A “sensory diet” is the cornerstone of managing a child’s sensory processing issues. Every therapist knows that without a good home program that only addressing a child’s needs in a session, we aren’t going to see much progress. Treatment sessions are spent half playing catch-up: trying to increase postural activation, calming them down, or waking them up to participate . When a child’s nervous system has the right input, their performance and how great they feel inside…it can blossom. You can see what their potential really is, and their life gets better.
COVID-19 has halted many children from attending treatment in clinics. Parents are now trying to do activities through telehealth, and their success is determined by many factors. As therapists, we know that if we cannot see your child live, the sensory diet becomes even more important.
Sensory diet activities don’t always run smoothly. Kids are busy, parents are stressed, caregivers aren’t around as much or as often. Parents are asking “How do I remember to do these activities when I have so much else to do during the day?”
The answer is to build a routine that makes sense and that your child will use without a fight.
- Find the right time of day, when your child needs this imput. Using the same things at the same times each day make them more familiar. More familiar can mean less of a fight.
- Find the right place, where you aren’t fighting their desire to see the TV or see kids outside playing. Use a space that supports, not competes, with your goals. Some kids don’t do well in bright lights, big spaces, or with competing sensory input.
- Find the right sequence, in which a challenging activity is preceded by one that helps your child focus and get in a positive state of mind. Ask your OT if there is a way to put activities in an order than makes sense for modulation.
- Find the right toy, book, person, or food that makes a sensory diet activity a chance to play with something or someone special. This may mean enlisting the other parent, a sibling or someone else in your pandemic pod. It takes a village.
The perfect sensory diet is the one that you will do and your child will use. Your therapist might suggest an amazing activity, but if you cannot do it, your child resists it, or you don’t have the time for it….it isn’t an amazing activity. It is a burden, and a chance for you to feel like a failure and your child to act up.
Don’t let that happen.
If you cannot manage the current sensory diet with enough ease, ask for advice. Ask for new activities, new toy recommendations. Ask for more of a demonstration, even if you think you risk seeming less than perfect. We like parents who show interest, and we don’t mind repeating our instructions.