Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sensory Diet



LM's sensory diet has become such a natural part of our lives, that I forget not everyone is familiar with what a sensory diet is. First of all, it's not a food diet. First referred to as a "diet" by OT Patricia Wilbarger (of Wilbarger brushing protocol fame), a sensory diet is a variety of activities designed to be incorporated into your child's day to help regulate his senses. Just as we need meals to nourish us, and snacks to get us through our day, a person with any type of sensory processing disorder needs specific activities to continually regulate their 7 senses. (Yes, I wrote 7: touch, taste, hear, see, smell, vestibular and proprioception)

LM is typically a sensory seeker - he is under-responsive to touch and movement, he can get "hyper" to the point of total distraction, has some personal space issues, and just craves movement in general. We started a sensory diet when he was 2, now at 5 it's a way of life and he's very good at knowing what activities he needs and when he needs them.

An OT with Sensory Processing Disorder training should evaluate your child and work with you to put together an individualized diet. It takes some initiative and planning to get into the routine of activities several times a day, but it becomes natural very quickly. The best part is that the results are almost immediate.

Here's a few of our favorite sensory diet activities. I'll blog about each of them individually with more info, but this will give you an idea.

A mini trampoline and a ball pit. These are both great because LM has access to them throughout the day as he needs. No setting up required and no mess. These are our two most used activities. By the way if you have a toddler, - no need to go out and buy an expensive ball pit, and don't waste your money on the blow up plastic ones - they're too shallow anyway. We took our old pack and play playpen and filled it with about 350 balls (bought at target). Jumping and rolling around in the ball pit address the proprioceptive and vestibular senses.

Smoothies. We make smoothies every morning. It's usually orange juice and bananas with a bunch of supplements. I make them extra thick and give LM a straw to drink with. A great oral motor activity, this "wakes up" his taste and smell senses as well.

Massage. We incorporate massage often throughout the day for different reasons. While getting LM dressed I use baby powder (corn starch) and massage his feet, hands and legs. It's a quick vigorous massage, (think getting blood flow moving) and it gives him the sensory input he's looking for. Also makes wearing shoes less of an issue. At night or during the day if he needs to quiet down I take out a scented lotion and do a slower massage to his arms, legs and back. I sing to him very slowly, very quietly ... and both of us relax.

Heavy Work. You've seen me refer to heavy work before. These activities also address the proprioceptive system and help calm and regulate senses. Look back at some of the Sensory Saturday activities - most of them have heavy work ideas.

Shaving cream. A favorite around here, we buy it by the case! Besides being played with in every bath and shower, it's great for teaching letters and numbers as well. Spread some out on a cookie sheet and "draw" in it.

Need more info? Stay tuned for more detailed blogs about each of these activities and more. And in the mean time ... check out the Sensory Smarts website. It's fantastic! http://sensorysmarts.com/sensory_diet_activities.html

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