Usually, when we think of the word “diet” we start thinking of a group of foods or list of foods that we can or cannot have. But, have you heard of a sensory diet? A sensory diet doesn’t involve food, per say, but it does involve the sensory input around you. In fact, as a parent of an autistic child, here’s the benefits of a sensory diet to help your autistic child manage their day.
How is a Sensory Diet Beneficial for Autistic Children
A sensory diet helps your child regulate their sensory needs by providing the input that they’re seeking throughout the day.
Seems simple enough, right?
But, how does one implement a sensory diet and what goes into it?
Well, this is when it helps to have an occupational therapist. Your child’s sensory diet items can be listed out on their IEP and include things like:
- bouncing on a ball
- weighted vests
- fidget spinners (yes, I said fidget spinners)
And the main purpose behind your child’s sensory diet is to help them correctly and properly process the sensory information around them.
Think about it: when you are overwhelmed with sounds and smells, you know how to regulate this. We reduce the input, or increase it depending on our needs at the time, and then go about our day.
What does a sample sensory diet for autism look like?
For children when sensory issues, such as autism or sensory processing disorder; your sensory diet may look like this:
- Deep pressure or tight hugs in the morning
- Straws for sensory input
- Crunchy, chewy items for lunch
- Weighted backpack or lap-pad for school
- If your child needs to spin? Try to get to school early or have a few minutes before they get on the bus
- Use a resistance band on their chair at school or provide a small fidget
- Wet or dry sensory opportunities after school will help your child with processing
Those are just a few basic suggestions. And, as mentioned above, speaking with your child’s occupational therapist will provide you with a lot of ideas. Keep experimenting and if something works, great. If it doesn’t work, at least you tried and now you can try something else.
The keys, of course, are adapting the environment around your child. And not the other way around.