Changing the Sensory Perspective One Connection at a Time | Nancy Nevlin's Story

Police Officers with course led Nancy NevlinNancy is a nurse and mom to her 10-year-old son. The past few years Nancy was worried about her son—knowing that something was amiss in how he was taking in and interacting with the world—and told his doctor about her concerns. The doctor continued to tell her that he will eventually “grow out of it”, especially because it wasn’t impacting his academics and school career. Then COVID hit, and remote learning started, and Nancy noticed more aggression and maladaptive behaviors from her son. After reading a book recommended by a friend, she realized her concerns were rooted in his sensory processing and integration. STAR Institute was referenced in a lot of her initial research and in March 2020 Nancy and her husband talked to a therapist at STAR, sharing more of their story. The family came out to Colorado that summer for a week-long extended evaluation. After receiving the initial report, Nancy and her son traveled once again from Illinois to Colorado for a three-week intensive therapy program at STAR. The program took its tole on the whole family--being away from home, dealing with all things covid-related, and being inundated with so much new information! Nancy remembers her frustration during the process when there wasn’t a simple list of “do’s and don’ts” or a “sensory diet”, but instead they were taught how to listen and respond to what our body and sensory systems are telling us.

Nancy says, “It didn’t just change the way I saw my son, it changed the way I saw everybody...I thought I knew a lot about our sensory systems, but I realized I knew nothing…I can’t imagine what our lives would be like if we didn’t find STAR two years ago…now when we see someone who looks upset or grumpy my son will say, ’Maybe they’re grumpy because their body feels unsafe.’ Imagine if the world responded to everyone with that inquisitiveness, instead of just writing someone off as grumpy.”

After being at STAR Nancy took it as her mission to learn everything she could about sensory processing and integration. Throughout her learning, she noticed this huge gap between the research and actually putting it into practice. So, this led to even more research, assured that someone was surely doing this in her community already…but the more she researched the less she found. Nancy was telling all her friends and family that someone needed to fill this gap! About a year ago, with the support of her community, Nancy finally said “That somebody can be me!” She took her experience as a nurse, her newfound education on all things sensory, and consultations with STAR Institute’s Director of Education, and created a course for her local police department. “Our police officers are put into situations all the time. It just made sense to start there!”

Nancy worked with the State of Illinois to certify her course under the new Civil Rights, procedural justice, and crisis intervention requirement. Her two-hour course, Exploring Sensory Processing and Neurodiversity, began with the officers taking a sensory self-assessment to identify their own sensory profiles and preferences, opening the door to the understanding that our sensory health is vital to our day-to-day living. By focusing on basic awareness and practical application, Nancy was able to help the department recognize what they are already doing—but just putting language around it.

“I never realized how deeply trauma is rooted in our sensory systems. I thought I had never experienced trauma before. But as a nurse, working twelve-hours shifts and seeing some of these things, I realized, ‘Of course I have!’ And these police officers have, too. We’re constantly told to just brush it off and forget about it, but it’s not that easy. Our bodies don’t just forget what happens when we go home to our families, we carry it with us. It’s not just affecting our mental and physical health, it’s rooted in our sensory health….I see trauma so different now.”

At STAR Institute we are so grateful for Nancy and her work in spreading awareness about sensory health and wellness and taking the lead to create a more sensory-informed community. We know the importance of understanding our sensory systems and how they impact every single thing we do throughout the day. If every police officer, healthcare provider, and teacher understood this—if every child in this current generation was aware of this impact—the world would be a different place. When understanding how and why our bodies take in information and interact with the world becomes common knowledge, we can make more room for our diverse beings. But in Nancy’s words, “[STAR] can’t do it alone. We need people all over the place to start this in their communities.”

Are you ready to transform lives through sensory health? STAR Institute wants to support you in making a change. Contact us at

“Anybody can do it. You just have to be brave and do something. Even if it scares you—you can be scared and still do it.”

Willing to share your story and the difference happening in your community? Contact us today!