Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), as the name suggests, is a condition where the sensory signals either go undetected or don’t get organized to provide an apt response. Simply put, it is when an individual fails to do general daily activities such as eating, reading, riding a bicycle, or even socializing. Many treatments have been put on trial, but the best treatment for adults and children suffering from SPD is following the Sensory Diet (1).
Let me first clarify, sensory diet has nothing to do with food. It is a mindful activity plan, designed by OT Patricia Wilbarger, for children and adults who are suffering from SPD.
These sensory activities help children or adults suffering from SPD to remain focused, regulate their moods, reduce stress and anxiety, socialize with family and friends, become organized, and learn to experience new things without much difficulty.
True, it is tough and requires a lot of patience but many people around the world have benefited from the Sensory Diet activities. In this article, we have listed the best activities for children and adults, an easy schedule to follow, and the benefits of following this “diet” plan.
Want to know more about the diet? Keep reading.
Sensory Diet For Kids & Adults
- Basics Of The Sensory Diet
- Types Of Sensory Diet Activities
- Sensory Diet Activities For Kids
- Sensory Diet Activities For Adults
- Other Sensory Diet Activities
- Sensory Diet Activities – Video Explanation
- Sensory Diet Schedule
- Benefits Of The Sensory Diet
- Side Effects Of The Sensory Diet
1. Basics Of The Sensory Diet
Most cases of sensory diet concern a kid with SPD or autism, but the number of adults with this condition is significant as well. The diet focuses on education, daily chores, and exercise options. Specific physical activities affecting the body joints and connective tissues work well for adults with such special needs. While a few of these activities has to be performed using special equipment, some can be done using household products and items.
2. Types Of Sensory Diet Activities
Sensory diet activities can broadly be categorized into two types – up-regulating and down-regulating. The former type of activities aid in stimulating under-reactive senses. On the contrary, down-regulating activities help alleviate over-reactive senses.
However, an activity that is up-regulating for a person may turn out to be down-regulating for another. At times, an activity can prove to be both. The core concept is to resort to activities that shape up the nerves and help them perform at optimum levels.
3. Sensory Diet Activities For Kids
Listed below are specific activities involved with kids-specific sensory diet.
- Proprioception Activities
Activities such as popping a bubble wrap, pushing and pulling, squeezing toys, and wrapping your kid in a blanket make them more aware of their body parts.
- Tactile Activities
These activities help the kids to get a sense of texture, temperature, and touch. Tactile activities include touching textured books, playing with clay, shaving cream, and paint, and guessing the alphabets on their back traced with your finger.
- Vestibular Activities
Vestibular activities help kids to get a sense of balance and movement. These activities include running, swinging, jumping, rocking in the rocking chair, bicycling, spinning, skating, and rope jumping.
- Visual Activities
Visual activities include games that help the kids to look, perceive, and interpret what they saw. These games include identifying shapes and colors, matching colors, numbers or shapes, picture games, bead stringing, identifying flowers, animals, objects, etc.
- Auditory Activities
Auditory activities help kids identify various sounds, calm down, or even dance to music. Activities such as listening to songs, humming, singing, echo, being underwater, resonance, playing an instrument, guessing different sounds or songs, and silence will help the kid get accustomed to various environments.
- Smelling And Tasting Activities
Smell and taste will help the kids to be more open to different foods or at least know which foods they like to eat. Certain smells can induce hyperactivity or low activity in children. This exercise can help you know which smells work best. Activities such as the sniffing game, adding new texture or cooking a new variation of a favorite dish, tasting to identify the favorite food, etc. will help develop the senses.
4. Sensory Diet Activities For Adults
Listed below are the specific activities involved with adult-specific sensory diet.
- Heavy Lifting
Adults with SPD are recommended to lift weights as per their physical needs (2). However, the amount of weight differs from one person to another.
- Applying Deep Pressure
Activities that requires applying pressure on the skin receptors and joint receptors help those suffering from SPD. Wearing tight garments, getting body massages, and sleeping with a heavy and tight blanket on the body can be useful.
- Pulling, Carrying, And Pushing
Heavy work, like using a wheelbarrow or pulling luggage, can help. Activities like using a lawn mower are useful too.
- Moving The Body
Activities like swimming and calisthenics can improve sensory receptors in the body and their functioning.
- Vestibular Input
Activities like swinging, spinning, as well as hanging upside down stimulate the vestibular receptors in the inner ear.
- Spinning And Swinging
Using equipment to swing and spin can help people with these conditions. However, spinning and swinging without using equipment can also work.
- Tactile Perception-Boosting Activities
Some activities that may look commonplace can help boost tactile perceptions. Examples include weaving, sewing, and sculpting. Clay or stone-based works also help in this regard. Cooking has also shown to greatly improve the sensory motors.
- Improving Auditory Reception
Adults with autism and SPD can be in a better shape when their auditory reception functionality works (3). Listening to diverse types of music, live shows, and radio programs can help. Apart from that, these people need to listen to more of natural sounds. Examples include listening to birds chirping, the sound of the sea waves at the beach, and the sound of a thundershower. Listening to the sound made by musical instruments can also help.
5. Other Sensory Diet Activities
- Stimulatory Activities
* Do not perform these activities if you are sensitive to touch.
Ripping paper, playing with bread dough, dancing, dressing up, using your hands to catch a ball or kicking a ball, pouring water, and finger painting.
- Calming Activities
Pressure messages, back and neck rubs, moving furniture, lifting weights, pushing walls with hands, head, shoulder, and back, warm water baths, sucking on a popsicle, and cuddling with the pillow.
6. Sensory Diet Activities – Video Explanation
Here is a video explanation of the sensory diet to help you understand better:
7. Sensory Diet Schedule
The sensory diet schedule should be customized for every individual. Identify which time of the day is ideal for doing certain activities. Also, identify what type of activities will help the most. This will help to create a sensory diet schedule that is most appropriate and effective.
- Scheduling the activities is important. Schedule them after breakfast, after lunch, after school/work, and before bedtime.
- Engage in activities that grab their interest.
- Stop forcing them to do any activity just because it is on the “schedule”. Forcing will only worsen the condition.
- Change the schedule occasionally. This will help to get rid of boredom.
- Always take the advice of a professional to know whether the activities are age appropriate and condition appropriate.
8. Benefits Of The Sensory Diet
- Helps to improve the sensory motor activities.
- Helps the person to learn and perform better at school or at work.
9. Side Effects Of The Sensory Diet
- Forcing a child or yourself to do something will cause more harm than good.
- Starting on the sensory diet without a professional’s expert opinion may aggravate the condition.
There are several other ways to follow the sensory diet for kids and adults. It depends a lot on the specific need of a person and analysis by a therapist. Research is being done to obtain long-lasting results (4). Better results are obtained when the affected people adhere to the specified activities and lifestyle recommended by a therapist. With consistent practice and by sticking to the guidelines, sensory performances receive a boost.
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