Sensory Diet

A “sensory diet” is a personalized activity plan
that provides the sensory input a person needs to stay focused and organized
throughout the day in a structured way. People of all ages with varying levels
of sensory issues can benefit for a sensory diet. We all use sensory diets in
our own way during the day, from drinking our cup of coffee in the morning, to
chewing gum or snacking while starring at the computer, to hot baths at the end
of the day to de-stress. In the same way, an occupational therapist will create
a structured schedule to offer children activities that will help there body
“wake up” or “slow down” so that they can function
appropriately throughout the day.

All people are “wired” differently, this is what
makes us unique! Our nervous system regulates the sensory input we experience
throughout the day and has the job of filtering important from non-important,
safe from not safe input. Sometimes these messages are “scrambled,”
which leads to arousal levels that can be “too high,” “just
right,” or “too low.” When we are “too high” our body
is constantly on the move, we are fidgety and we can’t focus and complete the
tasks. When we are “too low” our body is tired and we can’t focus and
get up and moving. The job of a sensory diet is to use sensory tools to help
regulate our nervous system so that we are “just right” so that we
can focus and complete our task. For example when a child is “too
high,” their therapist may suggest to squish between pillows or complete
10 frog jumps to help slow the child’s body. If the child is to low the
occupational therapist may suggest jumping on a trampoline or swinging to wake
them up. 

Typically I suggest trying to complete some of the listed
activities for 10-15 minutes every couple hours at home. Please consult with
your occupational therapist because it is important that the type of input a child
is getting depends on their arousal level. Many times it is great to complete
tasks before and after school hours to help improve focus and transitions.


High arousal tools:

– Lying under a weighted blanket or stack of pillows and
blankets for deep pressure.

– Wearing a weighted or compression vest ( ask your
therapist about one before buying).

– Help put away heavy groceries or carry laundry basket.

– W

ear a backpack that has a
couple books in it for weight.

– Wheelbarrow walk, bear walk, push-ups, sit-ups.

– Tug of war games.

– Roll self up in a blanket like a burrito


Low arousal tools:

– Jumping on a trampoline or into a pile of pillows.

– Swing

– Spinning on a sit-n-spin or log roll down the hallways.

– Bouncing on a therapy ball

– Drinking or eating something with a strong flavor (such as

Michelle Zurek,
Clinic Therapist, TherapyWorks