The BUSS® (Building Underdeveloped Sensory Systems) model is based on the understanding that early adversity means that, while babies and young children have missed out on good, nurturing relationships, it’s likely that their bodies have also missed the sorts of movements that go hand in hand with those relationships. Babies who feel safe and happy do lots of moving and have lots of positive, safe experiences of touch and nurture. Babies in frightening situations (in utero and once they’re born) don’t have these same touch experiences and because they’re not thriving and being stimulated, they don’t move nearly as much as typically developing children and as such their foundation systems can be compromised.
These systems are what helps us to feel confident in our movements; they mean that we have good head, neck and shoulder strength, as well as a strong core. Our movements are generally fairly smooth and well co-ordinated and we might use our eyes to look where we’re going, but we don’t have to watch our feet when we’re coming downstairs or our hand when we’re writing to check they’re doing the right thing. Click here to find out more about stages of early motor development and how they form a foundation for later stages of development.
Sometimes children and young people can talk about how they feel their body works for them. More often, children learn ways to compensate and use other parts of their bodies to make up for the parts that don’t work so well. It’s useful to begin to notice how your child is doing things. We’re really good at noticing what they’re doing, but it’s good to get used to noticing how they’re doing it. This is harder than it sounds and isn’t something that we’re used to doing – we’re used to children just being able to ‘do’ things and progress from one stage of development to the next without having to really analyse how they’re doing it, so don’t worry if it takes a while to adjust to doing this.
Sometimes it’s easier to start with yourself – notice what your body is doing as you sit or stand reading this. Where are you getting your stability from? If you’re sitting down, are you leaning against something? If you are, just try sitting up and notice what changes. I’m hoping that you can sit up, with your feet on the floor, and aren’t having to use any other parts of your body to get enough stability to stay in that position. Hopefully you’re not needing to lean across the table to hold yourself up or move around lots to just help your body know where it is.
If you can, just get up now and try to analyse how you did that. If you’re sitting at a table, did you use the table to help push yourself up? Where did the power for the movement come from? If you did push up, just sit down again and try again, this time just using your body to get up. Again think about that – which part of your body would you say ‘led’ the movement? Sometimes I think it’s useful to visualise a ‘line’ like the one you see on a TV screen when it’s a photo finish of a race and they’re analysing which runner crossed the line first. If you had an imaginary line when you’re standing up, which part of your body would cross the line first? Last? All of these things can be helpful in beginning to notice how we’re moving.
Once you’ve got used to noticing how you move, just try and observe how your child is moving, perhaps when they’re playing outside or at a playground with peers (without developmental trauma) and see how they’re holding themselves and moving about. You can get good information from noticing everyday things at home, like how they come downstairs, carry a glass of juice, sit at the table to eat dinner, write, walk and run around.
It’s helpful to notice what the quality of the movement is like. Do they move in a fluid, well-coordinated way? Does their body seem well synchronised so they’re able to do what they want to do without bumping into things or tripping over? Is there a smoothness about the movement? Sometimes it’s helpful to start by thinking about yourself and how you move – because we’re so used to children progressing from one stage of development to the next without us really having to give it any conscious thought.
It’s also useful to think about whether their body is giving good, reliable signals about things like whether they’re hungry; when they’re full; if they can taste what they’re eating and enjoy a range of different tastes and textures. Other clues can come from thinking about what sort of state of mind they’re in most of the time – are they able to stay in the moment of an experience and enjoy what’s happening or cope when they don’t know something; do they seem quite comfortable in themselves; or do they seem vigilant and stressed, as if they’re expecting something bad to happen.
The BUSS® team at Oakdale work with children and young people from babies onward. We’re always keen to intervene as early in the life of a child / family as possible. For babies and children whose experience of the intrauterine environment might have been a stressful one, it’s never too early or too soon!
All families who are referred to the BUSS® team at the Oakdale Centre are invited (with their Social Workers if that’s helpful) to watch a brief webinar which offers both a chance to meet the team and a crucial introduction to the BUSS® model. We also encourage exploration of the website, which is another great source of information about the model and this way of working. Parents and carers will also be sent some questionnaires by our BUSS® Administrator, to complete which will help their practitioner begin to build a picture of the child’s foundation systems. This will include a BUSS® screening tool. When these are completed and returned to us, we will allocate a BUSS® Practitioner to begin to work with the family as soon as possible. Before meeting with the family, the practitioner will review all the information from the screening questionnaires, the referral form and any other assessments provided.
The initial call is with your BUSS® Practitioner. We can arrange this via telephone or video call, whichever you feel most comfortable with. This will give the opportunity to talk through your child’s early experiences, family life, current presentation and movement, and discuss hopes and expectations for BUSS®. You can also think with your Practitioner about the best plan for working together and get a feel for the rhythm of the intervention.
Your Practitioner will ask you to do a range of different BUSS® activities and games with your child to inform the initial assessment report.
