The Basics of a Sensory Diet
So what exactly is a sensory diet? It isn’t just certain foods someone should or should not eat. A sensory diet is a group of physical and sensory activities, that are specifically curated and scheduled into a child’s day in order to improve attention, arousal level, and adaptive responses.
The activities are chosen based on a child’s needs in any or all senses, including:
- Sight (ex. lights, images, object, screens)
- Sound (ex. music, nature, voice, ambient/background noises)
- Taste (ex. food, toothpaste, medicine)
- Touch (ex. person to person, clothing, seats, paper, food textures)
- Smell (ex. food aroma, essential oils, vegetation, car exhaust, soaps/cleaners)
- Proprioception/Pressure (ex. pushing/carrying heavy objects, trampoline, backpack on shoulders, heavy blankets)
- Vestibular (ex. spinning, upside-down versus upright, riding in a car, swinging)
How do you know if a child is having problems with sensory processing?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Is your child sensitive to touch?
- Does your child enjoy fast-moving or spinning activities?
- Do they have an unusual sensitivities to smell?
- Does your child avoid physical games involving jumping?
- Do you feel your child tends to be restless or “fidgety?”
These are just a few examples, but if any of these sound like your child, they may benefit from a sensory diet!
How do we make a sensory diet?
If you think your child or student may benefit from a sensory diet, be sure to reach out to your occupational therapist. They can collaborate with you to decide what will be best suited for them.
Sensory systems can be excited or calmed, producing pleasurable or aversive effects unique to each person. This is based off of if a child has a low or high threshold for sensory input, as well as if they seek or avoid certain sensory input. By paying attention to these sensory interactions, we can modify activities and routines to promote a more complimentary and engaging experience.
For example, for a child this may look like jumping on the trampoline before school to promote alertness and attention. As for an adult, it may look like listening to fast tempo music on the way to work. Various activities such as that one would be scheduled into the child’s day as part of their routine in order to promote regulation throughout the day.
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