Change that leads to better lives

Karen Forrest, Associate

Karen Forrest

Karen is a highly experienced occupational therapist and advanced sensory integration practitioner.

Her career began when, at the age of 14, she was placed at the local institution for people who have a learning disability and / or are autistic for work experience and she enjoyed it so much that she just carried on, first as a volunteer then as a care assistant!

Eventually she chose occupational therapy as the way in which she wanted to continue her career with this service user group, qualifying in 1994 with a BSc (Hons). She was part of the resettlement process, witnessing the real improvements made to people’s lives as they became part of the community and eventually seeing the institution closed. This experience was a powerful early influence in her career, and she remains dedicated to the inclusion agenda.

Throughout her career, Karen has worked in a mixture of NHS community, hospital and forensic settings. She sat on the governing body of her NHS trust and established meaningful inclusion of the service user group. She holds a PG Cert (with distinction) in sensory integration and has an interest in the role of sensory integration differences in the formulations of individuals who have offended or who are cared for in restrictive environments. Karen is an e-Facilitator for Sensory Integration Education’s Association of Sensory Integration Practice where she has an active role in the ‘journal club’, assisting members to remain current. Within this role she regularly presents a video-recorded ‘specialist perspective’ interpreting current topics in respect of practice in forensic and secure environments and leads a related special interest group.

Karen has her own independent practice offering clinical work, supervision, mentoring and training. She believes there is a real need to provide high quality assessment of individual sensory needs, informed by the underlying neuroscience, to further inform the functional assessment of behaviour and appropriate and compassionate positive behavioural support planning. She believes this is the way forward in supporting the person to participate and achieve the best possible outcomes in relation to quality of life, as they perceive it.

Karen continues to support Care Quality Commission inspections as a specialist advisor and works as a clinical expert and chair for Care (Education) and Treatment Reviews (C(E)TRs). She actively networks in these roles and, as an associate of the NDTi, she has been involved in clinical expert recruitment and has co-produced and delivered training for C(E)TR chairs, clinical experts and experts by experience, and various professional groups.

As an occupational therapist, Karen sees leisure time as important and through this tries to establish her own ‘sensory diet’! This comprises of regular exercise, including walking her two dogs and dancing. She even once treated a client with dyspraxia by taking him along to her own dance class with measurable results in terms of sensory integration. However, what was most striking was the effect of true social inclusion on the self-esteem of the individual – another powerful reinforcer for the importance of the inclusion agenda.

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