Suzi Sandford
About Me

I'm an Occupational Therapist (OT) dedicated to empowering families affected by Autism to adapt, develop and aspire.

My brother has a diagnosis of Autism.

This personal experience fuels my passion for my work.

My Work
I support parents/carers to focus on the key issues blocking everyday living. My approach fosters positivity and supports the celebration of Autism 'warts and all'... My work in schools gets children on the spectrum thriving not just surviving.

I'd love to hear from you

Qualifications & Background

I’m a qualified HPC registered Occupational Therapist. My professional background includes work for the NHS, supported living housing trusts and charities for adults with Learning Difficulties. I have also worked within Europe and Africa developing services within education charities.

Professional Qualifications & Accreditations
– Postgraduate Diploma in OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY with Merit from Cardiff University
– Health Professions Council – Registration Number: OT63515
– British Association of Occupational Therapy (BAOT), member of two specialist sections – Children, Young People and Families, Independent Practice. Membership Number: BT0805087
– Sensory Integration Network Member
– National Autistic Society Member including Network Autism

Benefits of Working with Me

As an Independent Therapist, I’m free to craft my service to meet each family’s specific needs. Giving you want you need, when you need it. Typically this involves school visits, 1:1 consultations with Parents/Carers to find solutions to issues impacting everyday living and working with other health professionals to make sure everything is covered.

I don’t simply add to your ‘to do list’, I cut straight to the core of things. Using a coaching approach I pass the therapist reins over to you. (Don’t worry I also provide more directive support as required).

I believe in you as the expert & encourage you to follow your intuition. I can help you get the most from activities & approaches already in place & bring focus to the issues that will make the biggest difference to your family’s health and well-being.

I’m part of a network of Autism Professionals across Bristol that are striving to fill the gaps in provision for families affected.

Other professionals I’ve worked with include ….

Hannah Ross
… a qualified teacher with eight years of experience with children with special educational needs, both in school and in a home education environment. She has a postgraduate certificate in ABA (applied behaviour analysis) and specialises in creating individually tailored curricula for students with an emphasis on meeting their communication, social and academic needs rather than subscribing to a particular method of teaching. Hannah also has a degree in Biochemistry and is working towards a diploma in nutritional therapy.


“Sometimes it’s difficult to navigate the system, Suzi offered a helping hand when we were struggling to get Occupational Therapy through the NHS … Whenever I speak to her I always know what the plan of action is when she leaves, which means the work ahead isn’t so overwhelming. Every step is clear, as well as why she suggested it.”

Sam Nott – Parent

“When people work with an autistic child for the first time, there is often a fear factor in about doing the ‘wrong’ thing. Suzi is wonderful in the way that, both with staff and students, she is able to diffuse that fear and put everyone at ease…I would recommend Suzi unreservedly to other families affected by autism.”

Nick Burns – Class Teacher at Backwell Secondary School.

“Suzi is an excellent Occupational Therapist with an in-depth knowledge of Autism, both on a professional and personal level (she has an adult brother with Autism)…I highly recommend Suzi. She has been a great help to my daughter and me.”

Kate Laine-Toner – Parent & Founder of Bristol Autism Support.


Back to School – OT Support – SPECIAL OFFER

If your child’s return to school hasn’t gone smoothly, I can help. I work with local schools and nurseries to adapt the environment to give the child the best opportunity to thrive.

What I do depends on the child’s unique strengths and challenges. It often includes advising on how to adapt the physical spaces to support the child to learn and play, providing training and support to help school staff understand what they observe, e.g. what is behavioural and what is sensory issues.

I can also act as your advocate to support you getting your concerns heard and answered.

Post notes screwed up and back to school written on a note


This special offer includes:

* OT School Visit – OT assessment, interview and troubleshoot with key staff (3 – 4 hours)
* Key issue training session for 1:1 Learning Support Worker (30 mins)
* Key issue training session for parent/carer (30 mins)
* Summary OT Report with specific recommendations
* Telephone follow up call with school (up to 30 mins)
Telephone follow up call with parent/carer (up to 30 mins)

Standard Price = £420
Special Bristol Autism Support Member Offer = £294 (30% discount)

Offer available during September – October 2014 only.

Contact Suzi on 07725837455 or to find out more.

Hypersensitive Hearing & Autism: What I learnt during 10 days of silence

Hypersensitive Hearing & Autism banner - mountain background with hut

When I was silent for 10 days, I didn’t expect my hearing to become hypersensitive. Not communicating or having any physical contact with others, temporarily changed how I experienced and perceived sound.

Despite a lifetime of regular hearing by the end of the meditation course, I needed to cover my ears in response to the sound of my own voice. It physically hurt my inner ears and made me feel sick.

I developed new routines and habits as a defence mechanism against my sensitivity to certain sounds. Other people’s breathing became unbearably noisy, so I avoided being close to anyone. The ticking of a clock or watch was a frantic distraction from what I was doing, so I often wore my scarf around my ears.

Hypersensitive Hearing and Autism

Sensory sensitivities are common within people on the Autistic Spectrum. The National Autistic Society recently released a short film ‘Sensory Sensitivity’ illustrating how this can impact on everyday living.

Hypersensitive hearing can be extremely difficult to cope with. The children I work with often develop defence mechanisms, such as tuning out of communication around them and putting their hands over their ears. This experience has given me insight into how their sensory experience may affect their routines and habits. I also wonder how less interaction with others impacts both the development and issues with their sensory systems.

By Leon Biss

My Brother’s Hypersensitive Hearing Story

My 28 year old brother, Paul, is on the Autistic Spectrum and has hypersensitive hearing.

