While it is called a “diet,” it’s not a FOOD diet, but it should be considered nutritional intake that your child’s body/brain need daily.
Consistency is key and it is important to find a schedule that works for you. Work with your occupational therapist and teacher to develop a timeframe that works best. Do not overdo it if it does not seem sustainable.
As much as possible, sensory diet activities should be completed around the same time each day.
Many sensory diet activities can be adapted to be used across many environments in order to promote consistency i.e. at home, in school, while traveling.
When appropriate, get other siblings and family members involved!
Watch your child’s responses before, during, and after sensory diet activities and be sure to address any abnormal changes you see with your occupational therapist.
The best sensory diet combines tactile, proprioceptive, and vestibular based activities.
Just as no two children with sensory processing difficulties will present the same, no two sensory diets will be identical.
As your child’s brain continues to develop, the sensory diet will likely eventually need to be updated in either types of activities or frequency.
Examples of sensory diet activities for each sensory system:
Proprioceptive: jumping and crashing on pillows, heavy work activities such as pushing a heavy laundry basket or helping carry grocery bags to put away, wheelbarrow walk or animal walks (bear crawl, crab walk), joint compressions.
Vestibular: log rolls, cartwheels, swinging, head inversions over the edge of a couch, yoga poses, rocking chair.
Tactile: messy play (shaving cream, water, finger painting), sensory bins (uncooked rice or pasta noodles, kinetic sand), exposure to novel materials (i.e. corduroy, velvet, sandpaper, sand, silk).
Auditory: participation in Therapeutic Listening program under the guidance of your occupational therapist, listening to calming music, listening to white noise, play exploration with various instruments or toys/books that make sounds.
Oral: blowing bubbles, use of straws, use of chewy tubes or “jewelry”, food texture exploration (i.e. creamy, dry, wet, lumpy), having a chewy or crunchy snack to provide “heavy work” to the mouth”.
Visual: activities such as “i-spy”, spot the difference picture games, and word searches, de-clutter the home environment, oculomotor exercises, dim lights and avoid fluorescent bulbs.
https://secureservercdn.net/184.108.40.206/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Blog-Sensory-Diet-FeaturedImage.png?time=1582639879186183Corinne Kreutzhttps://secureservercdn.net/220.127.116.11/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngCorinne Kreutz2017-06-02 09:20:062019-09-20 09:58:08What You Need to Know About Sensory Diets
When most people hear Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), they tend to think of the child who cannot tolerate tags on clothes, covers their ears and screams at parades, and who pulls away from hugs at family parties. While these are all behaviors associated with SPD, they only align with one type.
Hypersensitivity, or sensory defensiveness, occurs when a child has difficulty filtering unnecessary sensory input and therefore gets bombarded with a waterfall of input, overflowing his or her regulatory system. However, there is another side to the story that often surprises parents that I work with. Just like a child may be over-sensitive, they may also be under. Poor sensory registration, or hypo-sensitivity, is another common classification of sensory processing disorder and applies to children who do not absorb, or register, all of the input entering their body. They are therefore “missing out” on crucial information from their own body and the environment, which is used to make adaptive responses and learn.
Imagine a giant waterfall, filling a pool at the bottom to the “just right” level. Now imagine that waterfall has a giant strainer at the bottom, causing a tiny fraction of the water to pass through and barely filling the pool. While typically processing children naturally and efficiently take in information from the environment through their many sensory receptors and use this information to make adaptive responses, this is much more difficult for children who miss some of the information coming in. Using the waterfall metaphor again, think how much more water you would need to send through the strainer to fill up the pool. This explains why poor sensory registration is often (but not always!) associated with “sensory seeking” behaviors, as children attempt to obtain additional input so that they may better absorb it. These seeking behaviors can often be misperceived as having difficulty following directions or misbehaving, while children may actually be trying to “fill their pool.” Another possible presentation is that children might appear to “be in la la land” and are likely not noticing or absorbing the cues they need to respond appropriately.
