How to develop a “Sensory Diet”

Each child has their own unique sensory needs and you know them better than anyone – so I will help you to get to understand what your child is seeking and avoiding and how you can provide them with the opportunities they need throughout the day to be as calm and regulated as possible.

We all respond to sensory input differently. Some individuals may seek out more sensory input as they under react to sensations, and others may avoid sensory input as they overreact to it and it is overwhelming for them. It is also possible for individuals to show a combination of reactions too, depending on their levels of arousal or their opportunities to self-regulate.

1   Make a list of the times of day or the environments that your child experiences challenges or seems to be seeking sensory input.

Don’t over think this, just simply grab a piece of paper and start writing out the times your child is having a temper tantrum, having difficulty, overwhelming you, or is confusing you with their actions. Sometimes kids with sensory issues have unusual behaviours to get their sensory needs met. Write down anything that comes to mind!

2   Check off any anything on the list that is caused by their sensory needs or you feel could be helped by my sensory

Common Sensory Challenges:

This is not a complete list, there are so many sensory needs and behaviours.

  • Difficulty waking up or getting out of bed in the morning
  • Particular about the type of clothing they wear
  • Anxious before school or doing a different activity
  • Won’t sit still at the table during meals
  • Tantrums when it’s time to run an errand
  • Flips out in the store for seemingly no reason or because of the lights, sounds, and environment in general
  • Very rough in their play with siblings, parents, and other children*
  • Overly shy and awkward in public or on play dates
  • Refuses to leave the house
  • Climbs furniture unsafely
  • Obsessed with swinging and/or spinning
  • Hates getting messy
  • Touches everything and gets overly messy, seeming not notice
  • Licks everything
  • Gags at new or different foods on their plate or even on the table for meals
  • Stares at spinning objects like a ceiling fan
  • Difficulty paying attention in school or during structured activities
  • Completely can’t stand bright lights
  • Loses it with loud noises
  • Fearful of climbing playground equipment, the stairs, or getting on a swing
  • Refuses to have teeth brushed
  • Can’t seem to settle down to go to sleep
  • Bites people of objects for seemingly no reason or when they are excited or upset
  • Has a hard time sleeping through the night
  • Chews on toys, pencil tops, and other objects frequently
  • Smells everything
3   Choose sensory diet activities to try and offer before/during your child’s challenging times or when they are showing you they have sensory needs!

Most important is that you offer an activity as part of your routine because you know it’s a challenging area for your child OR you give an activity when you see they need it.

Either way, you really want to try and think about what your child’s “need” is and then match an activity that might help.  

Here s a simple summary of sensory issues that may help guide you:

Simple Strategies

  • Calming routine, sequence to be completed five times: –

Squeeze my hands (massage hands)  

Rub my head (slowly rub the forehead and brows) –

Pressure on my legs (pushing down and rubbing thighs)

  • Use a therapy ball: – Bouncing whilst seated – Rolling on tummy, weight bearing through the arms as this is good for self regulation – Laying on your back and lifting the therapy ball up with the feet – Laying on your back and lifting the therapy ball up over your head and onto your tummy and back – Squishes – give deep pressure using the therapy ball as this is calming and a good way to finish a movement break.
  • Anywhere body breaks: – Wall push ups – Isometrics, pushing hands together, clasping hands together and squeezing, chair push ups, wall push ups
  • When seated: – Place the feet on a slightly under inflated ball for movement – Sit on a wobble cushion or better still sit on a physio ball/ physio peanut – Use lap or shoulder weight for feedback through the legs/ upper body – Wrist weight (small light ones) or ankle weights to give extra body feedback. (See sensory direct online).
  • At play: – Den building, pulling through the arms either by climbing, swinging or pulling on rope. – Burying and burrowing under toys, blankets, pillows – Make your own squeeze box to sit in (a box stuffed with pillows) – Exergaming (interactive games such as just dance or ring fit etc.)

I hope this helps!

Heres a useful link for how to understand what your child may be needing for their sensory needs

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