Beginner’s Guide to a Sensory Diet

How a Sensory Diet Can Help Your Child: Guide and Resources

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Do you ever chew gum or fidget with a pen during a meeting at work? Do you take a walk to stay alert during the afternoon lull?

When you do these things, you’re providing the sensory input your body needs to remain focused and attentive throughout the day.

For kids with sensory processing issues, these needs are even more intense. Without exposure to the input they need, they can struggle with demonstrating appropriate behavior, remaining alert, and keeping themselves organized and in control.

A sensory diet is a program of sensory activities kids perform during the day to ensure they’re getting the input their bodies need. An occupational therapist usually designs it.

Whether the concept of sensory diets is new to you or you’re looking for more specific information for your child, the following guide can help.

What’s the medical community’s stance on sensory diets?

Studies show that kids with sensory processing issues respond to sensory input differently than other children. Their sensory responses affect their behavior.

Research on treatments for sensory processing issues has been inconsistent for a number of reasons, including:

  • Homogenized study groups. It’s difficult for researchers to find study groups of children who all have the same sensory needs. Children with sensory processing issues all have very unique presentations.
  • Intervention techniques. There’s not one single set of sensory interventions followed by all occupational therapy practitioners. This lack of consistency makes it difficult to study the effectiveness of these interventions. That said, while experts are calling for more rigorous and reliable research in this area, most therapists use at least some sensory interventions. Anecdotally, many therapists and families describe positive results from using sensory strategies.

Sensory input and techniques

The term “sensory input” refers to experiences that stimulate the various sensory systems of our bodies. Some people with sensory processing issues demonstrate behaviors indicating they need more input to their sensory systems.