Nancy Penske may surprise us by saying that the Sensory Diet is actually NOT about food, but about sensory enriched activities to fulfill a person’s sensory needs. Occupational Therapist, Patricia Wilbarger devised a personalized activity plan which was soon called a Sensory Diet Plan. The purpose of this individualized plan, when followed for 10-20 minutes per day, would help to assist with adaptive, positive responses to environmental stimuli. Retrieved from:https://www.sensorysmartparent.com/sensory-diet
These activities are designed to keep the brain’s neuro-chemicals flowing steadily throughout the day to improve learning. But before you can create a Sensory Diet, it helps to know what sensory issues are at risk. Enter the ‘Sensory Profile’ devised by Winnie Dunn. Gay & Baranek (2008) draw the conclusion that Dr. Dunn believed we are ‘seekers’ of sensations in our environment. Dunn believing that understanding how bodies differ, allows for respect and even embracing of those differences in ourselves and others. (The Sensory Profile was discussed in BLOG #5I.)
Sensory enriched activities, aka Sensory Diets help those with Autism Spectrum Disorder which are somewhat predisposed to anxiety created by their many sensory avoidance and arousal issues, according to Rosen, et al. (2016). They feel that anxiety seems to be mostly associated with higher intellectual function and higher social functioning persons. And, that deficits in these areas can be difficult to detect in those with limited verbal ability, as well.
They found that behavioral intervention targeting anxiety should be evidence-based and provided by well-established treatments. Experienced professionals, they say, will be able to distinguish the individual’s current functioning levels and create an affective Sensory Diet.
< My Thoughts > “…Experienced professionals…”
Some of us have a high threshold when sensation seeking, while others of us have a low threshold. How can you tell the difference, or how can you tell if your child is having sensory processing problems? Really, it takes a clinician or team of people in the field to make that diagnosis. Parents can look online for examples of Sensory Profile questionnaires to get some idea of how data collection works for developing a Sensory Diet.
In an article on Sensory Defensiveness – Sensory Processing Disorder (Copyright 2004), author Michelle Morris tells us some of the following about the types of
Sensory Defensiveness –
- Oral Defensiveness
- Gravitational Insecurity
- Postural insecurity
- Visual Defensiveness
- Auditory Defensiveness
- Olfactory Defensiveness
READ MORE: CLICK here for the rest of the story. Smiles. =>
< My Thoughts > “…feeling less stressed and more calm and in control.”
Some homes, schools, and caregiving facilities have established Sensory Rooms. These are places where therapists, clinicians, and teachers have gathered the things known to help people feel better able to meet the demands of the day. There may be things to give the body feelings of pressure through special heavy fabric, weighted vests and blankets, and/or through touch. There is equipment to give a rocking sensation or get you jumping. Places where there are a variety of sounds, scents, images, and other things to change the mood.
This is where knowing the child and their sensory needs becomes so important. There are ways to help them feel more motivated and active when they seem to be lethargic, more calm when agitated, and ways to be distracted from perseverating. Smiles.
To continue, Cindy Hatch-Rasmussen, M.A., OTR/L tells us that a Sensory Diet is a prescribed group of activities, specifically scheduled into a child’s day to assist with input, attention, arousal and adaptive responses. These are designed for brain regulation and monitored by an Occupational Therapist to produce a positive effect on the child with sensory needs. Retrieved from: https://www.ssdmo.org/cool_tools/inclusive/.../trying_to_make_sense_resources.pdf
Kate Kelly, in her online article, Sensory Diets: What You Need to Know, once again reminds us that a sensory diet has nothing to do with food, but is a carefully designed series of tailored physical activities and accommodations. This diet routine is designed to help kids get the help they need to pay attention to learning in school. And, learn other new skills needed to make them feel more sociable and more alert throughout their day.
Usually, the Occupational Therapist (OT) develops this diet to exactly fit their sensory needs. Parents can also be taught to do this unique activity plan at home. This is what it might look like:
- Jumping Jacks for 20 minutes
- Bouncing on a therapy ball, 20 times
- Holding a yoga pose for 19 seconds
Because they may not know when they are having sensory needs, ‘self-awareness’ can also be taught. This will help the child identify when these activities are needed and when they are working for them.
