Virginia Spielmann, PhD, OTR/L (she/her)

Executive Director, Affiliate Faculty Colorado State University, Visiting Assistant Professor Salem State University, ICDL Clinical Consultant

Virginia Spielmann headshotVirginia is a well-travelled speaker, coach and educator on topics including sensory integration, DIR/Floortime®, child development and infant mental health. She has conducted trainings in Kenya, Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and the USA and leads workshops at international conferences.

Virginia is a founder and former Clinical Director of SPOT (Speech, Physical, and Occupational Therapy) Interdisciplinary Children's Therapy Center in Hong Kong, where she led a large and widely respected inter-disciplinary team.

Virginia obtained her BSc in Occupational Therapy in Oxford England (2002), and her MS OT in the USA in 2018, she obtained her PhD in Early Childhood Development with an emphasis on mental health, with Fielding Graduate University, in Santa Barbara in 2021. Virginia has considerable post-graduate training, she is certified on the SIPT and a DIR/Floortime Expert Level Training Leader and parent coach. 

Virginia is part of the Interdisciplinary Council for Development and Learning (ICDL) advisory board as a clinical consultant. Her extensive pediatric experience includes supporting children on the autism spectrum, as well as those with differences in sensory integration and processing, infant mental health issues, adoption, acquired brain injury, neurodevelopmental differences and those who have experienced developmental trauma. She is a co-developer of Critical Core a therapeutic role playing game designed to support social flourishing in youth who struggle with confidence and competence in social situations. She is also co-designer of the Palaana Sensory Lounger with Slack Lifestyle. 

Upcoming Speaking Engagements:

  • December 17, 2021 8am-9am MST: Sensory and Autism, Early Intervention, Role and Importance of Parents in Therapy, Autism Community Network, Texas, online

Conference Presentations:

  • Spielmann, V. · Clinical Reasoning and Professional Reflection – Necessary Bedfellows in the Pursuit of Therapeutic Excellence · Schell Professional Reasoning Colloquium · Online Conference October 8, 2021
  • Spielmann, V. · Applying the Ecological Model of Professional Reasoning in Family Centered, Relationship-Based Practice · Schell Professional Reasoning Colloquium · Online Conference October 8, 2021
  • Spielmann, V. · Towards a Pandemic-Resilient Intervention: Best Practices for Therapy · Phillippine Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics: The 11th Annual Biennial Convention in Phillippines · Online Conference September 8-9, 2021
  • Spielmann, V. · Reflective Supervision · Shaping the Future Together: 2021 Occupational Therapy Graduate Student Research Conference · Salem State University · April 17, 2021
  • Davis, A., Johns, A., & Spielmann, V. · Critical Core: An RPG for Social Flourishing. · Therapeutic and Applied Geek Gaming Summit · Online April 11, 2021
  • Spielmann, V. · Inclusive Play: Playgrounds for Invisible Disabilities · Austin Parks Foundation in Austin, TX · Online November 10, 2020
  • Davis, A., Johns, A., & Spielmann, V. · Development with Dice: From Core Deficit to Critical Capacities · THE 24TH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL DIRFLOORTIME® CONFERENCE Floortime All the Time and Everywhere · ICDL · Online Conference November 9, 2020
  • Spielmann, V. · The Impact of Sensory Integration and Processing on Development of Attachment · THE 24TH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL DIRFLOORTIME® CONFERENCE Floortime All the Time and Everywhere · ICDL · Online Conference November 7, 2020
  • Kamke, G., Spielmann, V. & Holder, K. · Promoting Growth Without A Change Agenda · THE 24TH ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL DIRFLOORTIME® CONFERENCE Floortime All the Time and Everywhere · ICDL · Online Conference November 4, 2020
  • Doctor B, Dunlap, K., Spielmann, V., & Hampton, R. Development & Dragons: Modifying RPGs to Play with Kids · PAX Unplugged Philadelphia, PA · December 8, 2019
  • Spielmann, V. The Interplay of Regulation, Relationships and Sensory Integration: Impact on Function and Participation · Main Session · International Sensory Integration Congress Hong Kong · October 13, 2019
  • Nordlund, B., Noel, C. & Spielmann, V. · Designing Parks and Playspaces for Accessibility · Breakout Session · Greater and Greener Exploring Natural Connections Denver, Colorado · July 22, 2019
  • Spielmann, V. · Looking Back to Move Forward: Relationship as a Historic & Integral Element of Sensory Integration · Main Session · The 6th European Sensory Integration Congress Thessaloniki, Greece · June 22, 2019
  • Spielmann, V. · Sensory Integration and Processing in Autism · International scientific-practical conference. Innovations in Autism Interventions: Research and Practice of DIRFloortime Moscow, Russia · April 22-24, 2019 
  • Spielmann, V. · Sensory Integration and Affective Processing Across the Life Span · Wyoming Occupational Therapy Association Annual Conference Casper, Wy · September 15-16, 2018
  • Spielmann, V. · No Child is a Mystery · Plenary Session 20th International 3S Symposium in Denver, Colorado · November 5, 2017
  • Spielmann, V. · Sensory Processing in the Broader Perspective of Child Development - A Dynamic Systems Perspective Using Jenga · Plenary Session 19th International 3S Symposium in Seattle, Washington · November 5, 2016
  • Spielmann, V. · Individual Differences – I is for Sensory Integration · Workshop at the 2016 International DIRFloortimeÒ 20th Annual Conference · September 24, 2016
  • Spielmann, V. · Theoretical Models of Sensory Integration and Components of Comprehensive Assessment · Workshop at the 2015 International DIRFloortimeÒ Conference: Embracing Individual Differences · September 20, 2015 

Summary of Teaching and Workshops:

  • Sensory Processing 101, · July 15, 2021
  • General Introduction and Orientation to the STAR Process, Shanghai Zhiliao Hospital, China · May 21, 2021
  • Sensory Integration/Processing and Sense of Self - Sensory Integration Education, United Kingdom · 2021
  • Considering Attachment and Trauma in the Context of Sensory Integration Therapy - Sensory Integration Network UK Masters Program · 2020 (recorded webinar)
  • The Therapeutic Relationship – Sensory Integration Network UK Masters Program · 2020 (recorded webinar)
  • Sensory Processing and Integration – Exploring Sensoriaffective Development – ICDL DIR/FloortimeÒ 201 certification program · 2019 (recorded webinar)
  • Individual Differences – Complex Systems Interact in Complicated Ways – ICDL DIR/FloortimeÒ 101 workshop · 2019 (recorded webinar)
  • Developmental Trauma: Implications for Heart Mind and Body – Two Day Workshop, Hong Kong · June 9, 2017 
  • Parental Attunement for Young Parents – Hong Kong · 2017
  • The Building Blocks for Academic Readiness, Teacher Training – English Schools Foundation Hong Kong · 2017
  • Building Connections: Creating Secure Attachment and Healthy Minds Through Relationship and Play–Talk and Discussion for Adoptive Families of Hong Kong Charity · May 8, 2015 
  • ICDL DIR Floortime Certification Program: Introductory Course (101) and Full Certification Courses (201, 202, 203, 204A)


  • Spielmann, V., Whiting, C., Ochsenbein, M., & Schoen, S., (2021) A Multi-Tiered and Multi-Dimensional Approach to Intervention in Schools: Recommendations for Children with Sensory Integration and Processing Challenges, Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention
  • Spielmann, V., Schoen, S., Parkins, M., (In Press). Sensory Integration and DIR/Floortime – The STAR Frame of Reference. In E.I. Blanche, C. Giuffrida, M. Hallway, B. Edwards and L. Test (Eds.), Blending sensory integration intervention with other approaches in pediatric practice: A data-based approach to practice. New York: Taylor & Francis/Routledge
  • Spielmann, V., Clairy, K., & Ochsenbein, M. (In Press). Intersection of Trauma in Neurodivergent Populations. In A. K. Lynch, R. Ashcraft, & L. Tekell (Eds.), Trauma Informed Care in Occupational Therapy. Bethesda, Maryland: AOTA Press.
  • Davis, A. (co), Johns, A. (co), & Spielmann V., (2021). Critical Core – A Therapeutic Role-Playing Game. Seattle: Game to Grow.
  • Spielmann, V. & Miller, L.J. (2020). Sensory integration and processing: Impact on anxiety in autism. In S.M. Edelson, and J.B. Johnson (Eds.), Understanding and treating anxiety in autism.  London: Jessica Kingsley Press. 
  • Miller, L. J., Chu, R. C., Parkins, M., Spielmann, V. A., & Schoen, S. A. (2020). The STAR process: An overview. In A. C. Bundy & S. J. Lane (Eds.), Sensory Integration: Theory and Practice (3 ed., pp. 578-585). Philadelphia: F. A. Davis Company.
  • Spielmann, V. (2020). The Interplay of Regulation, Relationships and Sensory Processing: Impact on Function and Participation. SensorNet, Sensory Integration Education News, UK, 55: January 2020
  • Spielmann, V., & Porter, L. M. (2019). Model of Imposed Adaptation in Childhood Learning Environments—Application to Autism. A precarious game of developmental Jenga. Autism and Developmental Disorders, 17(2), 18–33.
  • Schoen, S. A., Einck, C., Spielmann, V., Valdez, A., & Miller, L. J. (2019). A Trampoline Group: Feasibility, Implementation, and Outcomes. Autism and Developmental Disorders, 17(2), 58–86.
  • Schoen, S. A., Spielmann, V., & Miller, L. J. (2019). Introduction to Sensory Integration Methods in Autism. In E. M. Sokhadze & M. F. Casanova (Eds.), Autism Spectrum Disorder: Neurofeedback and Sensory Integration Approaches to Research and Treatment (pp. 253–283). Murfreesboro, TN: Foundation for Neurofeedback & Neuromodulation Research (FNNR) and BMED Press.
  • Miller, L. J., Schoen, S. A., & Spielmann, V. (2019). A Frame of Reference for Sensory Processing Difficulties: Sensory Therapies and Research (STAR). In P. Kramer, J. Hinojosa, & T.-H. Howe (Eds.), Frames of Reference for Pediatric Occupational Therapy (4th ed., pp. 159–204). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.
  • Hollenbeck, J., Spielmann, V., & Miller, L. J. (2019). Motor Skills to Enhance Participation. In G. J. Frolek Clark, J. E. Rioux, & B. E. Chandler (Eds.), Best Practices for Occupational Therapy in Schools (2nd Ed, pp. 473–480). AOTA Press
  • Spielmann, V. (2018). How does implementing reflective practice in a multi-disciplinary team impact treatment provision from a dynamic systems perspective? In Zero to Three.

