When I first heard the term “Sensory Diet” I wondered if this was some sort of fad diet I was going to put my son on? However, I soon learnt it had nothing to do with food at all. A sensory diet is an activity plan, carefully put together to provide sensory inputs into your child’s day. This helps them stay calm, focused and self-regulated (exactly what we need). A good Occupational Therapist can design a sensory diet that is tailored to the specific needs of your child.
We started Chase on a sensory diet at the age of 3 and we have never looked back. It has had such an impact on his day to day behaviour. Over the years we have worked closely with Chase’s OT on the reasoning behind why he does certain activities and why his body responds to them. We incorporate these activities at home on a daily basis. I am happy to dedicate time to do these activities to help him keep calm, focused and regulated. We do a lot of Vestibular and Proprioceptive input (I will explain these big words later) which has a calming effect on his nervous system.
His sensory diet is forever changing to keep up with the changing needs of his sensory system. What worked last week, may not be effective this week. The same plan becomes boring and stale.
The great thing about a sensory diet is that you can tailor it and create your own diet to do at home. You don’t need expensive therapy tools and toys! You can use furniture, kids toys, and other objects found around the house. You can make it fun and get the whole family involved. My 5 year old daughter loves doing Chase’s sensory diet activities with him. It’s great for her as well to ward off her bad moods. Having a sibling or a parent doing the activities as well makes the child not feel like it’s a chore, or that you are doing these activities because there is something “wrong” with them. We make obstacle courses around the house, pretend to be spies in training, play “mini Olympics”, or the family favourite “The floor is lava!”
I have created a 7-Day Sensory Diet Program which I would love to share with you all. Click here to download. It has everything you need to get started. I have also shared below a list I refer to when creating Chase’s sensory diet, so when you are ready you can try create your own.
Remember, always try and finish with some heavy lifting or weight-bearing activity, as this will calm the child at the end. I try and do at least 10 minutes, 3 times a day. Normally before school, straight after school and before bed. I get Chase involved in picking out the activities now that he’s older. We map them out on a whiteboard, so we can both follow along.
I am not a therapist or a doctor. I am simply the mother of a child with sensory needs, sharing some of our favourite sensory diet activities that we use daily.
The Proprioceptive system is in our muscles and joints. It detects, and controls, force and pressure. Proprioceptive input can be very calming for those who are easily overwhelmed by sensory stimulation. It helps the body accurately sense where it is in relation to its surroundings. Activities include;
The Vestibular system is our movement system. The receptors are located in the inner ear and detect the speed and direction of movement, and changes in position of our head. It controls balance and eye movement. Activities include;
The Tactile sense detects light touch, deep pressure, texture, temperature, vibration and pain. Activities include;
The Auditory system is responsible for the sense of hearing and our ability to take in information, process it, and produce an appropriate response. Activities include;
Click on the link below to access my 7 day program for you to print and get started.