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Sensory diets, explained.

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.

The history

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

After school

  • 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

At dinnertime

  • Help with cooking, mixing, chopping, etc.
  • Help set table, using two hands to carry and balance a tray
  • Provide crunchy and chewy foods

At night

  • Family time: clay projects, painting projects, etc.
  • A warm bath with bubbles and calming essential oil
  • Massage during reading time


Going forward

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.


What to do when your SPD teen hates showering

What to do when your SPD teen hates showering

An aversion to bathing is a pretty common thing in teenagers. It’s basically a rite of passage for any parent to have difficulty getting their teenage kiddo to shower. However, for adolescents with disabilities, sensory processing disorder (SPD), or Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), scuffles about bathing can be a bit more difficult and a more complex problem to solve.

Get to the root of the problem first

In a lot of these kinds of situations, the problem isn’t always what it appears to be. For example, the kiddo might not just have a stubborn aversion to bathing, but maybe instead, a difficulty with processing the sensory requirements of bathing. Try to help your kiddo isolate the aversion to the sensory input that causes them to ultimately not want to shower.

Were you always the primary incentive behind your child bathing? Were you the one who had always given them a bath before they were old enough to bathe themselves? Sometimes it can be easier for parents of kiddos with SPD to do the work for them, instead of allowing their children to learn to take care of themselves. If so, you might have to teach your teen to bathe themselves.

If it’s hard to identify the sensory issue, try and do some A/B testing. Do they not like the temperature of the water? Raise/lower it accordingly. Is the sound of the running shower unpleasing to their ears? Try and play soothing music as they shower. Do they fear the size of the shower chamber? Try having them take a bath instead. Is the feeling of a bar of soap strange to them? Try a loofah or any other type of applicator for the soap.

Fixing the issues

  1. Teach your kid how to bathe themselves.
    1. Start showing them how to do it with a doll in the sink. Show them which parts of their bodies need soap and why, teach them how to rinse well, and demonstrate how to wash hair.
  2. If they still don’t want to bathe, search for cleanliness alternatives until they’re comfortable
    1. There are a lot of alternatives for kiddos who don’t want to bathe themselves. For example, there are a few products like No Rinse Bathing Wipes, No Rinse Body Wash, or even a sponge bath can help.
  3. If they like the bath better, stick with the bath for now.
    1. Really, there’s no harm in letting your kiddo take a bath instead of a shower, especially if they like it better. As long as they’re clean, it doesn’t really matter for the time being. Addressing the issue of their adversity to showering can be a slow process and letting them take baths might be a simpler way to ease your teen into showering.
  4. Introduce them to the shower slowly.
    1. Uncertainty regarding the shower may be a factor in why they are not wanting to bathe. Getting them acquainted to the ins and outs of the shower in a slow way may be able to help them
  5. Use incentives
    1. Sometimes, one of the best ways to get a kiddo to do something is by incentivizing them with small quantities of their favorite treat. For example, “I’ll give you licorice if you take a shower.” As things progress, it might also be a good idea to take your kiddo to the store and have them choose soaps and showering accessories that they like, so that they have the incentive to use them while showering.
  6. Make a song out of it!
    1. Heeeaaad, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes… Giving kids a fun way to remember what to wash can be a fun way to ease them into showering.

Coming clean

If your kiddo still hates showering after you’ve tried just about everything, try talking to an Occupational Therapist. It gets to be increasingly more important for a kiddo to bathe, especially as they transition into teenagerhood and adulthood, so finding some outside help can be a great idea and resource.

Three things that can help kids stim in school

Sometimes it’s hard for kids to focus in school. When kiddos get the squirmies and the wiggles, it makes it difficult for them to focus on the material at hand. Since there has been a recent rise in adaptive and inclusive classrooms for special needs children, there are a lot of items available on the market nowadays to help kids fidget to focus.

Many children with ASD, SPD, ADHD, or ADD report that fidgeting helps them listen and focus better. Fidgeting in the classroom is a type of self-stimulatory behavior, otherwise known as stimming.

Stimming, in short, is a form of self-stimulation that individuals with special needs sometimes engage in to calm them down, help them focus, or display frustration. For a lot of kiddos, there are a multitude of ways to help calm and fulfill their stims. If you want to know more about stimming, click here.

Without further ado, here are three different discreet, in-classroom items that can help students stim.


Oral motor chewies help kids who chew on everything. Chewies are made of durable silicone and can be easily cleaned, which is great. Plus, you can just pop a chewie on the end of a pencil so the kiddo can refrain from gnawing on their writing tools in class. Chewies keep shirt collars out of mouths and pencils free of bite marks, as well as provide an oral motor stim for the user.

Chew-A-Roo Oral Motor Chewies

Active Seating Options

Active seating options are a great way to help fidgety kids pay attention in class. For a lot of kiddos with ASD, it can be hard to sit still. For a lot of kiddos, fidgeting can help them focus by turning down the background noise in their brain, so to speak, and helps them focus on the material at hand.

If you want an in-depth guide about what’s up with active seating, check out this article.

Classroom active seating options



Fidget toys are a handheld tool for kiddos that need to subtly stim in class. Fidgets don’t begin and end with spinners, thankfully. There are also fidget cubes, mini gamer fidgets that look like video game controllers, and even little pencil toppers. Whether it’s a handheld fidget to help kids focus when a teacher is lecturing, or a pencil topper fidget for a discreet spin during test-taking times, fidgets are fun option for kids that need a little extra sensory input.

Mini Gamer Fidget

Pencil Finger Fidgets

Hairy Tangle Jr.

Going forward

Remember that inviting these types of items in your classroom can be a huge help if the proper parameters are set. For example, it might be a smart idea if a teacher sets up times and places for children to access the items that help them stim and use them in the classroom. Of course, it might also be a good idea to communicate that these items are not toys, but rather tools for attention and should be treated accordingly.