therapists to work and evaluate our school based students. I too was wondering about the old normative data of the SIPT a few weeks ago. WPS said it would be looking into re-norming it in the future. Thanks for the intelligent, thought provoking Blog.
Anonymous said…
I was considering SIPT certification. This is one of the first articles to come up when you google it. This is very interesting.....definitely something to consider. Thank you!
Anonymous said…
As a "new' therapist in pediatrics, what course or series of courses do you recommend. I have wasted a lot of money on courses that spend a whole day on telling you...what the sensory systems are and what it would be like to experience the problem(think vasoline on glasses). Who do you recommend. I considered SIPT certification because I thought it would be thorough. I would have a great outline for treatment. If you don't recommend SIPT certification, what do you recommend? Barb
Hi Barb,

I have not re-taken the WPS courses recently and the biggest issue I would caution about now is that I am not certain when the new SIPT is being published. I see very little purpose in getting certified for a test that is ~25 years old. In fact, I question if it is even ethical to offer the courses to certify you on a test that is so outdated.

That being said, I would call them if I were you and ask if any of the theory content will carry over to the new SIPT - and if they even have a date when it might be published. There may be some value in those courses if they are being oriented around a new SIPT, but just remember that they are inherently biased because they are also selling you products (test kits, test forms, etc.). That means you should apply your own common sense and scrutiny to consider if you are getting a neutral opinion about these topics. Bias certainly doesn't make it worthless, but it is something to keep in mind.

Overall, I have found many continuing ed courses (outside of the WPS courses) as being light on evidence. There is very variable quality in what you will find advertised in magazines or based on what you will find posted around the Internet.

So with WPS you have certification on an outdated test and some potential bias. With other continuing ed providers it is truly a value roulette wheel.

Above all else, I recommend University-based education (matriculated or not would be up to you and your career goals) but graduate level neuroanatomy courses, biological psychology courses, psychology courses on state and temperament theory, human development courses, and even robotics and dynamics of system control will all be potentially helpful. Of course you could also bypass formal education and just direct your own reading and study - again depending on your own goals. If you go that route though I recommend finding a mentor or study group so you can have opportunity to talk about the material.

Hope this helps - feel free to post here or email if you have other questions.


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