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A. Jean Ayres, PhD, OTR

Dr. Anna Jean Ayres (1920–1989), often referred to as “A. Jean Ayres”, was an occupational therapist and developmental psychologist known for her work in the area of sensory integration dysfunction, a term she coined in the 1960s to describe a theory used in occupational therapy.[1][2] She is the author of several books on the subject, including Sensory Integration and the Child. Dr. Ayres also created several test batteries used to help identify issues related to the dysfunction.[3] According to Group Dynamics in Occupational Therapy (2005), Ayres’ theory and conclusions remain controversial.[4] A 2002 article in The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice reported that controlled studies examining the effect of Sensory Integration treatment “have found little support for the efficacy of SIT for treating children with various developmental disabilities”.[5] Controversial Therapies for Developmental Disabilities (2004) indicated that in spite of “limited and mostly negative research findings on SIT”, the sensory integration approach remained popular among occupational therapists and “other professionals and clinical populations”.[6]

“If I have been productive, it is partly because I have had the advantage of contact with those with the courage as well as the ability to think independently and along unorthodox lines. It has not been easy for the helping professions to conceive of human behavior as an express of the brain, and they are still struggling to do so… The employing of neural mechanisms to enhance motor development is now well established; the current area of major growth and controversy lies in the use of neurological constructs to aid in understanding and ameliorating cognitive functions such as learning disabilities; the next step may well be a more fruitful attack on emotional and behavior disorders.” Jean Ayres Ph.D (1974, p. xi).

Ayres worked at the Institute for Brain Research at the University of California at Los Angeles.


Dr. A. Jean Ayres was born on a Walnut farm in Visalia, California in 1920 to Fletcher Ayres and Louise Stamm, who were both school teachers.[7] As she grew up she claimed to have symptoms similar to those of the dysfunction she would later study.[8] Ayres received her BA in occupational therapy in 1945, her MA in occupational therapy in 1954, and her PhD in educational psychology in 1961. All her degrees were from the University of Southern California. Following her training, she began work at the UCLA Brain Research Institute, where her interest and study of sensory integration dysfunction began.[8]

When confronted with patients who complained of experiencing pain when brushing their hair or teeth, Dr. Ayres came to the conclusion that the cause was inefficient organization of sensory information within the nervous system. She believed this inefficiency led to a multitude of symptoms, including disorganization and learning troubles.[8]

For her work in identifying and treating sensory integration dysfunction[3] she received awards from the American Occupational Therapy Association. She was also mentioned by name in the 1971 edition of the Outstanding Educators of America.[8]

In 1976, Ayres founded the Ayres Clinic in Torrance, California for children being treated by sensory integration therapists.

Ayres died from complications of cancer on December 16, 1989.[8]

Select bibliography

  • Ayres, A. Jean; Philip R. Erwin and Zoe Mailloux (2004). Love, Jean: Inspiration for Families Living With Dysfunction of Sensory Integration. Crestport Press. ISBN 097250981X. (posthumous collection of correspondence)
  • Ayres, A. Jean (1970). Sensory Integration and the Child. Western Psychological Services. ISBN 0874244374.
  • Ayres, A. Jean (1973). Sensory Integration and Learning Disorders. Western Psychological Services. ISBN 0874243033.
  • Ayres, A. Jean (1974). The Development of Sensory Integrative Theory and Practice: A Collection of the Works of A. Jean Ayres. Kendall/Hunt Pub Co. ISBN 0840309716.


  1. ^ Colino, Stacey. (February 26, 2002) “Problem kid or label?; Some say Sensory Integration Dysfunction is a legitimate diagnosis. Others call it a new name for a familiar behavior.” (Article abstract) The Washington Post, Final Edition, Health section.
  2. ^ Ryan, Sally E.; Karen Sladyk (2005). Ryan’s Occupational Therapy Assistant. SLACK Incorporated. pp. 138. ISBN 1556427409.
  3. ^ Aquilla, Paula; Shirley Sutton and Ellen Yack (2003). Building Bridges Through Sensory Integration. Future Horizons. pp. 22. ISBN 1932565450.
  4. ^ Cole, Marilyn (2005). Group Dynamics in Occupational Therapy (Third Edition). SLACK Incorporated. pp. 240. ISBN 1556426879.
  5. ^ Herbert, James. D; Ian R. Sharp and Brandon A Gaudiano. (Spring-Summer 2002). “Separating fact from fiction in the etiology and treatment of autism”. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice 1 (1).
  6. ^ Jacobson, John W.; Richard M. Foxx and James A. Mulick (2002). Controversial Therapies for Developmental Disabilities. Routledge. pp. 335. ISBN 080584192X.
  7. ^ Nancy A. Erwin “A. Jean Ayres; Notes on Her Life”
  8. ^ a b c d e The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times. (1989) “Dr. A. Jean Ayres; Led in Treating Neurological Disorder “