What is a Sensory Diet?
Having a sensory diet. This has nothing to do with what your child eats or does not eat. The first time I took Sofia to an occupational therapist she kept mentioning putting her on a “diet” to help her sensory needs. I was so confused. I literally interrupted her and told her listen I am all for trying anything to help my kid, but she already is so picky (more than the average toddler) with what she eats and is only in the 33% weight percentage…what kind of food are you suggesting? Then she cracked a smile and laughed. She filled me in on what the heck she was talking about and recommended a book for me to read. I will get to that in a minute.
So Sensory Processing Disorder or S.P.D. is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. Oversensitive or under sensitive to their surroundings, their body, and their environment. It may affect one sense, like hearing, touch, or taste. Or it may affect multiple senses. Also, children can be over- or under-responsive to the things or senses they have difficulties with.
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My child has mixed symptoms with touch (hair brushing, wearing certain clothes, doesn’t like top sheets, etc.) and she is a “sensory seeker” that has also has bounds of energy. Sensory seeking behavior simplified is your child is seeking sensory input and will do behaviors to get that input.
Like I said, a sensory diet has nothing to do with food. It’s a personalized series of physical activities and accommodations tailored to your child to give them the sensory input they are seeking or need. Sensory diets are used as part of their sensory processing therapy. Having a sensory diet helps children with S.P.D. get their bodies and brain in sync which in turn helps them stay focused in school, follow directions, ability to learn and play appropriately with their peers.
Sofia’s occupational therapist recommended this book: The Out of Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder” by C.S. Kranowitz. Fantastic read and really helps explain what your child or family member may be going through. So if Grandma does not understand what you mean (like I used to) when you say she needs/wants to spin around for vestibular input…this book will help explain it!
Examples of sensory seeking behaviors are:
- Loves washing hands, playing in water, mud, seeking dirty types of play
- Dumping toy bins rummaging through them aimlessly
- Chewing on objects or clothing
- Rubbing against walls or furniture and bumping into people
- Loves spinning in circles, making themselves dizzy, constantly moving
- Fidgets, has difficulty sitting still and takes bold risks
- Frequently wants bear hugs and vigorous playground activities
- Loves loud noises, TV or music volume, crowds and places with lots of action
- Problems sleeping
- May lick or taste inedible objects and prefers spicy or hot foods
- Frequently attempt to engage in rough play, such as wrestling
- Stomping their feet when they walk
- Jumping or climbing
Sensory Seeking aids:
Below are some of the sensory aids I use to help Sofia with her sensory diet. Having these aids around are not just helpful in the moment when you may need to use as a calm down aid but it just helps their overall ability to focus, attention, and general happiness to have healthy ways (safer) to get the input they are seeking.
I mentioned vestibular input previously and if your child loves spinning, jumping or climbing they maybe trying to get that type of sensory input. Vestibular input has to do with the movement of the inner ear and with balance (why they may be clumsy or have no fear). Having movement that involves the head in many different positions is considered vestibular. Proprioception is sensory input from the large muscle groups (legs and arms) and the spine. Hence wanting to jump, move heavy things, loves to climb etc.
Extra large bean bag. This was a great purchase. You stuff it with all the stuffed animals (dust catchers) that your child can not part with which forms your bean bag. This is used as a comfy place to read, calm down area or we use it for her to safely jump from her bed to get the sensory input she is seeking. Having something to crash into is really helpful. Great add to their sensory diet.
These come 5 to a package and are another great sensory aid to help calm, reduce anxiety, or re-direct focus. Sofia has problems with staying still in her seat or paying attention. This is something I may bring for her to have at a restaurant or for her to have available at nap time at school. For some reason just holding one helps her relax and take her nap.
This is your typical “fidget toy” 3 come in the pack. This is known to Sofia as her “hand helper” both her teacher and I refer to it as the hand helper instead of calling it her fidget toy. She uses her hand helper at circle time or during learning lessons and holds it under the table. This helps her focus and pay more attention to the activity she is to be a part of. Also, very helpful for when we go out to eat.
Wiggle seat: Wiggle seat is just what it says…if your child fidgets, wiggles or gets out of their seat constantly; try this product. Helps build their stomach muscles and makes their body to stabilize its self. Which in turn, helps stay in their seat and focus. This one is adjustable to how big you need the seat and what your child finds comfortable. One side has spikes and one is more flat. Try them both out to see which one works. Another bonus is that the wiggle seat also improves posture.
Check out my DIY Sensory Bottle post here. Sensory bottles are super easy and fun to make. Sensory bottles or calm-down bottles are a wonderful useful calming tool for toddlers or children with sensory needs, anxiety, or those that need help with self-regulation or transitioning to the next activity. Sensory bottles act as a “calm-down” aid by helping them re-focus their attention on the objects, colors, and movement in the bottle. Some moms use them during their child’s time-out periods. My daughter primarily uses it at bedtime to help her settle down for story time and help with the transition of night time.
Little Tikes Trampoline Great indoor trampoline for 3-6 year olds. Kids that like to jump or are seeking that input, can use this sensory aid to add into their sensory diet.
I hope you find some of these strategies or tips helpful for those children that have sensory processing issues and need to have a sensory diet. If you enjoyed this post, check out some of my sensory activity posts, try my Ice Sensory or Fluffy Slime!
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