Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sensory Diets for Seekers

My son is a sensory seeker. His OT recently described it this way: "You know how when you are driving and you are getting sleepy. We roll down the window, turn the radio up high, fidget, eat, etc to stay awake. Well that is how he is ALL the time. He needs the extra sensory input." So what do you do for little sensory seekers = GIVE THEM MORE!!! Even if that means he goes outside in the cold and plays in only his diaper (CRAZY RIGHT). Well, since he can't do that all the time the goal is to give him some safe ways to get his sensory output throughout the day so he can be balanced and "normal" the rest of the time.This is called a sensory diet! A set of sensory activities done at specific intervals through out the day built into his routine. We do it for about 30 minutes three times a day.


First we do some vestibular activites. Vestibular activites are movement of his head in space (one of our senses-outside of the 5 we typically know). Some ideas are riding a bike, swings, rocking chair, roller-skating, somersaults, and scooter boards. While we do vestibular activities we listen to music. My son prefers arhythmic music like: rock, techno, latin/salsa, and jazz. So we do one or more activities the length of a song.

Spinning (Vestibular)
This Sit-N-Spin was bought at a kid consignment store for $4-score!!!
Another favorite thing to spin around in. This is what he did most of the summer-besides water play. This coup was at a yard sell for $1-can't believe the steal!!!

Rolling (Vestibular)
We gently roll him in our tunnel. These are inexpensive and great to set up an obstacle course.
We also roll him in a mesh laundry basket that has a lid

Secondly, we do a proprioceptive activity. Proprioception is another sense outside of the typical 5 senses. Most sensory seekers struggle with these two (vestibular & proprioception) senses especially. Proprioception is the movement of our limbs in space. One of the biggest proprioceptive areas is in our jaw so oral can be a huge activity on its own (one reason kiddos with SPD have feeding issues outside of food aversions). Food recommended for sensory seekers is sour, bitter, crunchy, hard, chewy, rough, and cold. Other great activities are blowing bubbles, whistles, swimming, theraband exercises, wall push-ups, pushing/pulling, and vibration

Jumping (Proprioceptive)
This trampoline was bought at Sam's Club for about $120.
We also have this bumblebee hop toy.
We use to have this type of trampoline but with no handle or safety sides he used it for other interesting purposes. I have seen people turn these into swings (another huge sensory activitiy) so I am saving it for that.

Heavy Work (Proprioceptive)
Push & Pull play is huge (shopping carts, strollers,  
wagons, laundry baskets,etc)
Heavy Work "blocks" (telephone books wrapped in duct tape) To provide extra weight . Could also use juice jugs, water, cans, make them carry groceries, and put diaper items in a backpack for them to carry.
Thirdly, we do a tactile activity. Pull those sensory bins out!. It can be playing tag, crashing, vibration, sensory balls rubbed over their back, bubble wrap, water play, jumping on textures, play-doh, fingerpaint, etc. I have MANY posts on sensory bins. For bins for kiddos that don't put everything in their mouth you can get ideas here for my sensory "bins". If you have a toddler or an oral fixated child you can get ideas here for my sensory "baskets".

Some tactile play:
painting with ice (colored with food dye)
Dry spaghetti bin

Playing with Dirt/Mud
Playing with jello
water play (this was like $10 at a grocery store) 

Lastly we do a passive proprioceptive activity. This would be squeezes (bear hugs), weights, and joint traction/compression. This is when I usually do the Wilbarger Brushing Protocal (see pic). This has been HUGELY helpful in calming down my boys but doesn't work for everyone. It is a brushing technique followed by joint compression. YOU MUST HAVE YOUR OT SHOW YOU THE PROPER METHOD BEFORE DOING THIS! 

Squeeze/Compression (passive propreceptive):
Boy sandwich :0) Bean-bags or pillows and then we lay gently on him. 
Burrito Boy. We use a thick blanket for extra weight. I gently roll them back and forth to add a little vestibular but this is suppose to be the calming portion, so be careful not to overdue it.

Other Propreceptive tools:
Zo-li (about $2 each) are great to wake-up the mouth before feeding. Also we use a vibrating toothbrush-a huge hit in our household. The white brush is a special medical brush for the Wilbarger Brushing Protocal. 
Few! Then we are done!!! Keep in mind this is a huge list of ideas. The whole sensory diet shouldn't be longer than about 30 minutes. We about 5 minutes for each of the four steps (give or take). Also these ideas are fun for all children (except maybe the last photo). If you have stuck with me for this ENTIRE LENGTHY POST you are my hero.

Coming up soon will be our bedtime routine-you can hardly wait I know!


  1. This is an amazing post! I am so impressed with all the learning you have just graced me with. I have a couple of kiddos coming up with some sensory issues. One with SPD. She just acquired the ability to get dizzy. She used to spin and spin and spin....

    Your boys are blessed to have you!


  2. For teachers here are some ideas for kiddos with SPD, High Functioning Autism, and ADHD (that benefit all kids): Have some fidgets (coosh balls etc) in a basket. As long as they are not distracting to their learning allow. Also you can put a theraband around their chair or desk legs so they can kick their legs for resistance. Take Brain Breaks after long periods of sitting. They last only a minute and help all children learn better (pinterest has tons of ideas), noise canceling headphones (we use to take ours from the lab and take out the cord) for times they need to concentrate (tests), stick velcro on the inside of their desk or on their pencil to provide sensory input, weighted lap thing (you could do cute socks with rice). These are just some ideas... Thanks Laurie for being so supportive.