What is a Sensory Diet?A “sensory diet” is a personalized plan of activities that provides the sensory input your child needs to engage and participate in their daily activities appropriately and effectively. It includes taste, touch, sound, smell, vision, proprioception, and vestibular senses. A sensory diet is different from traditional occupational therapy interventions in that it does not require intensive and/or expensive equipment. Instead, it can be “cobbled” together by any parent or teacher with the time, creativity, and willingness to put into place a home or classroom program geared toward helping a child access their world most effectively.
How is a Sensory Diet Similar to “Occupational Therapy?”A sensory diet, much like occupational therapy, can be used for children who behave as over-responders or under-responders. These children have a hard time accessing the world around them and have a hard time being able to participate in their daily activities. A sensory diet provides your child with activities that have the potential for regulating and reducing over-responsivity or under-responsivity. These activities are geared toward helping children participate in their daily activities most effectively while having some input from all of their senses. In other words, sensory diets help you access your child’s world by providing the necessary sensory stimulation. A sensory diet can also be used instead of traditional occupational therapy interventions, such as using fidget toys to keep children engaged and attentive during a period of lengthened academic instruction or choosing to work on vestibular input activities for increased attention.
Why is a Sensory Diet Important?Similar to feeding your body nutritious foods multiple times a day, we need to “feed” our sensory system as well. A sensory diet provides children with sensory processing difficulties the ability to have their unique sensory needs met. In addition to providing input for sensory processing needs, it is essential to provide these “foods” often and in small frequent intervals during the day. This helps to maintain the appropriate level of arousal for your child throughout the day. The more “foods” you can provide, the more likely it is that your child will access their world most effectively and appropriately as they grow and develop.
Sensory diets have many benefits that include:
- Allowing tolerance for sensations that they find to be challenging.
- Easier transitioning from one activity to another.
- Regulate alertness and increase attention span.
- Regulate sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors.
What a sensory diet looks likeA sensory diet is a tailored plan of sensory activities that are designed to meet your sensory needs. Activities will be different based on the sensory issues your child needs addressing. If they are sluggish, for example, a sensory diet might include this routine:
- 20 jumping jacks – Bouncing on a therapy ball 20 times
- Holding a Zen bug yoga pose for 10 seconds
- using sensory toys like fidgets or chewies
- listening to calming music
- looking at sensory books about an animal your child likes
Download a sample sensory diet activities worksheet
Implementing a Sensory DietIt’s no secret that kids can be challenging to deal with at times. And when they have sensory issues, it can make things even more difficult. But there are ways to help your child manage their sensory needs and improve the quality of life at home. Implementing a Sensory Diet is one way you can do this.
- Work closely with your child’s therapy team when developing a sensory diet.
- Observe your child throughout the day to note the difficult times of the day.
- Create and maintain a regular daily routine.
- Report any concerns or questions to your child’s therapy team regarding your child’s response to the sensory diet.
- Think of ways you can engage your child’s senses and create a “food” they enjoy.
- Remember that over-responsive children have just as many sensory needs as do children with under-responsivity. It is a matter of degree.
- Be creative, try something different if what you have been