What is Sensory Diet?
A “sensory diet” is a planned and scheduled activity program designed to meet a child’s specific sensory needs. There are many types of sensory activities that are similar to eating a “main course” and are very powerful and satisfying. Hence the name coined as “Sensory Diet” by Wilbarger and Wilbarger (1991). They developed the approach to provide the “just right” combination of sensory input to achieve and maintain optimal levels of arousal and performance in the nervous system. A sensory diet is based on sensory integration therapy.
The ability to appropriately orient and respond to sensations can be enhanced by a proper sensory diet. A sensory diet also helps reduce protective or sensory defensive responses that can negatively affect social contact and interaction.
Sensory Diet Activities-
Sensory diet activities provide movement, deep touch pressure, and a heavy work. They are the powerhouses of any sensory diet, as they have the most significant and long-lasting impact on the nervous system (Wilbarger 1995; Hanschu, 1997).
There are other types of activities that may be beneficial, but their impact is not as great. These “Sensory Snacks,” or “Mood Makers,” are activities that last a shorter period of time and generally include mouth, auditory, visual, or smell experiences.
Active participation of a child will help to successful implication of sensory diet on a child. Every child has unique sensory needs, and his sensory diet must be customized for individual needs and responses. An occupational therapist needs to evaluate sensory processing abilities and determine what types of sensory activities would be beneficial.
Sensory diet can help in preventing many challenging behaviors, including self-stimulatory and self-abusive behaviors if properly planned and implemented.
Engaging children in sensory experiences on a regular schedule can help them focus, attend, and interact.
Aim of Sensory Integration – the main aim of the sensory diet is to prevent sensory and emotional overload by satisfying the nervous system’s sensory needs. When the child becomes overwhelmed and out of control, sensory technique will be very helpful like calming activities.
Sensory diet implementation requires a commitment of the team. The team includes parents, grandparents, teachers in school, therapist. Depending on the needs of the child, a sensory diet can be comprised of very specific activities carried out at prescribed times.
Activities for sensory diet –
Activities vary with the child and its response. An occupational therapist first does a sensory profile and mark the problem areas. According to the result, they plan a diet which will be helpful for the child.
Here, we are providing general guidelines of the sensory diet and which activities come under it.
We strive to provide easy, low-cost ideas and try to ensure practicality for parents, teachers and day care providers. Sensory diet activities work best in environments that offer structure and routine. Activities are organized into the following sections-
2. Oral Motor Activities
¤ Learning to Drink from a Straw
¤ Learning to Blow
¤ Learning to Chew
¤ Keeping Mouth Busy
¤ Learning to keep your Chin Dry
3. Fine Motor Activities
¤ Edible Fine Motor Fun
¤ Edible Dough
¤ Homemade Silly Putty
4. Gross Motor Activites
¤ Swimming Activities
¤ Backyard and Park Activities.