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 brain and central nervous system of a newborn baby is still at an early stage of development and babies need an attuned adult and lots of nurture and movement experiences to allow them to grow into their bodies on a physical and an emotional level. When babies and young children are in neglectful and/or abusive environments they miss out on both aspects of this – the loving, attuned adult and the chance to grow into their bodies. This is significant because good bodily regulation and sensory integration gives the developing child a solid platform to negotiate the many developmental tasks of childhood: making relationships, play, understanding and managing their feelings and learning.

A lot of work with children who have experienced abuse and neglect focuses on relational and psychological therapies. These can be complemented by an intervention like BUSS, which brings together an understanding of the impact of trauma on the child, the importance of loving relationships and an inherent need to move in order to develop good bodily regulation. The focus of the model is to support families in using games and activities that will allow them to rebuild underdeveloped parts of a child’s foundation systems.

We hope that you’ll find this webinar useful – there’s information about the model, therapy and training as well as some discussion of why early motor experiences are so critical to later development and reflection and ideas from parents and professionals who have used the model on our website.

The three most important tenets of the BUSS model are movements and relationship and we’re keen to make sure this is reflected in our day together. A well as giving you information, we’d like you to have the chance to discuss what we’re talking about, hear from families and practitioners who are using the model, and to have  the chance to try out some of the games and activities that we might use with families.

The first part of 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 their bodies 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 by noticing how they are moving.

The rest of the day will consider the importance of this information. We’ll use small group discussion, hear from practitioners across different settings and from adoptive parents about their experience of using the model: Vicky Holland and Lindsey Champion will talk about their lived experience of using the model with their children . Katie Wrench, Manager of the Leeds Therapeutic Social Work Team, will talk about the impact of integrating the BUSS model into that setting and Dr Jules Franklin, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Sam Durrant, Therapeutic Social Worker and Play Therapist will use case studies to illustrate the work and how they have integrated it into their practice.

Participants will:

  • become familiar with sensory integration theory. Participants will learn  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. 
  • particularly the sorts of movements and nurture experiences babies need for motor development, and how this bodily regulation 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.
  • Have the chance to think with practitioners about integrating this model into their practise
  • Hear from adoptive parents about their lived experience of BUSS
  • Be given information about further training in BUSS

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.”

This course will be delivered using Zoom. This is very easy and safe to use regardless of your level of IT skill. 
You will need a device with a microphone and camera together with a suitably fast internet connection. Although mobile devices and tablets can be used, we recommend the use of laptop or desktop PC for the best experience. Some devices provided by employers may have restrictions in place. Please use this test link ( to check your set up before booking.
Additional resources for this course will be provided using Moodle, our virtual learning 

You will be sent joining instructions including all the necessary login links, passwords and guidance on how to use the relevant functionality about a week before the course start date.

Should you have any concerns about the accessibility of remote delivery please contact us at to discuss how we can best help you.

New dates for this course will be posted here in due course. In the meantime, if you would like further information or would like to add your name to the waiting list, please email us at 


New dates for this course will be posted here in due course. In the meantime, if you would like further information or would like to add your name to the waiting list, please email us at 

Certificate of attendance
Course length:
1 day
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