A good sensory diet can be the difference between a child who is glazed over and a child who is alert and attentive; a student who is continuously fidgeting in his chair and a student who can participate in the classroom; a screaming, hitting, dysregulated child and a child who can remain calm in the face of triggers. An estimated 5 to 16% of children are affected by sensory processing disorders; these numbers become even higher amongst those with autism and ADHD.
A well-developed sensory diet will support a child who struggles with sensory processing, creating immediate impact on the child’s ability to attend within the classroom, as well as facilitating long term development and brain changes regarding how sensory stimuli are processed. While sensory integration treatment lies primarily within the domain of occupational therapy, all professionals working with children would benefit from learning to implement sensory strategies to ensure the child’s optimum level of arousal and ability to participate in the treatment they offer.
What is a sensory diet?
The term sensory diet was coined by occupational therapist Patricia Wilbarger to describe incorporating specific, targeted sensory-motor experiences into a child’s schedule to enable them to maintain an optimum level of arousal necessary for functional performance.
The ability to modulate incoming sensory input is a crucial foundational skill that sets the path for higher-level motor and learning activities. When all of a child’s energy is focused on handling what should be an automatic, subcortical response, he does not have the available capacity to focus on engagement, attention, and learning.
A child who struggles to process auditory input for example, who is hyper-vigilant to background environmental sounds, who sits with his ears covered for a large portion of the day – that child will not be ready to follow the many multi-step auditory instructions issued in a classroom. A child who struggles with visual processing and cannot distinguish right from left or one shape from another will struggle to keep up with the demands required in reading and writing. A child with an underdeveloped vestibular system who consistently seeks movement from his environment and is not ready to sit at a desk uninterrupted.
The courses are suitable for:
- Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapist Assistants
- Physical Therapists
- Speech Therapists
- Special Education Providers
- Regular Education Providers
- Pediatric Social Workers
Upcoming Sensory Diet Courses
- Early rate
MORE: Integrating the Mouth with Sensory and Postural Functions (on-demand Aug 1 – Aug 31)
- Early rateNEW!
Special Summer Conference – Rhythmic Movement Training (RMTi)
(registration is closed) Using Gravity to Facilitate Sensory Motor Development in Infants and Children
The Neurological Basis for Sensory Strategies: How to Have More Successful Outcomes in Person and Telehealth
Vestibular Therapy for Individual and Telehealth (and in person) Sessions
Self-Regulation Using Telehealth (and in-person): Guidelines and Techniques for Treatment of the Anxious Student (ALL AGES)
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More on Sensory Diets
Well-integrated adults can intuitively meet their sensory needs; they may choose to take a short walk
after sitting endlessly at a computer, listen to soft music to unwind, or chew gum and tap their feet to
stay alert through a meeting. The activities chosen for a sensory diet may consist of various types of
sensory input – including vestibular, proprioception, tactile, auditory, oral-motor, and visual –
specifically chosen to bring a child to a calm, yet alert state. A good sensory diet takes the child’s
individualized sensory profile into account and consists of specific input that will target their personal
Taking online courses on sensory processing disorder diets is a convenient way to add to your toolbox of skills, ensuring you can best reach each child, whatever your domain of practice. While professionals may have significant knowledge and skill, if they cannot teach a child in a way that the child will learn, they will not be successful. By learning to recognize the need for a sensory diet and understanding how to implement it, you will expand your ability to give over the skills and knowledge that you already have.