The Key Takeaways this author gives us are –
· A sensory diet helps kids get in a “just right” state so they can pay attention and learn
· Activities in a sensory diet can help kids who are over-reactive feel more calm, and under-reactive
kids feel more alert.
· You and your Occupational Therapist can work sensory diet activity goals into your child’s school
day, through their Individualized Education Program (IEP).
So as you can see, a sensory diet has nothing to do with food. According to Kelly, your child’s OT can guide you with routine activities you can do at home with the whole family. She says that it’s helpful when the parent or caregiver can supervise sensory diet activities, but that it’s also okay to wait for the OT if you don’t feel confident working with a child on your own. Retrieved from: Understood.org.
< My Thoughts > “…a sensory diet has nothing to do with food.”
I might add that sometimes a sensory diet does have to do with food when your child has ‘Olfactory and or Gustatory sensory issues. That’s when their sense of taste, smell, or need for sweet or sour are on the ‘hypo’ or ‘hyper’ reactive side. Then too, some children don’t want to eat because they have a fear of swallowing or choking. One of my students didn’t want to swallow because she didn’t know where the food went, after she swallowed it. These are complicated issues which an expert OT can probably resolve. Smiles.
In their definitive handbook, Raising a Sensory Smart Child, Lindsey Biel, OTR/L & Nancy Penske give parents an idea of what a Sample Sensory Diet may look like. Retrieved from: https://www.sensorysmarts.com/index.html
Sample Sensory Diet –
Here is a sample sensory diet, created for a second grade child with sensory processing disorder. Activities must be individualized for each child and modified frequently to meet changing needs. A separate program was worked out for this child with the school, including frequent movement breaks, an inflatable seat cushion for wiggling while remaining seated, and providing crunchy/chewy oral comfort snacks during seated time.
In the Morning
· Massage feet and back to help wake up
· Listen to recommended therapeutic music CD
· Use vibrating toothbrush &/or vibrating hairbrush
· Eat crunchy cereal with fruit and some protein
· Spin on disc, as directed by OT / PT
· Jump on mini-trampoline as directed by OT / PT
· Go to playground for at least 30 minutes
· Push grocery cart or stroller
· Spinning as directed by OT / PT
· Mini-trampoline. Add variety: have him play catch or toss toys into a basket while jumping.
· Massage feet to “reorganize,” use therapy putty, make “body sandwiches,” wheelbarrow walk
· Do ball exercises as directed by OT / PT
· Listen to therapeutic music CD
· Oral work — suck thick liquids through a straw, eat crunchy and chewy snacks, or chew gum before and/or during seated activities
· Help with cooking, mixing, chopping, etc.
· Help set table, using two hands to carry and balance a tray
· Provide crunchy and chewy foods
· Family time: clay molding projects, painting projects, etc.
· Warm bath with bubbles and calming essential oil
· Massage during reading time
Note: Creating a Sensory Diet: The Ingredients... It is strongly recommended that you work with an occupational therapist who has a solid understanding of sensory processing issues. One of the trickiest aspects of sensory difficulty is recognizing when a child is over-reactive or under-reactive in any given moment, and then calibrating sensory input to meet him where he is and provide a “just right challenge” to help him move forward into a “just right” state of being.
End of excerpt from – Sample Sensory Diet by Biel & Penske
Moore, et al. (2015) caution that in a study of 8-19 year-old autistic participants with motor stereotypy characteristics, the use of a sensory diet alone was not effective. They claim that despite a large amount of access to items, the sensory diet alone did not effectively reduce stereotypy for either participant. Examples of sensory diet items available to participants were –
- Koosh ball
- Therapy ball
- Electronic toothbrush
- Vibrating massager
- Squishy balls,
- Confetti bin
< My Thoughts > “…sensory diet items were carefully chosen…”
Whatever you do, activity-wise, whatever sensory tools you choose… make certain that it easily and comfortably ‘works’ for you, too. Writing the sensory diet into the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) makes certain that it fits within the school’s daily schedule. That way, the Sensory Diet will be more effective because it is provided to the child/student consistently. And, and, and, remember that as a parent or as a teacher, you can revisit IEP Goals as needed. Figure out what’s working for you and your child/student… and what’s NOT. Just saying.
