Updated: Feb 26, 2019
What the heck is a sensory diet?
In short, it's a list of strategies, activities and exercises to incorporate throughout a child's day to prevent meltdowns and provide them with the sensory input they need.
Here is a sample of what a sensory diet may look like: Sensory Template
A sensory diet should be tailored to meet the unique sensory needs of your child. Sensory diets are most effective when they include activities that are easily incorporated into a family's already existing routine.
For example, take a piece of your child's morning routine, such as walking out to the bus stop. Instead of having them walk, have them skip or hop like a bunny.
Or if they wait inside the house for the bus to come, have them do a set of wall push ups. These are easy ways to incorporate sensory based movement activities into an already existing part of your day.
These are just examples - what your child needs may look very different.
Sensory diets work best when everyone in the child's life understands the purpose of the strategies, knows when to use them and can identify what type of sensory input is needed.
This sounds simple - a prescribed list of activities.
Totally black and white, right?
Well, not quite. Nothing ever is!
The tricky thing about sensory diets and sensory processing in general, is that the child's needs can change day to day, minute to minute.
As a parent, this is extremely frustrating. Once you think you've figured out their triggers and put strategies into place to prevent meltdowns... just when things are going smoothly, your child is going to toss you a curve ball.
A good OT will help you and your child identify what input is needed to achieve, what we in the biz call "regulation".
A regulated child looks calm, focused and organized. A regulated child can transition between activities and tolerate the sensory input in their environment.
A child who is dysregulated may appear to be in "fight or flight". They will appear disorganized, unable to focus, and unable to follow directions. They might cry. They might run away.
When incorporating a sensory diet into you and your child's life, it is important to collaborate with a professional, as well as, understand that you must be flexible and your child's triggers may change. It is also important to educate other family members, teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, etc. about your child's sensory needs.
You are your child's biggest and most important advocate.