- Is the child needing assistance to stay alert, oriented, and engaged?
- Is the child having difficulties regulating these energy levels, to focus and participate in certain activities?
- Does the child have difficulties managing their sensory differences, ultimately impacting their emotional response when completing daily activities or interacting with others?
Children who seem to always be on high alert, may need supports to calm their nervous system. Similarly, children who appear over-active and energized, require sensory tools to give them the input they need to achieve that “just right” level energy. Other children may seem disengaged, uninterested, or unmotivated, and benefit from tools to excite their bodies.
When considering your child’s behaviors and how sensory strategies can offer support, it is important to understand the different kinds of sensory input. To calm a child’s sensory system, the input should be predictable, sustained, and expected. Alternatively, to alert a child’s sensory system, the input should be unpredictable, unfamiliar, and constantly changing. Think of it like the difference between spinning on a tire swing vs rocking in a chair. Your child may require alerting sensory input in the morning to help start their day, and calming input after lunch to sustain attention to schoolwork. When considering the need for a sensory diet, it is important that you speak with your occupational therapist about your child’s daily routines and activities.
How to build a sensory diet for your child
The first step to building a sensory diet is determining the child’s need. Common indicators include:
- Emotional reactivity
- Frequent meltdowns
- Difficulties with attention and focus
- Sensory seeking behaviors (ex. Excessive running, jumping, pushing, spinning, yelling, tumbling, pushing)
- Avoidance with basic activities of daily living (ex. Teeth brushing, toileting, dressing)
- Poor body awareness and safety awareness
- Difficulties with social functioning
- Are they having difficulties engaging in family mealtime?
- Are they unable to complete their independent work at school, or attend to the teacher’s instruction?
- Do they find it hard to interact with other children on the playground?