Note: NEXT BLOG #5K – SENSORY INTEGRATION (a. Sensory Room, b. Sensory Activities)
REFERENCES used here are:
Fitzgibbon, C. & O’Sullivan, J. (2018). Sensory Modulation: Resource Manual; Sensory Modulation Brisbane, Austrailia.
Gay, E. & Baranek, G. (2008). Winnie Dunn, Living Sensationally: Understanding Your Senses; Kingsley Publishers, London.
Moore, K., Cividini-Motta, C., Clark, K., et al. (2015). Sensory Integration as a Treatment for Automatically Maintained Stereotypy; Behavioral Interventions; V30, p95-111.
Rosen, T., Connell, J., Kerns, C. (2016). A Review of Behavioral Interventions for Anxiety-related Behaviors in Lower-Functioning Individuals with Autism; Behavioral Interventions; V31, p120-143.
Note: NEXT BLOG #5K – SENSORY INTEGRATION (a. Sensory Room, b. Sensory Activities)
< My Thoughts > What I am offering here is a powerful story which may capture in a moment, what it is like to have this experience. (Help others to grow)
No You Don’t – Essays from an Unstrange Mind by Sparrow Rose Jones, eBook Edition 2013; with < My Thoughts > by Sara Luker
Focused Excerpts from the book (38% indicates location in the Kindle version of the book, instead of page numbers.)
38% You don’t want your child to grow up like me – No you don’t!
73% For me, the hardest thing about living Autistic is how much distance it puts between me and others… because of my sensory sensitivities. It’s hard for me to go out in the world all day, every day because the world is filled with bright lights, high-pitched sounds, bright colors, fast movement. The world is exhausting…
< My Thoughts > “It’s hard for me to go out in the world all day, every day because the world is filled with bright lights, high-pitched sounds, bright colors, fast movement”
Thompson (2012) tells us that “Systematic desensitization to textures, tastes, or specific types of tactile sensations (like water) can be conducted to improve tolerance.”
He goes on to tell us that knowing a person’s ‘sensory profile’ and ‘sensory alerts’ can allow for better functioning in one’s ever changing environmental settings. This also allows one to know what type of ‘sensory diets’ provides for one’s sensory needs. But, he claims that there are few empirical studies to support these ideas.
Along with this, he mentions “Auditory integration therapy is a type of sensory integration for autism that has received considerable attention. The proponents of auditory integration therapy suggest that music can “massage” the middle ear (hair cells in the cochlea), reduce hypersensitivities, and improve overall auditory processing ability.”
As a teacher in a Primary Autism class, I did have success with one student who could function better when listening through ear buds to tunes on an MP3 Player. Discovering this was my chance to make lemonade out of lemons, so to speak. I had a new classroom aide who thought it was perfectly appropriate to be plugged-in to her tunes all day. I cannot tell you how annoyed I was with her. But, I’ve learned to pick my battles. When she was meeting task resistance from an agitated student one morning, I had an epiphany.
As our guy was winding up for a big meltdown, I said, “Anna, put one of your ear buds in his ear.” I’m not certain which of us was more startled, but Joey immediately calmed down and even initiated working on the requested task. Okay, so now I had two of them with ear buds in their ears. Oh well, at least now it had a purpose! And, this was a long lasting solution, the parents quickly got on board with two MP3players, one for home and one for school with tunes more to his liking.Therapists were less enchanted with the idea and thought it should only be used in a reward scenario; I figured I could ‘eventually’ work towards that. Besides, they couldn’t argue that seeing this child with ear buds in his ears was not only age-appropriate, but trendy. Smiles.
Again, there is no consistent evidence that these things work, but as a parent and teacher, I feel that these cost friendly and non-invasive methods are worth a try. With the caveat that ‘what works once, may not work again’ or, the ‘novelty’ peaked their interest for awhile, or ‘not this time,’ but it may be worth a try somewhere down the line.