Publications in Progress:

  • Spielmann, V & Dishlip, C (2020). 20Q: Understanding Sensory Integration and
    Processing., Article 20387.

In press: 

  • Spielmann, V., Clairy, K., & Ochsenbein, M. (n.d.). Intersection of Trauma in Neurodivergent Populations. In A. K. Lynch, R. Ashcraft, & L. Tekell (Eds.), Trauma Informed Care in Occupational Therapy. Bethesda, Maryland: AOTA Press.

Summary of Contributions to Articles / Social Media Magazines 

  • Life in Colorado October 18, Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder,, 2020
  • Inclusive Playgrounds Offer Kids with SPD More Than Just a Place to Play - Colorado Parent Magazine,, 2020
  • The Little Scientist, Podcast for Affect Autism, April 2018
  • Why some kids hate the bath and what to do about it, interview by Johannah Haney for Todays Parent, April 2018
  • Sensory Lifestyle, Podcast for Affect Autism, March 2018, 
  • How Hong Kong schools are swapping sit-in-a-chair education for a more active style, interview by Angela Baura for South China Morning Post, (print and online) 28 March 2016 

  • Why some Hong Kong babies need lessons in sensory development, interview by Hazel Parry for South China Morning Post, (print and online) 5 May 2015 

  • Making Sense – What is SPD?, interview for Playtimes magazine (print and online) 24 April, 2015 

  • Something for the Weekend, Hong Kong Heroes, interview by Tim Littlechild, on RTHK Radio 3, 25 July 2014
  • Screen Time for Kids: How Much is Too Much?, interview by Georgia McCafferty for Geobaby (online), 5 March 2014 

What is Sensory Processing?

by Virginia Spielmann

We experience the world and each other through our sensory systems.

Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch work together to let our brain and body know about the external world. We all prefer different intensities of sensation and this is referred to as sensory responsivity. There are also three additional senses that are not commonly know; proprioception, vestibular, and interception. 

If we are lucky enough to take our sensory processing ability for granted that usually means that we have figured out our own personal sensory processing strengths and weaknesses and organized our life and world around them. For example, we know that to stay awake in a meeting we need to rock in our chair, or chew gum; and we know just how we want our loved one to hold our hand and just what setup we need at night time in order to sleep well.

We make sense of every waking experience by integrating and processing partial pieces of data from multiple sensory systems. When we put all these sensory pieces together we are able to build the bigger picture, understand the world and where we are in it. Sensory processing contributes to all domains of development including academic skills, relationship skills and motor development and coordination.

Take a moment to think about all the sensory systems involved in some of your activities today. What sensory experiences did you have today that helped you feel calm, organized and focused? Did you have any sensory experiences that were upsetting? Surprising? Or even frightening?

We are sensational beings, and sensation can help us or hinder us as we develop, learn and participate throughout the lifespan.

What happens when sensory processing goes wrong?

In order to move and act in the world efficiently and appropriately our brain and body must piece together fragments of information from our eight sensory systems to produce the ‘whole picture’. This process has multiple steps, all of which should not little or no conscious effort.

  1. In in the first place we have to register what is happening – we must catalogue all the sensory data an experience provides to our different sensory systems

  2. Following that step our brains help us to prioritize if a response is required and how big a response or reaction the sensory stimulus necessitates (modulation)

  3. We must also assess the precise details of the stimulus, such as quality, amount, intensity, location, size, and shape (discrimination)

  4. Almost at the same time we are putting all this information together to make the ‘bigger picture’ and assess how we need to respond to the stimulus

  5. We are then able to produce a response of some kind that involves muscle activation (tone or posture), and coordinating and moving our head, eyes, body and limbs in and through space (motor planning or praxis).

Analyzing, prioritizing and responding to almost every event in our environment and body involves this incredibly complex means of sensory processing.

When a person is feeling stressed or unwell it can be easy to notice that sensory processing goes awry. They may suddenly be jumpy when the doorbell rings, not enjoy being touched lightly on the arm, have a poor sense of balance or accidently slam drawers shut and doors open. When a person drinks to much alcohol it affects the membranes in the vestibular system making them ‘float’ - consequentially a person who has had a lot to drink might look like an astronaut walking in space because they have a compromised sense of movement and where the ground is.

For some individuals, Sensory Processing has never been effortless or subconscious and it is a daily struggle that impairs their quality of life and ability to complete common tasks. This is when support should be put in place to help the sensory systems respond more appropriately and to provide supportive adaptations. The recommended intervention for individuals with disordered Sensory Processing is Occupational Therapy from a therapist with advanced post qualification training in sensory integration / sensory processing.