What Is Sensory Diet?
A sensory diet is not unlike a regular food diet.
The body requires food in order to function in life. The sensory system also requires input in order to function in life. And just like the digestive system, it is important for the sensory system to receive the correct input it is requiring. If you plan to go food shopping for food you are being proactive. Generally you buy the healthier food and this helps your body and mind run more smoothly. If you didn't happen to go food shopping and you are hungry then you are more prone to being reactive. This is when you drive into the closest fast food restaurant to get what your body needs. You will still function but not as efficiently.
The sensory system works much in the same way. If we are not being proactive about our sensory needs then we are being reactive and this is not always done in a functional way. So instead of swinging before Language arts, my kid is laying upside down in her chair to meet that need.
Being proactive about a sensory diet is understanding what kind of input you don't respond well to and what kind you do.
What does it take for you to be able to concentrate? Do you need to wake up or calm down? Being proactive is having a general sensory plan for the days you spend at home, in school, at work, where ever. It helps to think about each individual environment and the general demands of the tasks being done in that environment. For a child going to PE, there is potential for lots of noise and lots of moving objects. Part of his sensory diet can be to have headphones available or take a small break away that is less visually distracting. Before sitting down to do the math test she is able to bounce on a trampoline or have a walk outside.
Having a list of options that you know work for that individual in specific sensory situations is extremely valuable and this is what makes up a sensory diet.
This is where knowing your kid (or yourself) is extremely important. And to understand their (or your) sensory needs. Are they an avoider or a seeker? If so, what are they avoiding or seeking? Are they high registration or low registration? If so what helps calm them down or bring them more alert?
The body/mind knows what it needs in order to function and it will seek it out in some form or another just as we would when we are hungry. So make sure you have your sensory shopping list and do your best to be proactive to meet those needs. Find out about the sensory systems and how they affect us, understand your kid and yourself, and be aware of the sensory input in the surrounding environments.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Founder of Sensory Fitness. As an occupational therapy assistant, personal trainer, and special education teacher Matt Sloan has directed his experience into specialized fitness programs for everyone while catering to sensory difficulties, neurodiversity, or any special need. Matt also brings sensory education and strategies to educators, parents, fitness professionals, and anyone working with a sensory difficulties to provide sensory strategies, create sensory friendly environments, and promote the importance of movement in learning and everyday activities.