For face-to-face sessions, you will meet your Practitioner at our centre in Farsley (near Leeds, West Yorkshire) while if you are working with us remotely, your Practitioner will request video clips of these activities to review.
Parent/carer(s) will receive a copy of the initial assessment report.
Following your initial assessment, your Practitioner will schedule a chat with you to answer any questions from the report, and think about how you’re getting on as you get started with the BUSS® activities and games.
With your Practitioner, two calls will be scheduled (typically fortnightly) to check in on how things are going. Between these contact sessions, your Practitioner will request video clips of certain activities to review progress and think with you about any adaptations that would be right for your child.
The midway review can also take place face-to-face or remotely. Here we can reflect on the work so far and think together about next steps.
Two further check-in calls with your Practitioner… and more video clips!
The final session can also take place face-to-face or remotely. This will be your last scheduled contact session with your Practitioner to conclude the BUSS® work, review progress, and discuss moving forward.
Parent/carer(s) will receive a final summary report.
A parent support group, led by our Parent Mentors, runs once a month via Zoom. You are welcome to join this throughout your intervention. Click here to watch our Parent Mentors give an introduction to the BUSS® Parent Mentor Groups.
When requested, a review meeting will be held with parents/carer(s), the BUSS® Practitioner, Social Worker and / or any other professionals to review the work and think together about future recommendations and next steps.
Typically, the intervention is offered over 3-4 months and, for most families, this will be as much support as they need – they will have made significant progress in rebuilding their child’s underdeveloped sensorimotor systems and feel confident enough to continue independently with some guidance from their BUSS® Practitioner about next steps. A small number of families, usually where the child has been significantly impacted by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) or drug use in utero, may need ongoing direct support. In this case we would make recommendations about what further work might be indicated.
While every BUSS® intervention will be unique to each child undertaking it, we thought it might be helpful to give a flavour of some of the activities that may be suggested as part of a programme of work. Sarah, along with her daughter Ally, have made several videos that we hope will give you some idea of what a BUSS® intervention might include.
Reflecting on this activity, Sarah says, “I rarely meet children who have had early experiences of abuse and neglect who possess good feeding experiences. The whole festival of feeding and weaning is a very complex interaction and the BUSS Model tries to break the activity down into its component parts. Very simply, we could think of feeding as nourishment, but also a way of building oral strength and strengthening the parent-child relationship. The BUSS Model uses games like this to build oral strength and to put experiences of fun and nurture alongside earlier feeding experiences. As you’ll see, it is a short, easy activity that is designed to be fun for parents and children to do together and may be part of a wider programme of activities.”
Commando crawling can be a great way of building upper-body strength and in getting the body to work as an integrated unit – the right- and left-side of the body working together. However, it’s important to make sure that this activity is at the right level for each child and that they have the pre-requisite skills for this to be the right level of challenge. There’s more information about why the BUSS Model uses ‘Commando crawling‘ in this section.
"BUSS has given my twin girls freedoms they didn't have before. It's allowed them to access and explore the world in the ways they have been so desperate to. It's given us hope and endless positivity that our girls will get there and so we continue to do the BUSS activities. It's given us knowledge, understanding of why and how our girls are wired the way they are and given us the tools and self-belief to make a significant difference. Thank you so so much. Your work is powerful and helps children live the lives they deserve and empowers and tools up parents to help their children which they are so desperate to do."
“The impact so far on our daughter is remarkable. Our main concerns were around the way she manages her emotions, mainly at school and when playing with other children. She can feel very angry very quickly at seemingly small things. She also struggles to sit still and can’t cope with unpredictability. These were impacting on her friendships and her learning.”
"I just wanted to say an enormous “Thank You” to you for your work with us. You have been so fabulously knowledgeable and understanding and seem so quickly to have understood our family! Even though my son didn’t have standard BUSS type needs, I know we have benefited a lot from your input. I could not recommend what you offer more highly - You are awesome"
“We were struggling to understand how this physical work could help her emotionally, but the improvement so far has been remarkable. We have noticed that her reactions to unexpected situations are much more measured, school has fed back that she is calmer when she is there and that they can reason with her much more easily, she seems to be able to stay in the moment a little longer and generally seems less angry and frustrated all round. We will be continuing with great gusto and hoping that the improvements will continue!”
“My own personal understanding of what’s going on with my child and what they need is incredible. I have learned so much in the last few months and become really creative in how to use the sensory integration techniques in everyday life. Taste tests, exercise balls, balancing and combat crawling fun games that have been adapted to suit my child.”
“For her to feel comfortable walking down the stairs without being afraid was the biggest accomplishment I can think of, and in a very short space of time. I would definitely highly recommend this work; an essential understanding of what has been missed or gotten stuck and how it affects the body.”
"I think it's worked brilliantly and I've found it easier to fit into my life in terms of childcare and work commitments."
“It’s amazing that something that’s so completely life changing can be so much fun!”
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