While it is very important to identify poor sensory registration, it can be difficult to identify at times.
Below you will find 10 red flags for poor sensory registration, organized by sensory system, to help you identify potential sensory processing deficits in your child:
Touch (Tactile) Processing:
Your child does not notice when his or her face has food, toothpaste, or other materials on it. He or she may not be registering that input and will not notice unless pointed out by someone else or by looking in a mirror.
Your child does not respond quickly when you call his or her name or needs to hear directions several times to respond. If a child does not have actual hearing impairment, being less responsive to auditory input can be a sign of poor registration of sound input.
Your child has a particular difficulty finding objects in a drawer, toy box, or other storage space, even when the object is very visible. They may have visual perceptual deficits related to poor registration of visual information.
Your child may perform writing, coloring, or other visual motor tasks in a way that appears careless and not notice their errors unless specifically pointed out. They may be having difficulty noticing the difference between good work and poor work.
Body Awareness (Proprioceptive Processing):
Your child may have difficulty navigating through hallways without leaning against or rubbing their hands against the walls. This may be their way of compensating for decreased body awareness to help them understand where their body is in space.
Your child may have difficulty maintaining upright posture, whether slouching in a chair, w-sitting on the floor, or leaning against a wall when standing.
Your child may use excessive force when giving hugs or using objects (e.g. breaks crayons, throws balls too hard).
Your child may prefer sleeping with very heavy blankets or prefer to keep their coat on indoors. This input gives them the weight he or she needs to better perceive where his or her body is.
Movement/Gravitational (Vestibular) Processing:
Your child loves intense movement (i.e. spinning, rolling, or going upside down) and can do so for a significant period of time without getting dizzy or nauseous.
Your child may appear clumsy when moving about and lose his or her balance unexpectedly.
Of course, as with any set of red flags, one or two red flags does not qualify for a sensory processing disorder. However, if quite a few of the sensory registration items above resonate with you, and if any of these items significantly interfere with your child’s daily functioning, it would be helpful to set up an evaluation with an occupational therapist.
Occupational therapists are specially trained to identify sensory processing disorder through parent interviewing and clinical observation of your child. If a disorder is identified, an occupational therapist can work with you to create a sensory diet, or prescribed set of sensory activities, to help your child get the input he or she needs to feel organized and calm to better learn and grow. They may also teach you strategies to help your child better attend to the input that is entering their body.
A diet is defined as the food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health. A well-rounded nutritional diet promotes appropriate development and growth. In the same manner, the sensory system needs a proper “diet” of stimuli in order to process information, promote regulation, and promote efficient processing of sensory information. A sensory diet, a term coined by occupational therapist, Patricia Wilbarger, is a personally designed and individualized set of activities prescribed to an individual for regulatory and attention needs.
As an adult, you have most likely learned the activities you need in order to stay “organized”; chewing gum during a conference to stay alert, listening to music to “unwind” after a long day, going for a run, etc. A child, especially one with sensory processing difficulties, sometimes needs to be taught these regulatory behaviors. Unwinding for a child could mean swinging, doing heavy proprioceptive work, or eating crunchy food.
Each child has a unique set of sensory needs. A child who always appears “on the go” would require a sensory diet full of calming and “grounding input”. A child who appears “tired/sluggish” would require a sensory diet full of alerting and arousing input.
A sensory diet can be created by an occupational therapist to be implemented in both the home and academic atmospheres. The good news is, as a sensory diet is fully incorporated into the daily routine; the short term effects of sensory input are immediate and cumulative to create long term lasting effects of regulation. As the sensory information is processed in the nervous system, the following positive results can be noticed:
Improved processing and understanding of sensory information
Increased attention and self-regulation
Encourage movement seeking behaviors in “tired/sluggish” children
Decrease non-purposeful movement seeking behaviors in “on the go” children
Ease difficulty in transitions and changes in routine, encouraging cognitive flexibility.