Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: ADDitude Magazine
Did you know a sensory diet isn’t all about food? It’s a specialized activity plan to help your child stay focused. Our expert explains.
Have you ever twirled a paperclip in your hand during a meeting, or soaked in a hot bath to decompress? If so, you’re using sensory exercises to keep your body regulated.
A sensory diet does the same thing. Is this a specific food diet? No, a sensory diet is a program created for your child by an Occupational Therapist (OT); it is a personalized activity plan that provides the sensory input he or she needs to stay focused and organized throughout the day.
Why does your child need a sensory diet? We all take in information from our environment, but some of us process in an uneven way. Your child may need to take in lots of information in order to experience stimulation through each of his senses, or very little information may overwhelm him. For example, your child may experience a little bit of sound as a lot, and become overstimulated and unable to listen to the teacher. Your child may not be able to filter sounds, thus making every sound in the environment as loud as the other (e.g., the computer humming, the child’s sneakers squeaking in the hallway, the child blowing his nose in the back of the classroom).
Throughout the day, your child is taking in information with all senses, and she cannot necessarily make sense of it all. By the end of the day, your child has tried to process so much information from multiple senses that she is totally overwhelmed and exhausted. I liken this experience to being in the office and participating in a phone conference while your cell phone is ringing, your co-worker is at your door with a question, and you are getting instant messages nonstop. That’s a lot to process and it can leave your head spinning because you aren’t able to attend to any one thing. That is how your child feels in the classroom all of the time...
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles