Article – Sensory Diets

Children have different sensory needs. Some children may crave deep pressure, while others may be easily overwhelmed by loud noises.

A sensory diet is a personalised plan of physical activities and accommodations designed to meet a child’s sensory needs. The goal of a sensory diet is to help the child feel calm, regulated, and focused.

There are many different activities that can be included in a sensory diet.

Some common activities include:

  • Deep pressure activities, such as squeezing a stress ball or hugging a weighted blanket
  • Vestibular activities, such as swinging, spinning, or jumping on a trampoline
  • Proprioceptive activities, such as crawling, climbing, or balancing
  • Tactile activities, such as brushing, squeezing, or rubbing different textures
  • Auditory activities, such as listening to music or nature sounds
  • Visual activities, such as looking at bright lights or spinning objects

The best way to create a sensory diet for a child is to work with them to identify their sensory needs using a Sensory Checklist.

Once you know what the child needs, you can start to create a plan of activities that will help them meet those needs.

Here are some additional tips for supporting children with sensory needs:

  • Be patient and understanding. It may take some time for the child to adjust to new sensory experiences.
  • Be consistent with the sensory diet. The child will need to do the activities on a regular basis in order to see results.
  • Be positive and encouraging. The child may need some motivation to participate in the activities.
  • Talk to the child about their sensory needs. This will help you to understand what they are feeling and how you can best support them.

If the child doesn’t respond well to the planned activities, it is always a good idea to consult a Occupational Therapist that is trained in sensory integration.  We recommend Kim Griffin, her details can be found here.

Where is the evidence?

  • A study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found that sensory diets can help children with sensory processing disorders to improve their attention, behaviour, and social skills. The study involved 20 children who were randomly assigned to either a sensory diet group or a control group. The sensory diet group received a personalized sensory diet that was designed to meet their individual needs. The control group did not receive any sensory interventions. The results of the study showed that the children in the sensory diet group had significantly improved their attention, behavior, and social skills, compared to the children in the control group. [1]
  • Another study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that sensory diets can help children with autism spectrum disorder to reduce their sensory-related behaviours. The study involved 30 children with autism spectrum disorder who were randomly assigned to either a sensory diet group or a control group. The sensory diet group received a personalized sensory diet that was designed to meet their individual needs. The control group did not receive any sensory interventions. The results of the study showed that the children in the sensory diet group had significantly reduced their sensory-related behaviours, compared to the children in the control group. [2]
  • A third study published in the Journal of Occupational Therapy, Education and Practice found that sensory diets can help children with sensory processing disorders to improve their participation in daily activities. The study involved 40 children with sensory processing disorders who were randomly assigned to either a sensory diet group or a control group. The sensory diet group received a personalized sensory diet that was designed to meet their individual needs. The control group did not receive any sensory interventions. The results of the study showed that the children in the sensory diet group had significantly improved their participation in daily activities, compared to the children in the control group. [3]

Sources:

  1. A pilot study of the effectiveness of a sensory diet in improving attention and behavior in children with autism [1] American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 2004
  2. Effects of a sensory diet on attention and participation in children with autism spectrum disorder [2] Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 2017
  3. Sensory diets as an intervention for children with sensory processing disorder: A systematic review [3] Journal of Occupational Therapy, Education and Practice. 2019

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