73% The world is exhausting…
< My Thoughts > “The world is exhausting…”
Autism itself is exhausting. As a parent and teacher the constant state of hyper-vigilance is exhausting. Add to that, trying to make sense of the sensory world your child lives in and now everyone is ‘super’ exhausted….Yes! Sicile-Kira (2014), tells us that persons with ASD may have a hard time making sense of their world, and so the sameness in certain areas provides a predictability and security missing from an existence that they are having a hard time comprehending. That sameness can be listening to one’s favorite tunes as an activity to help with focusing while learning.
95% I want to help others to grow as fully as possible into their best selves. I want to encourage Autistic people and their families through my writing and through the example of my life and my never-ending quest to improve the quality of my own life and show through my own actions that an Autistic life can have meaning and beauty…
You don’t want your child to grow up like me – No you don’t!
REFERENCES used here are:
Sicile-Kira, C. (2014) Autism Spectrum Disorder (revised): The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism; New York, New York: Penguin Random House Company.
Thompson, T. (2012). Making Sense of Autism; Second Edition. Baltimore, Maryland: Brookes Publishing Company.
< My Thoughts > What I am offering here is a powerful story which may capture in a moment, what it is like to have this experience. (Sensory help)
Building in Circles: The Best of Autism Mom by Elizabeth W. Barnes, eBook 2014 Edition; with < My Thoughts > by Sara Luker
Focused Excerpts from the book (4% indicates location in the Kindle version of the book, instead of page numbers.)
4% My name is Elizabeth and I am an Autism Mom. Our son, who we call the Navigator, is nine and was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum at the age of seven. Before his diagnosis, I had heard of Autism – non-verbal children who don’t like to be touched, who rocked, and who ritually lined things up.
5% My son had none of these characteristics, so when he started having difficulties in pre-school interacting with other children, transitioning from one play area to the next, following instructions from teachers and staff, I didn’t initially think “neurological disorder.”
Then came a call from his first grade teacher: “I am not a doctor or psychologist, but I spent 15 years in Special Education, and I think your son may have Asperger’s.” As the American Psychiatric Association describes it, his “symptoms [were] not fully recognized until social demands exceed[ed] [his] capacity.”
30% The second call we received was because he got hit in the face during rough-housing with the other boys. …I think it frightened him a little. I decided to stay.
When it was time to leave, he started kicking and hitting things in the backyard. He said that the boys did not like him…I had been there for a while and did not see any signs that the boys did not like my son or that they did not want to play with him.
31% Between the pain in his foot, the shock of being hit in the face (even accidentally) and the stimulus from the noise and activity, I was dragging him out of the house in full meltdown.
Yes, people saw my son melting down and me wrestling with him on the curb next to my car. Did I care? Nope. If they understand they don’t judge and if they judge they don’t understand. Either way, it did not matter to me.
32% A woman came out of the house and I asked her if she could get us some juice…I had not thought to bring some with me.
I think it is the sensory stimulus of the feel of the liquid and the coldness, and the smell and taste of the sweetness, which kind of resets his brain from the meltdown back to where he can be reasoned with.
< My Thoughts > “…resets his brain…”
Often interruption and redirection, during compulsive behavior or social anxiety, can bring a child back from the brink, so to speak. A cold drink at the right time could be considered as part of Navigator’s Sensory Diet activities. Smiles.
Shawler & Miguel (2015) believe that interruption and redirection of children and adults experiencing stereotypy, simple repetitive and ritualistic behaviors such as rocking back and forth with no purpose, can be changed. In the study discussed in this journal article, the preferred fine motor responses used were:
- Completing puzzles
- Coloring, writing
- Cutting out shapes to match prepositions
- Typing shoes, buttoning, & or zipping
32% I asked if he was OK and he said “no” but he was not fighting anymore. I got him into the car while his dad went into the house to find my purse and our son’s glasses.
While we were waiting we started talking about how it is hard for him to read people’s facial expressions, and to see that these boys actually did like him and wanted to play with him.
As if to prove my point, one of the boys knocked on the window and as I rolled it down, he said good-bye to my son and “See you on Monday!”
I am so grateful to that boy!
REFERENCES used here are:
Shawler, L., & Miguel, C. (2015). The Effects of Motor & Vocal Response interruption & Redirection on Vocal Stereotypy & Appropriate Vocalizations; Behavioral Interventions; V30, p112-134.