Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What is a Sensory Diet?

Despite its name, a Sensory Diet is not a strictly food based or nutritional plan. It is a scheduled activity program that is usually designed by a registered occupational therapist to meet your child’s individual sensory needs.

Many of us naturally seek our own stabilizing sensory triggers, like running our hand through our hair to help us think, or slowly sipping at a mug of soothing warm drink, we instinctively develop sensory habits and behaviours.

People with mild to severe sensory disorders often find it hard to develop positive behaviours that create balance and satisfy the needs of their nervous systems.

Also called sensory modulation, your child’s occupational therapist can assess your child and tailor a daily plan that caters to their particular sensory stimulation or soothing needs, helping them with settling and staying focussed throughout the day.

Each child responds differently to different sensory experiences, and some may need sensory input to soothe their over-wired nervous system, while others who are more sluggish or withdrawn may need activities that stimulate them and arouse their creative output.

Sensory diets are usually easy to follow and may include activities such as:

• Blowing up balloons or blowing bubbles which can help with sustained breath control and tends to have a soothing effect by encouraging deeper breathing and oxygenation.

• Drinking carbonated water can help stimulate hunger by creating awareness of the digestive tract as it tingles on the way down.

• Jumping on a trampoline can stimulate both balance and joint strength and weight awareness.

• Slowly moving your body weight from one foot to the other, rather than standing still can reduce the need to pace or wander around the room.

An occupational therapist will find activities that your child enjoys doing whilst getting the sensory stimulation required.

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