How do therapists create sensory diets?
Occupational therapists will typically complete a sensory profile and assessment to determine what will be the best supports for an individual’s sensory diet. They will work with the child, their family and their teachers to determine what will be the best supports to put in place. This will vary depending on the individual’s needs and also the environment and equipment that is available. There is no one size fits all and everyone’s needs are different.
Level 3 of our online training covers sensory strategies and supports you could use with individuals who have sensory differences. You can also use the different strategies we explore in our sensory supports and equipment posts. And also have a look at our sensory diet cards and videos.
There are a number of books available which can be used to help to create and implement a sensory diet. These include
- A Buffet of Sensory Interventions: Solutions for Middle and High School Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders – Susan Culp
- The Kids’ Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control: Simple Stuff to Help Children Regulate their Emotions and Senses – Lauren Brunker
- The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder – Carol Stock Kranowitz
We use movement a lot. Videos are a great way to help to organise this when you’re indoors.
GriffinOT has a playlist with different movement videos which you can watch on our YouTube channel. This video is an example.
Slower movements and breathing are also useful tools for sensory diets. GriffinOT has a playlist with different videos you can use which you can watch on our YouTube channel. This video is an example.
The problem with sensory diets
Sensory diets are a good way to introduce the idea of supporting arousal. However, in reality they can be restrictive. It may be that the individual needs support at 9am, but their sensory diet doesn’t have a slot until 10am. Or, that they are working really well and attending at 10am so may not need the strategy at that time.
The ultimate aim is to help the individual to regulate sufficiently to be able to participate. So, prescriptive sensory diets may not be reactive enough or flexible enough to support regulation in the real world.
So, consider a sensory lifestyle!
There is more of a shift toward thinking about a sensory lifestyle. This means thinking about how to embed sensory regulation strategies through the individuals’ day, week and month. It means making lifestyle changes which automatically include supports.
So, instead of needing to remember to have a movement break or put in a calm break at a specific time, the classroom or home space is set up to support these as they are required. Extra walking or down time is just organised into their week every day. The sensory opportunities are automatically embedded.
And, think about a few quick supports.
It’s also helpful to have a quick support that can be used at unexpected times, as the world is unpredictable and things don’t always go to plan. So, find one or two things that can help to quickly increase or decrease the individuals’ energy at times when it might be needed. Have them in your back pocket just in case.
Where to next?
Next you might want to ready about more sensory strategies. We recommend these articles
To learn even more you might find these resources helpful