What is a Sensory Diet

What is a sensory diet?

A sensory diet is the strategic use of sensory activities. While most of us use sensory strategies without really thinking about it (drinking coffee to stay alert, listening to soothing music to unwind, jogging to release tension, etc.), some children and adults have sensory needs that require a more intentional approach. A sensory diet is a plan, usually established by an Occupational Therapist, to meet the needs of people with sensory processing disorders so they will be able to engage in social interactions, focus on their education, self-soothe, and sustain attention to task more effectively (“Sensational Brain”, http://www.sensationalbrain.com)

Our 6 senses

  1. Tactile touch, feeling things
  2. Proprioceptive sense of your inside/sense where you are in time and space
  3. Oral/Gustatory taste , anything involving the mouth
  4. Auditory hearing, how sound is perceived
  5. Visual visual perception, interpret what is seen
  6. Vestibular sensory system located in structures of the inner ear, sense of balance, sense of equilibrium (http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com)

Here are some ideas for OT work/techniques. Try them and see which ones work for your child and how they affect him/her.

Heavy work

This can be done in many different ways:

Take a laundry basket and fill it up with something heavy, then have your child push it around the house. It can also be done by pushing a chair around or another piece of furniture for as long as there is some resistance and weight involved

Take a backpack and put some books in there to make it heavy. Not to heavy just so it has some weight to it and have your child wear the backpack for about 20 minutes.

Ball rolling

Take a big exercise ball and have your child push the ball up a flight of stairs. Make sure you are behind your child while your child is going up the stairs just in case they lose their balance

Ball bouncing

Take a small soft ball or a big exercise ball. Sit your child on top of the ball and bounce your child. Gently but make your child bounce. This can also be done on a Rody or any other toy you can bounce on.

Massage/Lotion

Undress the area on your child’s body that you are going to massage. I would start with the arms, legs or feet. Gently massage the lotion/oil into your child’s skin and continue for about 5-10 minutes.

Hugs

Big bear hugs are great. Just give your child a tight squeeze hug. Be aware some children might love it while others will freak out. If your child freaks out just stop hugging your child.

Burrito rolling

Take a big blanket that will fit your child’s body. Lay your child on one side of the blanket and tightly roll your child up in the blanket. Make sure your child’s head doesn’t get covered and his neck is free. The blanket needs to be wrapped tight meaning no wiggle room. Make sure your child’s arms are on his/her side, makes the rolling up process much easier and tis’ the tightest fit. Sometimes it might take a couple minutes for your child to feel the deep pressure. So if your child cries for more than 3 minutes unwrap him/her immediately, if not let them be for 5-10 min.

Trampoline

Have your child jump on a trampoline. Any kind of trampoline will work just make sure your child is save and can’t get hurt. If you don’t have a trampoline at home use a mattress to jump on. Again make sure your child is supervised and keep your child save while jumping.

Water

Couple ways to have your child play with water

Use a bowl and fill it with water and just let your child play with it, give him/her a spoon, a cup or something to play with in the water

Fill your sink

Use a water table

Rice-bin

Take a big bin with a tight fit lid and fill it with uncooked rice. Regular rice works best. Put some small toys in there, hide them under the rice and have your child dig them out. Also put a cup and spoon in there and let your child play with it.

Noodle-bin

Take a big bin with a tight fit lid and fill it with uncooked pasta. Any kind of pasta will work. Put some small toys in the bin, hide them under the pasta and have your child dig them out. Also put a cup and spoon in there and let your child play with it.

Bean-bin

Take a big bin with a tight fit lid and fill it with uncooked pasta. Any kind of pasta will work. Put some small toys in the bin, hide them under the pasta and have your child dig them out. Also put a cup and spoon in there and let your child play with it.

Flour-bin

Take a big bin with a tight fit lid and fill it with uncooked pasta. Any kind of pasta will work. Put some small toys in the bin, hide them under the pasta and have your child dig them out. Also put a cup and spoon in there and let your child play with it.

Play dough

Any play dough is great. You can make your own. I’ll include a simple receipt for play dough. Your child might not like to touch the play dough at first. Just take the Play dough and gently touch it to the inside of his/her hand. Repeat a couple times, then put the play dough in one hand and squeeze it with the other. Once your child is used to the texture of the play dough start making shapes, animals, and or whatever you are comfortable making.

Recipe for Play dough

– 1/4 cup salt

– 1 cup flour

– 1/4 cup water

Have your child mix the flour and salt in a bowl then add water. Knead and squeeze the dough to make a clay consistency. You may need to add more water. Have your child help you make the play dough, great sensory input.

Finger paint

Any kind of finger paint will do. Your child might not like the consistency at first so start by just having your child touch the paint with his/her fingers. Then move on to the whole hand.

2 easy recipes for finger paint

Corn syrup finger paint

1. Squirt some corn syrup in a bowl.

2. Add a few drops of food coloring.

3. Done

Corn starch finger paint

Ingredients:

1/2 cup cornstarch

2 cups water

Liquid food coloring

Directions: Mix cornstarch and water in a saucepan and boil until the mixture thickens. Allow to cool and then add food coloring. You can separate the mixture into smaller portions and color each portion individually.

Always have your child help you.

Tunnel

Have your child crawl through the tunnel. To make it more fun put a ball or a favorite toy in the tunnel so your child will have something to look for in the tunnel.

Swinging

There are many different forms of swings on the market; platform swings, tire swings, net swings, tight swings, and regular playground swings. Not everybody has access to any or all of them. Online you can order any of these swings but if you don’t’ have access to them you can always take your child to the playground to swing or us a hammock. If you take your child to the playground make sure your child is save on the swing and that you are with your child at all times.

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Autism Support Now is a Parent advisory blog and media site presented by "Ella's Hope for Autism" a 501c3 public charity in Missouri. This site is built for parents dealing with Autism . . . by parents dealing with Autism. Hope and Sam McPheeters (founders of Ella's Hope) have two children on the spectrum, and strive to provide continued advice for other parents, who are dealing with the same issues..