Many times, parents are told that their child with sensory needs would benefit from a sensory diet. Most of the time, they respond with “what is a sensory diet?!” In this article, we’ll be talking a bit about what a sensory diet is and how it can be beneficial to kids with sensory needs. You may have seen some of our recent posts here on The OT Toolbox about Sensory diet activities for the classroom or sensory diet activities for outdoors that may give you a better understanding of some of the sensory activities that can be used within a sensory diet.
A sensory diet is not just for kids! A sensory diet for adults is just as powerful in supporting regulation needs for individuals of all ages.
Wondering what a sensory diet actually is? Check out this video we’ve shared on Facebook. Sound familiar?
What is a sensory diet?
Often times, when you mention the term “sensory diet”, individuals respond with a comment about food or a eating healthier. A sensory diet has nothing to do with food or restricting foods, or eating healthier!
A sensory diet can be described this way:
that make up a sensory strategy and are appropriate for an individual’s
needs. These are specific and
individualized activities that are scheduled into a child’s day and are used to
assist with regulation of activity levels, attention, and adaptive
responses. 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.
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 needs. A sensory diet is a meaningful set
of strategies for developing sensory programs that are practical, carefully
scheduled, and controlled in order to affect functioning.
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
with identified sensory issues. We all
need a diet of sensory input. Most
people naturally participate in conscious or subconscious acts that meet their
taps their pen against the desk while struggling on an exam. That’s a sensory strategy.
phone with your child’s pediatrician. That’s a sensory strategy.
varying sensory input allows us to function appropriately. Neurotypical 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 kitchen. Some
individuals lack the ability or support to perform these sensory strategies
thoughtful regard to timing, frequency, intensity, and duration of sensory
input. Sensory diets should be created by an occupational therapist who evaluates the child or individual and ensures carryover, and response to sensory input.