– It impacts his communication skills and limits where he goes and what he does.

– Loud noises can cause him to get overexcited, suddenly hitting out/becoming verbally aggressive, or tune out from conversations around him.

– It gets him out of sync with those around him, as he hears sounds before others in the same space making it difficult to maintain a conversation with him.

– He’ll give our conversation and background noises equal attention.

For me, it leads to a disconnection between us and a feeling that he isn’t registering or interested in what we’re talking about.

Paul at our local beach.

Paul at our local beach.

His Successes

My brother’s support worker, John, is the driving force behind supporting Paul to overcome some of the barriers he faces with his hearing. We’ve had a fair bit success with improving things for Paul over the last few years. As a result some of his challenging behaviours have faded and his unique identity as an adult has blossomed.

Paul can now spend time alongside the family in a wider range of loud and noisy age appropriate environments, such as concerts, karaoke/discos, charity fun runs etc. He is needing less intense support to participate and has started to recognise when he needs time out in a quiet space.

Paul loves chaos, creating and adding to it, and is happiest when he is using his comedy to be at the centre of attention. Therefore one of the situations we’ve worked up to is spending time sitting having a drink in a pub with the five siblings. He stills needs 1:1 support to defuse and prevent some of his disruptive behaviours however the overall experience for all of us is more enjoyable and he has craved out his own way to participate in what we do and talk about.

Paul having a drink at my wedding, with our brother David.

Paul having a drink at my wedding, with our brother David.

The success we’ve had is built on John focusing for a long period on at improving Paul’s ability to participate within one familiar weekly noisy event, a karaoke/disco specifically for adults with learning difficulties. John and Paul have worked hard and consistently to build up the length of time Paul can ‘be in the thick of it’ before he needs time out. As well as improving Paul’s self-management of his ‘time out’ needs.

The Strategies Used

John achieved improved participation in the initial environment with a mixture of behavioural and sensory strategies. Fading the type of prompt used to direct him to take time out in a quiet space needed has worked well. As has preparing Paul before getting there, talking through the routine, what sounds to expect etc. Returning to the same quiet space and building back up to interacting with others, and tuning into what’s going on in the noisy space.

Some of the things that haven’t worked for us include using ear plugs or defenders. Paul also has touch sensitivity so can’t tolerate the feeling on his body, so they end up lost or broken within seconds. I eel uncomfortable with it as he is such a sociable character, I also think they would cause him distress from feeling excluded.

The Next Steps …

We are working with Paul to further develop his independence initiate communication when he needs to get out of a situation due to sound. He has more recently begun to take himself away when he needs a break from a noisy environment, which is a big step towards self-management for him.

Paul and me

Paul and me

If you have a loved one with Autism I urge you to observe their behaviour and consider whether it might be an issue. If so, try some of the simple strategies that I’ve mentioned above and check out these resources below for extra info and support.

I’d love to get your thoughts on hearing sensitivity so please leave a comment below to get the conversation flowing.

Resources – Information and Support:

What you can do to help …

– Prepare the person before you go about what the environment will be like, i.e. expected and unexpected sounds. Use visual resources, Social Stories, Sensory Stories etc.

– Make small changes to the environment to best support the person’s needs, e.g. whilst at home shut doors and windows to minimise distractions or stress from noises outside.

– Consider the use of ear plugs/defenders/listening to music.

– Consider creating a sensory room or space for the person to develop their how their sensory processing.


– National Autistic Society – Information and guidance about sensory sensitivities – ‘The Sensory World of Autism’

– National Autistic Society Helpline – partial confidential advice for families affected by Autism – 0808 800 4104

– Find out more about sensory processing disorder – Sensory Integration Network

– Find out what Sensory Stories are and how they might help

– Article from the Guardian – Misophonia first hand experience

– Misophonia Support Forum

– Advice on dealing with hypersensitivity as a symptom of stress and anxiety for adults

Extra Summer Workshop Date

I am now running an additional ‘Get Ready for The Summer: Autism Support Workshop’ at Incredible Kids in Bradley Stoke on Monday 14/7/14 at 19:30 – 21:30.

Book your place below:

Get Ready For The Summer: Autism Support Workshops

Colourful ice cream

Is your family affected by Autism? Do you need a plan for how to manage the summer holidays?

In this workshop, you will learn how to:
• create new routines
• defuse holiday triggers like treat and toy sellers
• organise successful play dates
• manage behaviour whilst out and about
• stay chilled out, relaxed and on track!

This small, interactive workshop will provide you with a personalised action plan and toolkit of strategies, developed from a mix of both professional & peer support. You’ll come away feeling confident and empowered, ready to take a proactive approach to this summer and holidays to come.

This event is for parents and carers of children affected by autism aged up to11 years old, with or without formal diagnosis. Grandparents and childminders are very welcome, too! Suitable for both ‘veterans’ and ‘newbies’ to the puzzling world of Autism.

Facilitated by Suzi Sandford, Independent Occupational Therapist and Autism Specialist. Suzi has an adult brother on the spectrum. Hot/cold drinks & homemade cake/cookies included in the price.

Wednesday 25th June 2014 10:30 – 12:30


Wednesday 9th July 2014 19:30 – 21:30

Venue:  The Southville Centre, Southville, Bristol, BS3 1QG

Contact Suzi on 07725837455, email me or post questions on one of the facebook event walls for further details.

Buy your 25th June 2014 daytime ticket here 

Buy your 9th July 2014 evening ticket here 

Rainbow ice cream photo by D Sharon Pruitt from Pink Sherbet Photography



Please don’t hesitate to contact me for more information about my work. I am available Mon – Fri 9am – 6:30pm GMT

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