Treating Sensory Integration Disorders with the Sensory Diet

What on earth is a “sensory diet”? Is this is another new fad diet? Not at all! In fact this is not a strictly a food diet but a term used to describe sensory activities that are used to treat kids with Sensory Integration Disorder. Your Occupational Therapist will create a “menu” of activities to do with your child. He/she will have you perform these activities in a particular order to create a sensory “meal” or “snack”. Just like nutritional diets, the sensory diet is designed for your child’s sensory needs. Your Occupational Therapist will create a plan of activities for you to do throughout the day.

In our new “Ask the OT” webcast topic, Dr. Covington explains sensory diet and its use as an effective treatment plan.


Common Sensory Diet Activities:

Proprioception activities- Proprioception has to do with body awareness (being aware of where your body is positioned in relation to other parts of your body). Receptors in the muscles and joints help to coordinate movements even without vision. Proprioception activities would include things like

  • Pushing and pulling activities 
  • Squeezing toys or popping bubble wrap 
  • Wrapping your child in a “burrito” by rolling him up in a blanket

Vestibular activities- Vestibular input has to do with your sense of movement and balance that is processed in the inner ear. Vestibular activities include:

  • Rocking in a rocking chair 
  • Swinging on a swing at the park 
  • Running, jumping or skipping

Tactile activities- Tactile activities include any activities that involve the sense of touch, texture or temperature. Some tactile activities are:

  • Messy play such as playing with shaving cream, finger paint, or play dough 
  • Reading and touching textured books
  • Tracing shapes on to your child’s back and letting him guess what shape

Auditory activities- Auditory activities include hearing and listening. Some auditory activities might include:

  • Playing with instruments, such as imitating a rhythm with a drum or tambourine 
  • Playing listening games to see if your child can guess the sound 
  • Listening to music or songs

Visual activities- Visual activities involve making eye contact, processing what is seen with the eyes and interpreting visual input. Some visual activities might be:

  • Stringing beads 
  • Matching games such as matching cards or matching words to cards
  • Picture games, finding pictures in a picture book like the “eye spy” books

Smelling and tasting activities

  • Play a guessing game with scratch and sniff stickers. See if he can guess the smell without looking. 
  • Add a new texture to a food your child already likes. For example if your child likes yogurt, try adding some crunchy granola to his yogurt. 
  • Play a guessing game with foods your child likes to eat. Put two or three foods and have him try them blindfolded.

A great resource for information, books and tools can be found with our friends at SensorySmarts. You can also post your questions directly to Dr. Covington, our resident Occupation Therapist, at Ask DrCovington.com.

Tune in to our Sensory Diet Webcast to learn more.

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