Vision, Mission & History


Sensory Health and Wellness for the State, the Nation, and the World.


To impact quality of life by developing and promoting best practices for sensory health and wellness through treatment, education, and research.


STAR Institute for Sensory Processing was formed in 2016 from two merged organizations SPD Foundation and STAR Center. STAR Institute for SPD provides premier treatment, education, and research for children, adolescents, and adults with SPD. 

The SPD Foundation grew out of work begun in 1977 with funding from the U.S. Public Health Service division of Maternal and Child Health (MCH). With this grant from MCH, SPDF's founder, Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, developed and nationally standardized the Miller Assessment for Preschoolers (MAP) to assess preschool children with developmental disorders including Sensory Processing Disorder. The success of the MAP led to a series of additional studies and service projects to improve the understanding of SPD and the effectiveness of intervention for the disorder. In 1979, the forerunner of Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation received formal IRS designation as a non-profit charitable organization (501(c)3) with a mission of promoting research, education, and advocacy related to developmental disorders, particularly SPD. One year later, in 1980, we relocated from Philadelphia to Denver and established ourselves as the organization we are today. In 1995, the Foundation attracted the attention of the Wallace Research Foundation, which funded the development of a psychophysiology research laboratory to study SPD. With that, the Foundation turned its focus exclusively to SPD, then called "sensory integration dysfunction." By 1999, the SPD Foundation and Dr. Miller were recognized as leaders in SPD research, treatment, and evaluation. To broaden the research base and expand research-based treatment options for sensational children and families, Dr. Miller convened the SPD Scientific Work Group, a council of internationally recognized scientists with expertise in physiological, neurological, behavioral, and educational aspects of SPD. Since 2002, this interdisciplinary group has been conducting research in multiple disciplines into the etiology, neuropathology, signs and symptoms, treatment effectiveness, and developmental trajectories of SPD.

From 1994-2005, the Foundation's research laboratory was based at the University of Colorado Medical School, where Dr. Miller was a professor in the departments of Pediatrics and Rehabilitation Medicine. She was awarded two federal grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). One of them was an NIH Career Award to conduct a randomized controlled study of the effectiveness of occupational therapy to treat SPD. This study, the first of its kind, was conducted in collaboration with The Children's Hospital in Denver. The second award was an NIH planning grant to establish a group of advanced occupational therapists to develop a multi-site treatment effectiveness study. This group is known as the Sensory Integration Research Collaborative.

To avoid potential conflicts of interest with The Children's Hospital, the SPD Foundation was incorporated in 2005 to conduct ongoing psychophysiological and applied research. At the same time, Dr. Miller founded the STAR (Sensory Therapies And Research) Center to provide direct intervention services to children and adults with SPD. STAR Center and the SPD Foundation are co-located in metropolitan Denver.

To enlarge the population of advanced clinicians trained to administer SPD identification tools and to use the latest research-based methods of treating individuals diagnosed with SPD, the SPD Foundation in 2007 initiated an Intensive Mentorship Program. Advanced clinicians receive individualized instruction in assessment, treatment, and research and receive the SPDF Advanced Mentorship Certification upon completion.

The STAR Center Foundation received 501(c)(3) status from the IRS in 2011, after it converted from The STAR Center, LLC, which was established in 2005.

In 1995, Dr. Lucy Jane Miller founded the original STAR (Sensory Therapies And Research) Center at the University of Colorado medical school as a research institute.  Later, when Dr. Miller left the medical school in 2005, she moved the STAR Center to the Denver Tech Center, where it was housed together with the Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Foundation.  Since the SPD Foundation was already filling the need for a research institute, STAR Center rewrote its mission and vision and became the treatment partner for the SPD Foundation. 

In 2016, the two non-profit organizations merged, forming the new STAR Institute for Sensory Processing. By combining the visions and strengths of these two leading organizations, both of their missions are advanced. “We are now able, more than ever before, to give hope and help to children, adults, families, and caregivers, dealing with sensory challenges,” says Bill Whalen MD, President, Board of Directors, STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder.