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Digital Recording

Dissecting the Brain-Gut Connection to Address Sensorimotor Concerns for Autistic Children

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Varleisha Lyons, PhD, OTD, OTR/L, ASDCS
2 Hours 02 Minutes
Audio and Video
Apr 21, 2022
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Digital Recording
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Watch sought after occupational therapist, Dr. Varleisha Gibbs, PhD, OTD, OTR/L, ASDCS, as she walks you through improved evidence-based approaches to properly select interventions to help autistic children displaying challenges with self-regulation, emotional regulation, and sensorimotor skills.

Through current neurology research, new evidence on brain-gut connection along with video case scenarios, you’ll learn to:

  • Connect behaviour to gut ecosystem to better understand the symptomatology: Enteric nervous system, primitive reflexes, neurological senses, neuronal oscillations
  • Address challenging behaviours, such as hyperactivity, aggressiveness, self-stimulatory, sensory avoidance, and inattentiveness amongst other concerns

This recording will give specific focus to the CNS, and the role of ANS and the Vagus nerve, on motor patterns and self-regulation. Active learning strategies will include video neuroanatomical review and case examples.



This online program is worth 2.25 hours CPD.



Varleisha Lyons, PhD, OTD, OTR/L, ASDCS's Profile

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Varleisha D. Lyons (formerly Gibbs), PhD, OTD, OTR/L, ASDCS, is an occupational therapist and author with over 20 years of experience working with children and adolescents diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, sensory processing disorders and neurological disorders. She developed and founded Delaware’s first occupational therapy program and became the first black indigenous American woman to serve as the Scientific Programs Officer at the American Occupational Therapy Foundation. Currently, she is the Vice President of Diversity Equity Inclusion Justice Access and Belonging at the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).

Varleisha continues to lecture and provides training on sensory processing strategies and self-regulation to practitioners, parents, and teachers throughout the country and internationally. As co-author of Raising Kids with Sensory Processing Disorders, she has provided families with strategies to understand and care for their children. Dr. Lyons is the developer of the Self-Regulation and Mindfulness program and author of the best-selling book, Self-Regulation and Mindfulness: Exercises and Worksheets for Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorder (PESI Publishing & Media). She is the co-author of Trauma Treatment in ACTION: Over 85 Activities to Move Clients Toward Healing, Growth and Improved Functioning (PESI Publishing & Media). Her areas of expertise include neuroanatomy, self-regulation strategies across the lifespan, health inequities, and trauma responsive approaches.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this presentation belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author's employer, organization, committee or other group or individual. Varleisha D. Lyons PhD, OTR/L is employed by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). This work is independent of her role and not affiliated with AOTA, Inc.


Speaker Disclosures:
Financial: Dr. Varleisha Lyons has employment relationships with the American Occupational Therapy Association and VDTG, Inc. She receives royalties as a published author. Dr. Lyons receives a speaking honorarium, recording and book royalties from PESI, Inc. She has no relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations.
Non-financial: Dr. Varleisha Lyons is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association and the National Black Occupational Therapy Caucus. She serves on the advisory board of George Washington University Programs in Occupational Therapy and is a board member of the National Association for Hearing and Speech Action.


  1. Evaluate the neurology of the brain-gut connection to the various senses including interoception for treating autistic clients.
  2. Apply the latest research on the enteric nervous system to function and dysfunction of autistic individuals via the Self-Regulation and Mindfulness and ACTION from Trauma intervention programs.
  3. Investigate the mind-body connection of the microbiomes and sensory processing and connection to primitive reflexes and the effects in development and learning.
  4. Determine how rhythm and movement can improve self-regulation and sensorimotor function.


  • Possible Influences for the Presentation of Autism
    • Research for the Brain-Gut connection and behavioural presentations
    • Neurological connections to emotions and sensorimotor function including primitive reflexes
    • Trauma and autism connection to inform appropriate interventions
  • Self-Regulation & Mindfulness program and ACTION from Trauma Approach:
    • Assessment Tools
      • Screen areas of strength and areas revealing potential for growth
      • Assess the environment and context to identify opportunities for adaptation and modification
      • Determine arousal levels and potential thresholds: Concrete method used for daily schedules and to organize daily interventions
    • Treatment Planning
      • Neuronal Brain Oscillations/Autonomic Neuronal Plexuses/Vagus Nerve connection
      • Sensorimotor strategies to address the individual needs of children and families: Case examples
      • Adapt and modify activities and the environment to support the child’s needs
      • New interventions for vestibular, interoception, proprioceptive, auditory, rhythm, and breathwork
      • Primitive reflexes to address arousal, attention, and sensorimotor skills
  • Limitations of Research and Potential Risk

Target Audience

  • Addiction Counselors
  • Counselors
  • Marriage & Family Therapists
  • Nurses
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Physicians
  • Psychologists
  • Speech-Language Pathologists
  • Social Workers
  • Teachers/School-Based Personnel
  • Other Mental Health Professionals


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