When a child has a sensory processing disorder, their brains have a hard time receiving and responding to information from their senses. When this happens it usually results in the child receiving too much sensory input or not enough. Either way, this is not good for our children, and utilizing a sensory diet can help.
Sensory diets can be very beneficial in helping kids get the right amount of sensory input needed to maintain regulation. In a way, this is just like when a child needs food throughout the day to function properly. The same applies to your child’s sensory needs. They must also be “fed” regularly to help keep their little engines running smoothly.
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What is a sensory diet?
A sensory diet is a personalized activity plan. This activity plan is carefully designed to provide the sensory input your child needs to stay focused and organized throughout the day. Sensory diets are great for children who have sensory processing disorder, autism, and ADHD.
If your child is displaying behaviors such as meltdowns or problems with sleeping. I would suggest starting a sensory diet as soon as possible. Sensory diets allow your child to receive the sensory input they need to address the listed challenges above. Other behaviors that sensory diets can help with include aggressive behaviors, problems with transitions, and overemotional reactions.
How to create a sensory diet?
Prior to creating a sensory diet, an occupational therapist observes your child. During the assessment, the OT is looking to identify the sensory-related behaviors that are being displayed.
They are looking to see how your child reacts to and during certain situations. All while taking detailed notes to document when a behavior occurs and what caused that particular behavior.
Next, the OT has to figure out why that behavior is occurring. For instance, your child may bump into things without noticing they are there. The reason for this could be that they need more proprioceptive input. So after assessing each behavior and identifying a possible cause for each behavior. The therapist starts working with your child and having them complete the activities that make up the sensory diet.
As time progresses, the OT is monitoring your child to see how they are responding to the sensory diet. The therapist wants to make sure that the suggested activities are actually working. That they are providing your child with the right amount of sensory input daily.
What are some examples of a sensory diet?
A sensory diet will look different for each child based on their sensory needs. So if your child is having trouble with staying alert. You can have them do a motor activity such as jumping on a trampoline.
If you notice that your child has a hard time focusing, or is impulsive trying a weighted vest may help. A weighted vest is a compression vest that allows your child to feel pressure around the back and torso. Helping your child to relax and with self-regulation on the go.
Another example is if your child has trouble sleeping. You can try having them lay under a weighted blanket. Putting your child to bed with a weighted blanket helps to calm them. The pressure from the blanket also makes them feel more secure at night, allowing them to rest peacefully.
I also highly recommend trying the Super Duper Publications flashcards. They offer fun and engaging activities to help children understand their senses and behaviors.
So I hope this was helpful and provided you with a quick overview of what a sensory diet is. Sensory diets are great for children with sensory processing disorders. They help us feed our child’s sensory needs. Allowing them to get the right amount of input to function throughout the day.
About the author
Erika is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant working in an elementary school setting. She wanted to create a blog and podcast that shows all sides of school-based learning. Her #1 focus is on providing parents of children with learning disabilities with relevant information in hopes of making each day a little more functional. So if you are interested in more content like this, please sign up below.