Sensory diets, explained
One thing you may have heard mentioned by an occupational therapist, special education teacher, or even someone online, is the term “sensory diet.” Although it sounds like a weird fad diet where you just eat beets and radishes for weeks at a time, it’s a pretty complex form of intervention therapy for kids with SPD or ASD.
Occupational therapist Patricia Wilbarger, yes the same Wilbarger that has Wilbarger Protocol for brush therapy, coined the term “sensory diet” sometime in the mid-eighties. Since then, sensory diets have been both a buzzword and a recommendation from occupational therapists alike.
Okay, so what is it exactly?
A sensory diet is a list of activities, toys, or products used at certain times in a certain sequence to help an individual who has a sensory processing difficulty. Oftentimes, individuals who are characteristically sensory seekers require extra input to help them regulate and make sense of their environments. Thus, sensory diets are ways of helping individuals with SPD, ASD, or the likes integrate their senses with how they interact with their environments.
If you want the official Wilbarger definition, check it out below:
A sensory diet is a form of home program intervention plan that incorporates organizing sensory input, or utilizes already existing sensory input, into everyday life in order to assist the person to maintain a regulated behavioral state, such as the calm, alert state required during certain school activities.
Who can create sensory diets?
Sensory diets are personalized for each child. What might work for some might not work for others, which is a key factor that’s important to remember that when discussing sensory diets.
What would a sensory diet look like?
The following sample sensory diet has been provided from Sensory Smart. It is not meant to serve as the right sensory diet for your child, but rather simply give you an idea of what a sensory diet might look like when you consult an OT.
In the Morning
- Massage feet and back to help wake up
- Listen to recommended therapeutic listening CD
- Use a vibrating toothbrush and/or vibrating hairbrush
- Eat crunchy cereal with fruit and some protein
- Spin on Dizzy Disc Jr. as directed by your OT or PT
- Jump on mini-trampoline as directed
- Go to the playground for at least 30 minutes
- Push grocery cart or stroller
- Spinning as directed
- Mini-trampoline. Add variety: have him play catch or toss toys into a basket while jumping.
- Massage feet to “reorganize,” use therapy putty, make “body sandwiches,” wheelbarrow walk
- Do ball exercises as directed
- Listen to a therapeutic listening CD
- Oral work — suck thick liquids through a straw, eat crunchy and chewy snacks, or chew gum before and/or during tabletop activities
- Help with cooking, mixing, chopping, etc.
- Help set table, using two hands to carry and balance a tray
- Provide crunchy and chewy foods
- Family time: clay projects, painting projects, etc.
- A warm bath with bubbles and calming essential oil
- Massage during reading time
If you want to create your own sensory diet for your child, please be sure to consult an Occupational Therapist that can evaluate your child and recommend the specific activities and products that could best benefit from them.