Prescribed by an Occupational Therapist (OT), a sensory diet is a tailor-made group of activities designed to meet the specific sensory needs of an individual in a bid to give them the sensory input they need in order to process information and to promote the efficient processing of sensory information.
The creation of a sensory diet requires an assessment of the child's needs followed by analysis and continued monitoring of the strategies implemented and their effectiveness. A sensory diet has nothing to do with food or restricting foods of any kind.
Sensory diets have been proven in addressing various sensory-related behaviours including meltdowns, hyper-attention, aggression, sensory-seeking behaviours, sensory-resisting behaviours, sleep issues, poor social interaction and difficulty with the transition.
Why is a sensory diet important?
Every child has a unique set of sensory needs some more extreme than others but with an action plan that provides personalised sensory input, your child will remain focused, alert, organised and regulated throughout the day.
For example, children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) will need simple exercises to keep them alert while others may need activities to promote calm. There are also children who need help with spatial awareness and those who need to improve coordination.
Other benefits include:
- Easier transition from one activity to another.
- Regulation of sensory seeking behaviours and sensory avoiding behaviours.
- Increased attention span.
- Allowing tolerance for sensations that children may find challenging.
What should a sensory diet include?
An Occupational Therapist can design a sensory diet tailored to meet a child's specific, no two kids are the same. It is also important to note, this is usually just one part of a treatment plan for various children, it is most effective when combined with other treatments.
Sensory diets can include physical activities such as heavy work like deep pressure squishing, crashing into a duvet or jumping on a trampoline or playing on a swing. While fidget toys, Therabands, wiggle cushions or movement breaks may be recommended and introduced to children who tend to be overactive. Yoga, animal walks, weighted blankets and chewing toys throughout the day are other popular activities commonly seen in sensory diets.
How do I know if it is working?
The main aim of a sensory diet is to help a child feel in an optimal state of arousal, meaning the activities chosen should help your son or daughter feel stimulated, focused, alert or 'just right'.
If they do, continue doing the same thing and if not, consult with your child's Occupational Therapist.