Building Underdeveloped Sensorimotor Systems (BUSS): Innovative methodology for improving sensory processing in children with developmental trauma

Course overview

Current practice with children who have experienced developmental trauma tends to focus on psychological and relational therapies. Whilst these are undoubtedly important, they can be complemented by a ‘bottom up’ approach, understanding the role that good bodily regulation and functioning plays in enabling a child to engage in relationships and thinking. The BUSS model brings together sensory integration theory (how the brain and central nervous system develop in response to movement), attachment theory and a neurodevelopmental understanding of the impact of trauma on the developing brain. Bringing these models together within the context of a nurturing relationship offers the potential to fill in the gaps in the child’s movement experiences that have been left by early adversity, thus allowing them to grow into themselves on a bodily level. This in turn offers a stable platform for the development of social/emotional skills and learning. 

The morning session will offer participants an overview of the foundation sensorimotor systems: vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile. Looking at early development through the lens of sensory integration and attachment theories, the session will describe how babies are born ready to grow into themselves on a bodily level through the loving relationships that they need to enable movement and psychological development. We’ll think about the impact of neglect and abuse on this process, and the information that can be gleaned about the state of development of these foundation systems in school age children from noticing how they are moving.

The afternoon session will consider the importance of this information; how it can be used to think about gaps in a child’s systems and how the BUSS model offers families support to fill in those gaps. We will then look at the practical application of the model – both at the individual level and for a service. Vicky Holland, an adoptive parent, will talk about her family’s experience of using the model with their daughter. Katie Wrench, Manager of the Leeds Therapeutic Social Work Team, will talk about the impact of integrating the BUSS model into that setting.

Participants will:

  • become familiar with sensory integration theory, how babies and young children grow into themselves on a bodily level, and how this forms the bottom of the pyramid of development
  • be taught about the vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile systems, the role they play in bodily regulation and movement and why the relational context is key to their development. 
  • get ideas about how to begin to notice movement and the clues this gives about the functioning of these systems. 
  • gain an understanding of the BUSS model, how this model is different from sensory integration therapy and the ways in which an underdeveloped system differs from a sensory processing disorder.

This course is suitable for all professionals working with children who have experienced developmental trauma; from health, education and social care as well as adoptive parents and foster carers. 

Sarah Lloyd is a Specialist Occupational Therapist and Play Therapist who has worked in CAMHS for over 30 years. Sarah currently works in Leeds in CAMHS, seconded to fostering and adoption, as well as running a BUSS training and clinical practice from the Oakdale Centre in Harrogate. Her first book, Improving Sensory Processing in Traumatised Children, was published by JKP in 2015. Her second book, Building Sensorimotor Systems in Children with Developmental Trauma, is due for publication by JKP in April 2020.  She can be contacted at

The introductory day is the first of four levels of training in this model. For more information about the model and training, please visit

Parents who have attended the one-day training talk about how “hopeful and empowered” they feel.

Therapists and fostering and adoption practitioners have reported finding the training “inspiring, informative and relevant across the spectrum of children who are looked after”.

Feedback from education staff who have come on this training have talked about how “helpful” it was and how much it has “changed and enhanced their practice”.

The Children’s Commissioner in Leeds, where Sarah is working, wrote: “In just a short period of time Sarah has had a tremendous impact in Leeds in developing and testing out the BUSS model. It is one of the best decisions I have made to support her secondment.  The BUSS model and impact this is having is recognised by our strategic boards where she has presented her findings.”

New dates will be advertised here in due course. In the meantime, if you would like to express an interest in attending and be added to the waiting list please contact us at 


Certificate of attendance
Course length:
1 day
The Tavistock Centre, London
Admission status:

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