Sensory diets and sensory strategies are terms often referred to by Occupational Therapist’s to support children and young people with sensory processing difficulties as a means of supporting them to maintain an optimal level of alertness through-out the day and subsequently their ability to focus and attend. As adults we tend to be typically aware of our sensory preferences and how best we can sustain our levels of alertness through-out the day. For example; Listening to a more upbeat radio show on the way to work yet a more classical calming one on the way home as we feel overloaded from our day or maybe we go for a swim or the gym to help us energise ourselves at the beginning of the day or de-stress at the end of the day. During the day we may take a walk or grab ourselves a coffee mid-morning or mid-afternoon to help us stay alert whilst snacking on something crunchy to awaken our senses. These are all strategies we instinctively and intuitively draw upon. Yet, for many children with sensory processing difficulties they need an extra helping hand to become in tune with their sensory needs and this can take the form of sensory diets, strategies, movement breaks or sensory circuits. All of which can be embedded into their daily routine to help them energise and help calm to support them to maintain and sustain an optimal level of alertness during the day, whilst also encouraging the development of their sensory processing skills.
Alerting activities can provide an individual with certain sensory input in a controlled setting to support movement, body awareness helping prepare the brain for learning. These can include:
Spinning in the Big Top which is a great way for children to experience being upside down and going round or the Spiral Floor Disc a versatile floor disc which children will love to spin on providing them with movement which they crave to help energise themselves. The Peanut Ball is another resourceful item. Children can roll over a peanut ball whilst trying to gather the Yuck E Balls to throw into a target or they can try and pick up the Yuck E Balls whilst balancing on the Mini Rocker Board or navigate the ball around the maze in one of the three maze inserts available in the Obstacle Balance. All these activities help promote balance and timing, skills children need to organise their body, plan and organise themselves to help them do more than one thing at a time. Skills they need in class to help them develop their focus, attention span and performance.
As well as activities which energise and alert, children need ones which can induce a sense of calm. These can include crawling through one of the Steam Rollers with adult supervision or pushing a ball through the Resisted Tunnel which will provide additional resistance providing deep touch and proprioceptive (body awareness input) or having a snuggle with one of the irresistible cute and weighted animals such as the Weighted Lizard or the Weighted Dog or one of the Cuddly Animal Wraps. All of which will help the child feel centred and ready for learning.