Originally developed by Occupational Therapist and Sensory Processing Disorder research pioneer Patricia Wilbarger, a sensory diet is a series of planned activities to help kids with SPD. Unlike a traditional diet, there are no specific rules. Every kid has unique needs and responds in different way. Parents and therapists develop a sensory diet through trial and error, choosing the activities that seem to help kids the most. Some kids benefit from stimulating activities, while others benefit from calming activities.
If your child is in occupational therapy, talk to her therapist about putting together a sensory diet based on the behaviors and dysfunctions the therapist has observed. Consider researching SPD therapies with books like Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske, available at SensorySmarts.com. Remember, you're the expert on your child. Even if you don't have a professional's help, you can identify what works and what doesn't work by observing your child's behavior. Keep in mind that children change from day to day, and that you may have to switch up activities and routines depending on your child's mood.
Many children with Sensory Processing Disorder have proprioceptive dysfunction. The proprioceptive sense helps kids understand physical placement and what their limbs are doing. Kids with proprioceptive dysfunction are often clumsy and struggle with physical activities that involve basic coordination. Heavy work is a term for the types of activities that help kids get deep sensory input in the muscles, joints and ligaments. These activities help kids with a range of SPD symptoms, making it one of the foundations of a sensory diet. It's easy to integrate heavy work into your child's daily routine. Try encouraging periods of jumping and bouncing, playing with push and pull toys, throwing wet laundry into the dryer and spending time under a weighted blanket.
Parents of kids with Sensory Processing Disorder often learn to get crafty when it comes to finding the right therapies and activities to try at home. When kids are frustrated, overstimulated and cranky, as kids with SPD often are, they're more likely to resist anything presented as therapy. Come up with fun ways to introduce therapeutic activities. It might mean pretending to cook with gooey substances in the kitchen or cuddling with a book and some soothing joint massages. Even fine motor skills can be practiced in fun ways, such as threading colorful beads or putting together Lego sets. Try to address all senses and watch your child for cues to see if she's responding positively to different activities. When you identify activities that really seem to click with your child, introduce them into your daily routine for best results.
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