Children with sensory integration disorder may struggle with over or under sensitivity to sounds, smells, or things that they touch or feel. If you child has symptoms of Sensory Integration Disorder, your doctor may refer you to a trained occupational therapist for an evaluation. She may ask you questions about his behavior, eating habits, or developmental concerns in her evaluation. She may use a standardized questionnaire to evaluate your child for sensory dysfunction.
The Sensory Diet
What on earth is a “sensory diet”? No, this is not a diet of only certain foods or certain calories. A sensory diet is a term used to describe sensory activities that are used to treat kids with Sensory Integration Disorder. Your occupational therapist will create a “menu” of activities to do with your child. She will have you perform these activities in a particular order to create a sensory “meal” or “snack”. Just like nutritional diets, the sensory diet is designed for your child’s sensory needs. Your occupational therapist will create a plan of activities for you to do throughout the day.
Proprioception has to do with body awareness (being aware of where your body is positioned in relation to other parts of your body). Receptors in the muscles and joints help to coordinate movements even without vision. Proprioception activities would include things like
- Pushing and pulling activities
- Squeezing toys or popping bubble wrap
- Wrapping your child in a “burrito” by rolling him up in a blanket
Vestibular input has to do with your sense of movement and balance that is processed in the inner ear. Vestibular activities include:
- Rocking in a rocking chair
- Swinging on a swing at the park
- Running, jumping, or skipping
Tactile activities include any activities that involve the sense of touch, texture, or temperature. Some tactile activities are:
- Messy play such as playing with shaving cream, finger paint, or play dough
- Reading and touching textured books
- Tracing shapes on to your child’s back and letting him guess what shape
Auditory activities include hearing and listening. Some auditory activities might include:
- Playing with instruments, such as imitating a rhythm with a drum or tambourine
- Playing listening games to see if your child can guess the sound
- Listening to music or songs
Visual activities involve making eye contact, processing what is seen with the eyes and interpreting visual input. Some visual activities might be:
- Stringing beads
- Matching games such as matching cards or matching words to cards
- Picture games, like finding pictures in a picture book like the “I spy” books
Smelling and Tasting Activities
- Play a guessing game with scratch and sniff stickers. See if he can guess the smell without looking.
- Add a new texture to a food your child already likes. For example if your child likes yogurt, try adding some crunchy granola to his yogurt.
- Play a guessing game with foods your child likes to eat. Put two or three foods and have him try them blindfolded.