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The Sensory Diet: What You Can Do to Help Your Child

A sensory diet could be an important plan for your child and an official sensory diet can only be prescribed by a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant or Occupational Therapist (OT). A child that doesn't have the ability to process multiple sensory inputs in a functional way – because he/she has a sensory processing disorder (SPD) – needs a sensory diet.

What is a Sensory Diet?

A sensory diet is a group of activities created and personalized for a specific child's needs. The diet is created based on what the individual child needs – which is determined by sensory integration theory conducted by the occupational therapist.

A child who needs this adjustment to their daily routine is child who struggles because his/her brain does not receive and respond to information being collected by the senses. This can make a simple sound or a bright light incredibly painful to a child who has a sensory processing disorder. This is a child who often seems uncoordinated and crashes into things. This is a child who struggles to engage in normal play with other children. A child on the autism spectrum often fits into this category.

The goal of a sensory diet is to find ways to adapt certain daily tasks to make it easier for your child to complete them.

Using The Five Senses

Therapists break the five senses down a bit differently using specific systems as follows:

  • Touch uses the tactile system.
  • Hearing uses an auditory system.
  • Sight uses a visual system.
  • Taste and smell use gustatory and olfactory systems.
  • Moving and balance use a vestibular system.
  • Body awareness uses a proprioceptive system.

Many activities utilize these different systems. Your child's OT therapist will sit down with you to decide which activities are needed and when they should be performed.

If you realize the child is over or underactive, you will need to adjust the input/activity. The child can only process a certain amount of stimuli, and it might take some adjustments to get the plan right. You want the child in a comfort zone, and you will be the regulator when he/she is at home.

The School's Cooperation

School can be a challenge for a child with sensory issues. The school will attempt to implement an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan. Either plan will help your child function in the school. For example, a child might need more time for taking quizzes or a quieter place away from the noise in the cafeteria to eat lunch. These are special adjustments that will allow the child to function with his/her friends and not feel alienated in the process.

A Brighter Future

As time passes, your child should become more capable of handling situations that have been challenging. Attention spans will become increased with the regulation of activities. Less stress will be a major benefit because the child can better process daily transitions.

After the child has worked with an OT specialist, he/she should be able to cope with daily life. It may take some additional time and planning, but your child and his/her education is worth every minute of the time spent.

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Saturday, 09 December 2023

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