What is a Sensory Diet?
A sensory diet is a customized plan of physical accommodations and activities to help people with Sensory Processing Disorders meet their sensory requirements. This strategy delivers the sensory input needed to stay attentive and prepared throughout the day. For instance, some people may feel overloaded or overwhelmed and need to get to a soother state; some may feel sluggish or lethargic and need certain activities to feel alert and focused.
What is a sensory processing disorder?
SPD or Sensory Processing Disorder is an ailment that affects how a person's brain processes stimuli or sensory information stimuli. Sensory information comprises things you touch, taste, see, smell, or hear. SPD can influence all of your senses, or sometimes only one. Sensory Processing Disorder usually means you're excessively sensitive to provocations that other people might not be. But this condition can also cause the opposite effect. In such cases, it takes more stimuli to impact a person.
Children are highly likely to have SPD than most adults. But adults can develop symptoms, too. In grown-ups, it's expected these indicators have existed since their childhood. However, they have found ways to deal with Sensory Processing Disorders that let them conceal their disorder from other people, be it family, friends, or anyone else.
There has been some discussion among doctors regarding Sensory Processing Disorder and whether it is a separate disorder. Some specialists argue it isn't, while others say it's an analysis of things that could be justified as standard behavior in children. Some doctors suggest that some children might feel just highly delicate.
Some specialists say that Sensory Processing Disorder is a symptom of other illnesses — such as hyperactivity, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, etc. — and not a separate disorder. Others believe a child can suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder without any other disorder. Some doctors say that it is clear that certain children have problems managing stimuli or regular sensory information. As of now, Sensory Processing Disorder isn't acknowledged as a distinct medical identification.
Sensory Processing Disorder is an ailment in which the human brain has trouble obtaining and reacting to information that is gained through the five primary senses, i.e., sense of touch, taste, sight, smell, or hearing. Previously known as sensory integration disorder, it is not presently acknowledged as an official medical diagnosis.
People with SPD are hypersensitive to things in their surroundings. Familiar sounds or noises may be overwhelming or even painful at times. The slight touch of cloth may scrape the skin.
People with sensory processing disorder may:
- Bump into things
- Be uncoordinated
- Be challenging to play or engage in conversation with
- Be incapable of differentiating where their limbs are
Sensory processing issues are usually recognized in children. But they can also severely affect adults. Sensory processing difficulties are typically seen in developmental disorders like autism spectrum disorder.
SPD is not acknowledged as a separate disorder. But many medical specialists think that it should be modified.
Main Objective of A Sensory Diet:
The main objective of a sensory diet is to avoid emotional and sensory overload by engaging the nervous system’s sensory requirements; however, it can also be used as a revival technique. Interpreting a child’s sensory profile and the behaviors which create regulation and calmness can help when a kid feels out of control and overwhelmed. Involving children in sensory practices regularly can support interaction, focus, and attentiveness. Children may feel less nervous when they feel calm and in control of themselves.
An OT or occupational therapist usually strategizes a sensory diet. Parents and guardians can then use the personalized activities at their homes. Teachers and educational assistants can also use it at school. It is suggested to consult with an occupational therapist who has experience with sensory processing concerns because one of the most complicated aspects of sensory struggle is identifying when a child is under-reactive or over-reactive in any given instant. It would be best if you modified the sensory input to meet the youngsters where they are and provide them with the right challenges and experiments to help them move on into a more normal state of being.
Activities for a Sensory Diet:
Certain activities and games address specific sensory systems. They will also vary based on ability and age. Here are some examples of activities that can be used as part of a sensory diet:
Children with SPD can attain proprioceptive input through pulling, lifting, and pushing heavy items. Some ideas are:
- Pulling a cart or wagon filled with objects.
- Pushing a cart or stroller.
- Playing hopscotch.
- Carrying a backpack.
- Lifting weights.
- Push-ups against the wall.
- Wearing a weighted vest.
Vestibular input is the sense of movement. It is created by any movement, such as swinging or spinning. Some ideas are:
- Lying in a hammock.
- Swinging on a swing.
- Spinning on a disc or sit n’ spin.
- Jumping jacks.
The tactile sense detects texture, light touch, temperature, deep pressure, pain, and vibration. Some ideas are:
- Hand massage.
- Drawing in salt or sand.
- Play with squeeze balls, therapy putty, or a band to pull on.
- High fives.
- Messy play with foamy soap or shaving cream.
- Sewing, crocheting, or knitting.
Auditory input is how we listen and what we hear. Some ideas for organizing and calming auditory information are:
- Use noise-canceling earphones or headphones to reduce sound.
- Listening to sounds in nature.
- Listening to music.
- Listening to running water.
- Playing any calming musical instrument.
Some surroundings can be too visually exciting such as brightly lit rooms, classrooms with bulletin boards, busy patterns, or bright colors on the curtains or wall. To decrease visual stimulation:
- Keeps areas clutter-free and organized.
- Store items in boxes or bins.
- Use neutral paint colors.
- Avoid using fluorescent lighting.
Smelling specific odors can calm, stimulate, or send you into sensory overload. When it concerns smells, think about:
- Exploring informing scents like citrus or peppermint.
- Looking for calming scents to find a favorite. Rose, lavender, vanilla, and jasmine are examples of such fragrances.
- Sniffing different spices and herbs.
- Some people don’t even like scents at all. If so, look for unscented materials such as shampoo, detergents, or soap.
The tongue recognizes taste input, but how it’s experienced or interpreted is strongly affected by the sense of smell. When it comes to taste, try out different flavors. Oral Sensory Processing involves proprioception and tactile, along with the initial taste sense.
- Strong tastes can incite under-sensitive children.
- Include the children when you're preparing food to increase their interest in trying new foods.
- For children who like to lick or suck on things, try ice cubes, popsicles, or drinking through a straw.
- Provide crunchy foods such as popcorn, raw veggies, apples, and pretzels to children who like to chew.
- Other options for chewy and crunchy foods are raisins, beef jerky, fruit leather, or marshmallows.
These are just a few examples of the optional activities and experiments that can be used to generate a sensory diet for children with Sensory Processing Disorders. Pinterest also has lots of templates and examples of sensory diets.
Causes of Sensory Processing Disorder:
Specialists are not aware of what causes Sensory Processing Disorder. They have been exploring a genetic link to the illness, which means it could run in relatives and families. Some doctors believe there could be a connection between Sensory Processing Disorder and autism. This could indicate that adults who have autism might be more likely to have children who will have Sensory Processing Disorders. But it's necessary to note that most people with Sensory Processing Disorder don't have autism.
The exact causes of sensory processing issues have not yet been identified. But a decade-old study of twins found that oversensitivity to sound and light may have a vital hereditary component.
Other tests have shown that children with sensory processing difficulties have irregular brain activity when they are instantaneously exposed to sound and light.
Several other experiments have revealed that children with sensory processing troubles will continue to respond intensely to a loud sound or a gentle stroke on the hand, while other children rapidly get used to these sensations.
Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder:
SPD or Sensory Processing Disorder can affect multiple senses or just one sense. Children who suffer from SPD may overreact to food textures, sounds, and clothing. Or they may even underreact to sensory information. This causes them to need more thrill-seeking and intense stimuli. Some instances include leaping off high things or hanging too high from swings on the playground. Also, children with Sensory Processing Disorder are not always just one specific sensitivity or the other. Depending on their surroundings, they can be a mixture of under-sensitive and oversensitive.
SPD can affect one of the five senses, like taste, hearing, or touch. Or it can affect numerous senses. And certain people can be under- or over-responsive to the fixations they have problems with.
Like many diseases, the symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder exist in a specific range.
In particular children, for instance, the sound of a leaf blower out the window may cause them to dive under the table or vomit. They might scream when you touch them. They might withdraw from the textures of particular foods. But some others seem insensitive to anything and everything in their surroundings. They may even be unresponsive to extreme cold or heat or even pain.
Most children with Sensory Processing Disorder start as overly fussy babies who become nervous and anxious as adults. More often than not, these kids don't manage change well. They might frequently have meltdowns or throw tantrums.
Many children have signs like these from time to time. But medical specialists consider a diagnosis of SPD when the symptoms have become severe enough to influence the normal functioning of everyday life and might disrupt it.
Children may be temperamental if:
- They feel that the lights seem too bright.
- They think their clothing feels too itchy or scratchy.
- They sense that soft touches feel too stiff.
- The sounds seem too loud to them.
- Food textures make them gag.
- They are scared to play on the swings.
- They appear clumsy or have poor balance.
- They react poorly to loud noises, bright lights, sudden movements, or touches.
- They have behavior problems.
Sometimes these symptoms are connected to poor motor skills also. Your child may have problems holding scissors or a pencil. They may have low muscle tone or issues climbing the stairs. They might also have language setbacks.
In older children, these symptoms can cause low self-esteem and low self-confidence. This can lead to social seclusion and, at times, even depression.
Children may be sensory-seeking or under-sensitive if:
- They can't sit still
- They can spin without getting dizzy.
- They seek thrills (love spinning, jumping, and heights).
- They don't recognize personal space.
- They don't pick up on social signals.
- They chew on things (including their clothing and hands).
- They have problems sleeping.
- They seek visual encouragement (like intelligent devices).
- They don't recognize when their nose is running or their face is dirty.
Living with a sensory processing disorder
Living with Sensory Processing Disorder can be difficult. Parents of children with Sensory Processing Disorders can feel unaided. They might even avoid taking their child out in public to evade sensory overload in their children. Parents may also have to make excuses for their children's erratic behavior.
Adults who have Sensory Processing Disorders may also feel isolated. Sensory overload can stop them from leaving their house. This can make it hard to go to work or the store.
Adults struggling with Sensory Processing Disorder should work with a professional therapist. The therapist can help them learn new responses to stimuli. This can cause changes in how adults deal with particular situations. And that can lead to an enhanced lifestyle.
Sometimes, even if Sensory Processing Disorder gets better with age or therapy, it might never go away. Stress or a significant life event can trigger symptoms.