Developing a Sensory Diet
Sensory processing is the body’s ability to take in the information from the world around us such as what we see, hear, smell, feel, and taste, and effectively interpret the information to allow one to interact safely and effectively within their environment. The body uses the sensory information to coordinate movement, determine pressure and identify the body’s position in space. Sometimes the body’s nervous system is unable to process the information efficiently, causing the child to be either over stimulated or under stimulated, thus affecting the child’s ability to perform everyday activities safely or effectively.
What is a Sensory Diet?
A sensory diet consists of planned activities that are purposefully organized into the child’s schedule throughout the day. The activities provide the sensory system with the input required to reorganize the nervous system so that the child may focus and participate safely in everyday activities at their optimal state of arousal.
How to Develop a Sensory Diet?
Occupational therapists are educated and skilled in determining whether a child is overstimulated or understimulated and whether the child would benefit from activity to decrease arousal or increase arousal. Every child is unique and every sensory diet must be personalized to meet the needs of the child. To begin, start by documenting your child’s daily routine for 1 week. Make note of any times during the day the child has difficulty participating in activities (noting the activity and behavior displayed by the child). Bring a copy of the child’s daily routine and notes to your next occupational therapy session and discuss activities or tools that may be implemented throughout the day to improve your child’s safety and success.
Remember, consistency is key! After receiving sensory diet activity suggestions from an occupational therapist, be consistent with implementing the activity/activities for at least one week to determine if the activity/activities are helpful. Change can be difficult for many children, so give the sensory diet suggestions some time to work.
– Melissa McCormick COTA/L
Below is a link with more information, including an example of a Sensory Diet.
Below is a link with various Sensory Diet activities.