What is a Sensory Diet?

If you work in the Special Education field, there's no doubt you've heard people talking about a sensory diet. But, what exactly is a sensory diet?

The main things you need to know about a sensory diet are;
  1. A sensory diet can help children or even adults with sensory processing issues.
  2. It has nothing to do with food - it's a physical diet that includes a variety of different activities that you can even do at home.
  3. You can meet with an Occupational Therapist (OT) who can 'design' a sensory diet that is tailored to match the person's individual needs.
By carrying out a set routine each day, known as the individuals sensory diet, can really help the children to gain better attention skills, the ability to learn new skills and also to socialise with others.

So, what does the sensory diet routine mean? 
Well, individuals can go two ways - they can be overstimulated or under stimulated. For individuals who are overstimulated, having a sensory diet tailored to their needs can help them to calm down and bring them down to a calmer level where they are able to concentrate more and have better attention skills. However, for individuals who are under stimulated - mainly ones who feel tired, or just have little energy, the sensory diet for them can help them to feel more alert, active and engaged.

It is important that you can recognise when the individual needs their sensory diet routine, many individuals with sensory processing issues may not be able to tel when they are over/under stimulated or when they need to complete one of their sensory diet routines, so it's important you can be on hand to observe the changes, and when you can step in and support the individual, encouraging them to take part in their sensory diet routine to help them.

The best way to have the perfect sensory diet for the individual is to have the help of a trained professional, this can mainly be from an Occupational Therapist (OT) who you may be able to find access from in School, the community, doctors, support centres etc. However, there are also lots of great advice that you can gain from educational professionals and online, although i'd highly recommend having this done with an OT to get the best routine put into place, this routine can then be performed anywhere with the child.

So, what are some activities that could be included in a sensory diet? To be honest, there are LOADS, but some of the most popular are;
  1. Rolly pollies (somersaults/forward rolls)
  2. Snow angels
  3. Push something heavy - trolley etc.
  4. Crab walks
  5. Jumping jacks
  6. Climb ladders
  7. Bouncing on a gym ball/therapy ball
  8. Have individual lie on the floor and roll a gym ball up and down their body - very little pressure is to be applied, and have the individual lie on their back, avoid the face/mouth area etc.
  9. Push against a wall. We like to put hand prints on the wall where children put their hands and push against them.
  10. Pencil roll
As I said, there are LOADS of different sensory diet exercises that you can do, the best way to get the most appropriate exercises are through an OT, but you can also test some at home, google is a great way to find some more exercises to try too!

Many people think that a sensory diet routine is something that can only take place during certain times of the day, the truth is you can have it take place as many times through the day as the individual needs, and whenever they need it - it's not something you need a set time for. However, we always find it best to hold these routines before doing work etc. where the individual will need to concentrate/pay attention.

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