Did you know that the #1 biggest help for kids with sensory processing disorder is adding in a sensory diet for them? As that matter of fact a sensory diet is so important it is something that an occupational therapist will just about always suggest it for SPD kiddo. If you don’t have an OT for your SPD kiddos, they are highly recommended. OT’s are specialized in treating and helping parents deal with the behaviors that come along with SPD.
What calmed my kiddo won’t necessarily calm your kiddo, it could do the direct opposite. I have 3 kiddos that have SPD we have kids at the hyper end and the super calmed end of SPD. Yet each of these kids has their own sensory diet. We have been using an OT for my youngest sensory kiddo for 8 years now. His sensory issues have been like a roller coaster. We think things are going great and then next thing you know we are back to the beginning again. It can be because of schedule changes, going on vacation, or pretty much anything that is out of the ordinary.
It best to consult your OT for guidance on what sensory diet activities they think would be best for your kiddo. With that being said I know there are plenty of parents out there that just cannot afford therapy, are to far away from anywhere that they could get therapy, or other reasons therapy just isn’t an option. When adding a sensory diet for your child it is always best to closely watch them. If you recognize or are seeing any signs of sensory overload stop whatever activity it is they are doing right away.
With our crasher and banger we though getting him on a trampoline to get his energy out would be a perfect idea. We couldn’t have been more wrong, when he would get on the trampoline it would send him through the roof with energy in a very bad way. Since he is in therapy and older now his therapists have been working on understanding how his body is feeling in situations like that so he can go on them for a little bit without problems now. That is a great example of something you think will work great for your kiddo but turns out disastrously wrong and how an OT can help these children through problems.
Sensory Diet ~ Great Fidget Toys
Fidget toys are such a great resource for sensory kiddos. They can be useful while it is read aloud time, having to sit through church, or really anything they have to sit and be as quiet as possible. We have found these are vital for our SPD kiddos at both ends of the spectrum (hyper and too calm.)
They help these kids focus and sit for tasks without distracting everyone in the class. I have previously shared some tips for keeping wiggly kids focused that show our fidget basket and other things we find helpful in our homeschool.
- Zipper Bracelets.
- These fidget cubes are so awesome, they have many different fidgets in 1 resource and are prety cheap.
- Fidget Finger Squashers.
- Simple nuts and bolts are a great fidget for kids.
- Tangle junior.
- Add different items to a balloon like flour, popcorn kernels, dry beans, playdough, etc..
- Pull and Stretch Bounce Balls.
- These DIY Fidgets use krazy straws and simple items.
- My Fidget Friend.
- Squishy Stress Relief Balls.
- DIY Pencil top fidgets.
- Stretchy String Fidget.
- Beads on shoe laces.
- Puffer balls.
- Book rings with beads on them.
- Thera Putty.
- This is an awesome desk fidget that can be attached to a table or desk with velcro.
- Emotions Color Changing Thera Putty.
- This tri fidget spinner is a top favorite fidget.
- Pencil Fidget.
Sensory Diet ~ Vestibular Input
Vestibular input comes from the inner ear. It is a response to movement, direction, change in head position, and speed of movement. The vestibular system is the most influential system and directly or indirectly influences everything we do. It functions life a traffic cop telling each sensation where and when it should go and when it should stop. Things that have to do with the vestibular system are posture, movement, coordination, attention. balance, behavior, impulsive, and arousal level.
My kiddo who is on the higher end of the spectrum really struggles in this area. He is my kiddo who has been working on impulse control for years he hurts people and feels really bad about it afterwards. There have been times we are taking a walk down the sidewalk and people walk past and he bashes right into them without even realizing it. These type of issues are thing that baffle me, how can you bash into someone and not even feel it?
He is also the kiddo that just cannot sit still, he needs to use thera-bands on the chairs, wiggle seats while he is sitting, and has to use fidgets while we have read aloud time. And also plenty of play or exercise before being able to sit and do any school work for the day.
I have another kiddo who is on the very low end of the spectrum. He is the type of kiddo that many people would say is “lazy” because he just likes to sit around. I would describe it to other people that he is like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, if the house were to catch on fire he would slowly mozy out of the house not even worrying about it at all.
- Hop Balls.
- Swinging on any type of swing.
- Riding a bike.
- Rolling or tumbling on an old mattress, trampoline, or on the grass.
- Hopscotch, tag, or chase.
- Bilibo Chair.
- Swaying in a hammock.
- Sitting in a rocking chair or rocking horse.
- Hang upside down.
- Rhythmic bouncing or rolling on therapy ball.
- Going on a wagon ride.
- Round Seesaw.
- Pulling the child on a blanket.
- Swinging in a blanket.
- Regular Seesaw.
- Going on a sit and spin or a Swing and Spin.
- Spinning in an office chair.
- Going on a slide or playing on playground equipment.
- Dancing, marching, or twirling.
- Using a scooter board you could even use THESE amazing cards for some really great activities for using a scooter board.
- Bouncing on large balls.
- Tire Swing.
- Using an jump rope.
- Shake or stretch your body.
- Pass a ball over head or between legs.
- Jump on a Mini Trampoline, an Indoor Trampoline With Enclosure or an outdoor trampoline.
- Sensory Riverstones.
- Do somersaults.
- Create and play with an obstacle course involving crawling under, over, through chairs cushions, pillows, etc…
- Balance Board.
Sensory Diet ~ Visual Input
Giving a kiddos with SPD some type of visual input can be an amazing way to calm a very hyped up child. My kiddo who has SPD and Autism has had to go in for quite a few surgeries since he was born with a cleft lip and palate. Anyone who has a sensory kiddo knows how stressful it can be for them to go through a surgery.
Luckily the hospital we go to offers many great things through the child life services. During one of his last surgeries we had the opportunity to use a calming machine the hospital has. This made it so that after surgery he was so much calmer and we had way less issues with him post surgery. Something so simple as this calming machine was such a huge help for him. It just proves how calming these visual inputs can really be.
Due to the fact that these kiddos tend to be very visually oriented many different visual resources can be very useful for them. Using a visual schedule for older kids or a more simple one for younger kids or a first / then board can be the answer to prayers, and help them communicate when they are struggling to do so.
- Color Changing Bubble Tube.
- Use a visual schedule they are very easy to make on your own.
- Small Bubble Lamp With Fish.
- Aurora Projection LED Night Lamp.
- Use a first then board they are also very easy to make.
- 16ft LED Flexible Strip Lighting.
- Use a light table, you can make your own for very cheap.
- Fiber Optic Lights.
- Plasma Ball Lamp.
- Play beanbag toss.
- Lava Lamp.
- Play a marble maze game, a labyrinth game, or a marble run.
- Color Changing Cube.
- Make your own sensory bottles using water bottles.
- Make a bead box for only $7.00 instead of purchasing one for over $100.
- