Sensory Diet

The term "Sensory Diet" gets thrown around alot and is honestly very intimidating.

It took me a long time to realize that Sensory Diet had nothing to do with recreating what my OT does. Funny as that may be, it really doesn't.

No one expects you to have the same equipment (although I bet you have some of it) as an Occupational Therapist, let alone the experience and education required to be doing therapy with your kiddo at home every day.

That is the fear that most newly diagnosed moms of SPD kiddos have--that Sensory Diet means making time every day to say, "Hey son, time to do your therapy." Which, of course, they are in no way shape or form going to agree to. Right?

What Sensory Diet really is, is a change of the way you do things each day that incorporates Sensory Activities into your day to day life. It keeps your kiddo from melting down. It keeps your kiddo Calm and Organized, in a state that learning and problem solving are possible.

My goal is 20 minutes every hour. Yes, that is a very optimistic goal some days, but we all need something to aim at--no matter how far away we are from the target.

Here are the things that I do with my kiddo. Gabriel is a seeker, so this may not always work with your kid, but hopefully it will get you thinking. :)

Proprioception (movement of our muscles and joints: pressure in and out):
Holding the door open in public and pushing it shut (don't forget to close it!)
Pushing a grocery cart
Putting the grocery cart away (pushing it into the others)
Pushing a stroller
Pushing me in a wheeled chair
Playing "Wheelbarrow" with his brothers
Animal walk races (crab, bear, inch worm, and more) front door to back door
Pull ups on a pull up bar in door way
Stretching with the door frame
Carrying a backpack--deliver the books upstairs
Carrying groceries
Unloading cans of pop into fridge (or water bottles, etc)
Crawling games
Simmon Says (lots of hopping on one foot, reach for the sky, etc)
Trampoline Dares (I dare you to do 36 jumps)
Backyard jungle gym (monkey bars, rock climb, ladder)
Cilmbing UP the slide
Heavy blanket (great to wrap in and then log roll through the house)
Moving furniture (Oh, Gabe, I forgot to push the chairs in at the table, can you do that please?)
Unloading dishes
Small motor work (scissors cutting cardboard, theraputty or playdoh)
Small Block Push/Pull (Zoobs, Legos, Snap Blocks, etc)

Vestibular (balance, where your body is in space):
Simmon Says (balancing on one foot)
Egg Chair spinning
Bean bag (holds body in one place)
Swinging outside, or in blanket with two adults

Oral (some are taste, and some are proprioceptive work outs):
"Drinking" semi-liquid foods with a straw (smoothies, yogurt, pudding, applesauce)
Gum with Bubble Blowing
Chewy Vitamins
Chewing ice (bad for teeth, talk to your dentist)
Frozen grapes or bananas
Blowing bubbles; look for great different kinds of blowers, whistles, pipes, etc.
Whistling practice
Various types of foods--crunchy (pretzels), chewy (raisins), sour, sweet
Things he can chew apart with his teeth (corn on the cob, hard bars or crunchy ones)--think beaver like almost. lol

Water play--sprinkler, shower, etc.
Burrito Making (we wrap him up in a blanket and call it a burrito)
Crawling through things (loves to be under the area rug)
Playdoh (also proprioceptive)
Bean tub (again, proprioceptive)
"Cooking" with flour (1 cup of flour, large bowl, measuring spoons, WAH LAH! Add water by the tablespoon for a disposable paste like substance that is ewey gooey fun)
Shaving cream (great in a stand up shower or on a table)
Mud play
Massage (talk with OT)
Brushing (talk with OT)
Pushing on shoulders or head
Tight hugging
Squeezing on joints (compression, talk to your OT)
We LOVE to use the vending machines (think gumballs or bouncy balls) as a reward after shopping--we don't buy anything, but they get to twist every knob and check every dispenser. Look for stores like Fred Meyer that have a whole bank of these on the exits
Appliances checking--again, sounds crazy, but at Loews you can let them check in every fridge, oven, dish washer and dryer until their hearts content.
Self serve lotto ticket vending machines. Lots of buttons to push and usually right after the grocery check out.

Smell: Usually trying to minimize
Cooking (smell everything--every spice and extract)
Candles (never keep them in the house, but great distraction at the store while we are shopping)

Hearing: Usually try to minimize
Music of choice w/or w/o ear phones
Quiet time in room
Sound canceling earphones
Listening games (Can you hear that?)
Repeating Songs (Going on a squeegie hunt (kids repeat), Gonna catch a big one (kids repeat))
Books on CD in the van (no video) makes everyone quiet as they concentrate on the voice
Sound Bingo (love it, check out
High Low (a nightly ritual where we take turns talking about the best and the worst the day had to offer--GREAT for minimizing auditory distractions at the table, catching up, and practicing listening to our brothers)

Sight: Usually try to minimize
Quiet time in room w/o distractions
"Cool cloth" over the eyes with eyes shut (great for allergies too, but usually puts Gabe to sleep)
I Spy (with traditional colors--Something yellow)
I Spy (with letters, Something that starts with a "C"; WARNING this is REALLY hard even for adults!)

This is in NO way a comprehensive list. Not even close. These are things that we regularly do in our day to day life that are, at least for me at this point, second nature.

Remember, my son is under-stimulated (he needs more)--if your child is over-stimulated (needs less), you may not use some of these things. It is my experience, that most people can use these strategies, it is just the *timing* that is different. My son doesn't do well with too much in the sight, smell, hearing department, and that is why we do lots of proprioceptive work during the day so he can better deal with the other input.

We have mandatory quiet time to regroup every day after school. I think of it as sensory deprivation so that he can reset himself after keeping it together all day.

Also, for us, the more proprioceptive input he has the better off he is. Throughout the day, before or during a meltdown, just about anything that gives that input works to keep his body calm and organized.

In Kindergarten, with help from our OT, we had a strict routine of coming home, weighted compression vest on, yogurt with a straw, crunchy pretzels, and more food of his choice for a 20 minutes. Then structured free time for 40 minutes, and vest back on. We did the vest for 20 minutes every hour until bed time when he had a weighted blanket on him.

Now, we still do the weighted blanket but he fights it. The jungle gym and pull up bar are our new favorites.

Get talking with your OT, other moms, or email me and put together a list of things for quick reference in your wallet or on your fridge that you can do with your child every day. There could easily be a list for your classroom too!

Hope this has got you thinking. Leave comments with anything you have found that works for your family--away from home, in your backyard, or just hanging out at home.

Enjoy your week!


fio said...

ty. ty. i am so lost right now with out ot. ty. we have one month til ours gets back from maternity leave and i am trying to keep the littl eman regulated on my own. no one seems to get that me reacting to his needs will work (well except for ppl with the same kind of life) and that the sessions with the ot help me to learn how to work these things into our day. i am printing this and hylighting things that we get a chance to do every day in green. then things we can start to incorporate in yellow. ty again.

Making Sense of the Senses said...

I found a link to this post from the Yahoo group.
Thank you so much for this post!!!
This is exactly the sort of information I wish my O/T was giving me.
thanks again.

Amanda said...

Thank you for sharing this. I have a sensory seeking son, too, and I just found your blog. I'm happy to have found it!

Amy said...

You mentioned a list for school. I am a new Sp Ed teacher for a severe group of older children 16-21. These ideas sound great for calming my students down as they have behaviors that have resulted in needing to be served outside their school district. Do you have any advice for sensory diet I can build in to my class?
Thank you!! This is a great education!

Danette said...

Hartley, this is a fabulous list. I shared it on my FB page

Elizabeth Duncan said...

Thank you for this post currently fighting to get Lil Boy evaluated for OT/PT and was at a loss for what to do at home we already do a version of quiet time when he gets home from ECSE I feed him and then we "hide" under the blanket which usually turns into a nap.

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