children at a table

Parenting a child with autism can be a challenging journey, but it is also one filled with unique joys, sensory challenges, and profound experiences. One of the tools that many parents find helpful in this journey is a concept known as a ‘sensory diet’.

What is a Sensory Diet?

A sensory diet is an individualized plan of physical activities and sensory stimuli that are specifically scheduled into a child’s day to assist with attention, arousal, and adaptive responses. The idea behind a sensory diet is that each person requires a certain amount of activity and sensation to provide them with just the right amount of sensory input their nervous system needs to stay focused and organized.

The term was first introduced by occupational therapists Patricia and Julia Wilbarger in 1991, and since then, it has been widely used to help children with autism and other sensory processing disorders.

How Does It Work?

The sensory supports and activities included in a sensory diet are designed to meet the child’s specific sensory needs and help them attend, learn, and behave better. These sensory systems and programs are practical, carefully scheduled, and controlled, ensuring that kids get the input their bodies need.

Sensory diets are not only about physical activities; they also involve incorporating sensory experiences into daily routines. For instance, movement breaks, fidget items, sensory seating, heavy work, soothing sights and sounds, as well as calming smells can all be part of a good sensory diet, especially in a school setting. Even implementing one or two of these sensory strategies, can have a significant impact on a child’s nervous system function and attentiveness.

child with therapist

Why the Term ‘Diet’?

The term “sensory diet” might seem a bit unusual, but it was coined to explain how certain sensory experiences can improve occupational performance and help to remediate disruption of the sensory processing systems. A well-structured sensory diet can be an effective way to guide a child’s routine while providing the full sensory information input they need.


Tailoring a Sensory Diet

Remember, each sensory diet is tailored to meet the unique needs of the individual child. If you think your child could benefit from a sensory diet, consult with an occupational therapist or a professional who understands sensory processing. They can help you create a meaningful set of strategies that will assist your child in getting the sensory input they need.

In conclusion, a sensory diet can be a valuable tool for parents of children with autism. By using sensory activity and providing the right type and amount of sensory stimulation and input, a sensory diet can help a child with autism to focus, engage, and thrive. So, why not explore how a sensory diet could help your child? You might be surprised at the difference it can make!

If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, give us a call at (732) 402-0297. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.

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