Creating A Home Sensory Diet
One of the most effective treatments for Sensory
Processing Disorders is a sensory diet. In almost any discussion about sensory
integration therapy, you will probably hear the words, "sensory diet", and
immediately start asking questions...
What is a sensory diet?
What activities should I do with my child?
How often should I do them?
How do I know which ones to use and when?
What do I do if my child won't tolerate that activity?
And so much more!
It CAN be confusing when you first hear about a "sensory diet". The
best case scenario is that your child has been officially diagnosed
with SPD/SID and you are working closely with a qualified Occupational
Therapist knowledgeable about Sensory Integration Theory and sensory
diets. If you are not, I encourage (beg) you to do so! It is just so
very important to get the proper diagnosis and the proper treatment!
Creating A Home Sensory Diet
If you feel that some of us are a bit reluctant to go too far explaining our
home sensory diets... you are right! *grin* There is a line between sharing
what WE do with our kids, and what YOU need to do with your kids. We do feel
a certain responsibility, to first: Do No Harm. And that is where the reluctance
When we do talk about this, we, us "dinosaurs", are so very careful to say,
over and over, TALK to your own OT, about what activities would be right for
YOUR child. Just because this activity may be calming to mine, does not mean it
will work for yours.
The dilemma comes in when there are parents whose OT's will NOT help them
discover loads of activities for their children, or those parents among us who
cannot get appropriate therapy due to location, or finances. Some only get
school based therapy, which may be sadly lacking from a sensory integrative
point of view.
(Many schools can not provide this type of therapy with the frequency
necessary due to large caseloads, limited time, and that the child's sensory
issues may not be impacting him enough within the classroom to warrant treatment
from an educational standpoint. But, it is something we are working on
Will some parents try to do brushing, or deep pressure without an OT
overseeing them, and actually harm their child? We hope not, and again, the
warnings from us constantly... take care, ask a professional, don't take OUR
word for it.
So what to do? To deny information wouldn't be right. That is what we are
here for after all. So we tread carefully, offering information with the
Many parents who are new to this type of therapy misunderstand greatly, and
think a sensory diet is certain kinds of foods, or that the only kinds of
activities that can help are those done in the OT clinic. Not true.
So, in an effort to promote clarity and understanding, but NOT to suggest
that our own diets will necessarily be right for any one else's child... we talk.
And so we do.
The best and only expert on each of our children is... YOU. YOU know what
kinds of behaviors you are seeing. And really, we end up combining what our OT's
do at the clinic with our own observations of what is helpful at home. BE the
detective with your child.
FIRST: Study, and maybe write down through the course of a few days? What
behaviors you are seeing. Most of you have already written them out, in an
attempt to tell us in here, what's happening at home.
You'll say things like...
He spins through the house, crashing into everything! The Sensory Diet
solution is: Give him something SAFE to spin and crash on.
She mouths everything in sight! The Sensory Diet solution is: Give her
more appropriate things to mouth, increase oral activities.
He jumps all over the furniture! The Sensory Diet solution is: Give him a
safe space and something to jump on. (I actually bought a yard sale couch for my
son to jump on, and put huge pillows all around it, prior to the trampoline)
See what I am saying?
Each child is so very different, and has different requirements. But if
you LOOK at what they are doing... they ARE telling you, in the only way they
know how, with their behaviors, what they are needing. Take what they already DO
and make it safer. More appropriate. That's the beginning of your sensory diet.
Give 'em what they are needing, in better, safer, healthier ways. Redirect
them to a safer way to get the same input. And make it fun! They'll feel better
for being able to do these things for as long as they need to. And you'll be
happier NOT hollering "Get OFF my couch!"
ASK your therapist, if you have one. Say: "You say he has vestibular (low
muscle tone, visual-spatial, tactile, etc.) problems. Can you give me a few
examples of what to do at home." And start building from there.
Some of our diets? Are worked right into the day. Like carrying the laundry
basket or bringing in the groceries. Measuring out ingredients when we are
cooking. Pulling a sibling in a wagon. Swinging. Exercising" with Mom. Moving
and dancing to the
Songs for Sensational Kids: The Wiggly Scarecrow.
Offer different things throughout the day. Keep in mind, you can help them
through ALL their senses...
Is a certain candle soothing to your child? Another alerting?
Does your child blissfully sit in front of the fish tank, or watch the flames in the fireplace?
Is a slow walk at sunset calming to them?
Do they LOVE to be hugged tight, or rolled up in their towel after their bath?
Does certain music wind them up? And other music make them sleepy or quiet?
Is white noise calming or irritating?
This is exactly what we all had to figure out, and go on figuring out as time passes and their needs change.
Then, you can also work on specific issues, by adding more sensory exercises in those areas. So, we can give you a picture of a day in the life of ours... and it would be for the moment, and always changing, depending on the stresses in their lives, and what particular issues we are working on RIGHT NOW.
But the most important thing, I think, is examining the behaviors and issues of your own child and beginning to work on the ways to add or decrease input that directly helps your child.
About the Author:
Michelle Morris is the mother of six, and parent of a child with a Sensory
Processing Disorder. She is whole heartedly dedicated to promoting awareness and
advocacy for families with SPD children. She has published over 30 articles
supporting and educating parents about SPD.
Michelle is right. Examples of sensory diets are only that... examples of
what works for ONE child on ONE day. The diet will have some consistencies from
day to day, but will also vary based on THAT day, THOSE sensory issues that
exist at THAT moment in time.
However, once you understand the sensory needs of your child based on a
comprehensive evaluation and observing their behavior carefully (it is highly
recommended to keep a journal for a while!), work with your OT on the types of
activities and frequency the various activities should be used. What we, as
parents, Occupational Therapists, and friends can best do for you is help you
understand the CONCEPTS behind the diet and give you activity suggestions.
It is best left there... work with your OT for the SPECIFIC diet, but use the
activities we suggest to work from. The child's behavior will tell you exactly
what they need... become a expert observer.
As you implement the Sensory Diet, you should start to see some very
significant, positive changes in your child and family life. Be diligent. Be
consistent! As long as you are focusing on the right behaviors using the right
solutions, based on Sensory Integration theories, you will make a HUGE
difference in the life of your child.
If you need help, ASK for it! That's what we OT's do... help you come up with
solutions and activities to do at home. No matter what type of therapy you
are in, it will only be as effective as you make it. Home programs are
absolutely critical! Please find find the discipline to advocate for and
help your child with a home sensory diet. They need it.
Here are the best resources for activities
for YOUR child's sensory diet:
Do you have more questions about sensory diets? The SPD Companion Newsletter
Issue # 005 addresses the following:
1. Defining and understanding what a sensory diet is.
2. Signs of high, low, and optimal arousal.
3. How and what to observe in your child before planning his/her diet (the
4. How to plan your child's INDIVIDUAL sensory diet.
5. And, the critical importance of understanding the diet and daily
Click Here for an even more in depth discussion about creating a home sensory
Have You Had Any Success With A Sensory Diet?
Do you have a story, experience, suggestions, comments or questions about using a balanced sensory diet? Share it with the readers of Sensory-Processing-Disorder.com!
What Other Visitors Have Said
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Myself Not rated yet
I have been misdiagnosed with bipolar type 1 for over 4 years when I found your article. Foods play a key part in my mood and now see that …
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my son is 7 yrs old now he is in second standard. He repeatedly plays with his fingers. i want to know is this a sensory issue.
5 yo mystery Not rated yet
My 5 yo has aspergers with sensory issues. We try to cater to his sensory needs as best we can (I.e trampoline, rolling up in blanket, in door tramp, …
Adolesents sensory cloths diet Not rated yet
My daughter has had this disorder for years. Many times I have bought cute cloths she loved in the store just to get home and her never wear them. Now …
Sensory diet in middle school Not rated yet
I have an 11 year old son who is extremely self conscious and will not do anything to call attention to himself or make him feel different from others. …
Wendy Not rated yet
My daughter was super hyper active and I started to worry about her being labeled in school, then one day our doctor ordered a liquid iron vitamin, I …
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