The Critical Need for a Sensory Diet for Neurodiverse Kids
We ALL can feel overstimulated and under stimulated. It’s important to keep a balance between the two states of being or we become dysregulated and out of sorts. As we mature, we recognize what we need to keep that balance by learning our sensory needs and aversions. For some, that process is difficult and can seem impossible. Some of us need others to help us understand what it is our bodies are telling us.
We have five senses that are familiar. These are: sight, auditory, smell, taste, and touch. There are three more which you may not be as familiar with, vestibular – sense of head movement in space; proprioceptive – sensations from muscles and joints in our bodies; and interoception – what internal organs are feeling, for example hunger and thirst.
A lot of times young children and children with communication challenges tell us what they need by using signals. However, understanding the signals is not always easy. And, even if we do understand, we still may not know what to do to alleviate their stress and help them regulate. Nor do we have a lot of time to read books and study up on the sensory system to understand the signals. Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do.
First, if you suspect that your child is experiencing sensory challenges, you can make an appointment with a pediatric occupational therapist (OT). The OT can evaluate your child and formulate a “sensory diet” for them. I cannot stress enough how critical the need of an OT and a sensory diet is for our neurodiverse kids
Second, as you meet other parents who have children with sensory challenges you will see that each child is different! For example, one child may love messy hands and face while another child can’t keep clean enough. So, it’s hard to find out what to do for our kids by talking to other parents. I recommend a book called Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals by Angie Voss, OTR. It is written by an OT and the table of contents is structured with a list of things your child may be experiencing and how to help them, you can look up the sensory signal and go right to the page you need. She also pairs it with a website, A Sensory Life! - Home.
Helpful Links and Sources
Your 8 Senses | STAR Institute (sensoryhealth.org)
A Sensory Life! - Home.