Last week one of my friends, Dean Bohl, was looking for feedback about ideas concerning something called a sensory diet…a very beneficial idea for many children with autism and sensory processing needs!
What on earth is a sensory diet? Is it a diet of only certain foods or certain calories?
A sensory diet is a term used to describe sensory activities that are used children with autism, ADHD, or Sensory Integration Disorder.
Just as your child needs food throughout the course of the day, a child with autism, ADHD, or SPD needs sensory input, and opportunities for getting away from stimulation, spread out over the morning. A “sensory diet” is a carefully designed, personalized activity plan that provides the sensory input a child needs to stay focused and organized throughout the morning. In the same way that you jiggle your knee or chew gum to stay awake or soak in a hot tub to unwind, children need to engage in stabilizing, focusing activities, too. Young children, teens, and adults with mild to severe sensory issues can all benefit from a personalized sensory diet.
Here’s a resource for you that identifies a handful of sensory diet activities that we incorporate during our Children’s Life Group or ones that you can do at home:
The great news is that the effects of a sensory diet are usually immediate! Activities that “wake” your child up or calm him down are not only effective in the moment; they actually help to restructure your child’s nervous system over time so that he is better able to:
- tolerate sensations and situations he finds challenging
- regulate his alertness and increase attention span
- limit sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors
- handle transitions with less stress
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Michael Woods, M.A. BCaBA