Goals of a Sensory Diet

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on twitter
Have you ever had a professional mention the term “sensory diet”?  Have you wondered why a sensory diet would be used with kids?  This post describes the goals of a sensory diet for kids with sensory processing needs. 
Before we get started, I have news to share! I’ve been busy working on a new (BIG) project for you.  You’ll see more sensory diet information here on the site because I’ve been putting together a strategy book for developing sensory diets!  This is going to be a resource for parents, teachers, therapists, and anyone who works with kids with sensory needs.
Why do kids need a sensory diet to help with sensory processing problems?

Sensory strategies that are motivating can be a big help for some kids. Try these train themed sensory activity ideas.

Sensory Diets for Sensory Processing Needs

Sensory diets are a commonly known strategy for addressing
sensory needs.  The term “sensory diet” was
coined by Patricia Wilbarger in 1984 to explain how certain sensory experiences
can improve occupational performance and help to remediate disruption of the
sensory processing systems.  A sensory
diet is a means to adjust sensory input in relation to an individual’s
Sensory diets don’t need to be a strict set of prescribed structured activities for every child.  They ARE a meaningful
set of strategies for developing sensory programs that are meaningful, practical, carefully
scheduled, and controlled in order to affect functioning.  
Sensory diet activities provide appropriate
sensory input based on the needs of an individual.  Just as a healthy diet consists of a variety
of foods, a sensory diet is a balanced set of sensory information that allows
an individual to function.  A person
cannot survive on broccoli alone.
Similarly, a child cannot function with only one type of sensory
Sensory diets are not just for kids with identified sensory
issues.  We all need a diet of sensory
input.  Our bodies and minds
instinctively know that varying sensory input allows us to function
appropriately.  Neuro-typical children
naturally seek out a variety of proprioceptive, vestibular, and tactile sensory
input.  As a result, they are able to
accept and regulate other sensory input such as a seam in their shirt, a
lawnmower running outside their classroom, or the scent of chicken cooking in the
Studies support the use of active participation in
multi-sensory activities for at least 90 minutes per week to improve
occupational performance and autism symptoms and behaviors (Fazlioglu &
Baran, 2008; Thompson, 2011; Woo & Leon, 2013; Wuang, Wang, Huang, & Su
Children who have a toolbox of
sensory activities available to them for daily use may benefit from prescribed
sensory activities.  These activities can be a part of and incorporated into the day in a natural way.

Related Read: Here are more sensory-based tricks and tips that help with meltdowns.

What is a
sensory diet?

A sensory diet is a set of activities that are appropriate
for an individual’s needs.  Specific and
individualized activities that are specifically scheduled into a child’s day
are used to assist with regulation of activity levels, attention, and adaptive
Sensory diet activities are
prescribed based on the individual’s specific sensory needs.   Just
as there are no two people that are alike, there are no two sensory diets that
are alike.  
Every sensory diet will meet
the specific needs whether in activity, position, intensity, time, sensory system,
or type.  Additionally, a sensory diet
can be modified throughout the day and based on variances in tasks.
A sensory diet needs
to be specific with thoughtful regard to timing, frequency, intensity, and
duration of sensory input.
Goals of a sensory diet

Goals of a sensory diet are to:

  1. Provide the child with predictable sensory information
    which helps organize the central nervous system.
  2. Support social engagement,
    self-regulation, behavior organization, perceived competence, self-esteem, and
  3.  Inhibit and/or improve modulation
    of sensation within daily routines and environments.
  4. Assist the child in processing a more organized response
    to sensory stimuli.

Add these resources to the ones you can find here under sensory diet vestibular activities to meet the sensory needs of all kids. 

Fazlioglu, Y., & Baran, G. (2008). A sensory integration therapy program on sensory problems for children
with autism
. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 106, 415–422. http://dx.doi.org/10.2466/PMS.106.2.415-422

Read more on sensory processing information here:

Sensory processing red flags for parents to help identify sensory needs in kids