What is a Sensory Diet?

What is this diet you speak of? Do I need to feed my kid only raw broccoli and smoothies? No! A sensory diet is a list of activities that help your child self-regulate. Usually, children who have been diagnosed with Autism or Down Syndrome will have their therapists help the family formulate a sensory diet. However, I feel that these activities can be beneficial for all children.

The first step to developing the list is to observe your child’s behaviors. Do they get overstimulated at certain times of the day? Or perhaps during certain activities? Are they having emotional meltdowns or perhaps need help with self regulation and improving attention. Once this data is collected, you can start discovering which activities will help. (Note – you may have to change up the diet every so often as your child develops).

The next step is to observe your child and determine which types of activities and places are sought after. For instance, does your child become relaxed while reading books alone in a room or does this create a sense of loneliness and abandonment and they feel better around others?

As an example, my son – age 8 – Down Syndrome diagnosis – enjoys jumping on the furniture, crashing into the floor and bashing himself into my body. When he does this, he is seeking out more sensory input. To help with this, his Occupational Therapist suggests deep pressure activities such as putting him in a big fluffy blanket (like a burrito) and rolling him on the floor. Another activity is to stand behind him and push down on his shoulders with steady deep pressure. And a favorite activity of ours is to place heavy objects inside of a laundry basket for him to push around the house.

If you are just starting out – here are a few resources that I turn to for guidance and inspiration.

The OT Toolbox

Let’s Talk About Sensory Processing

Create a Sensory Diet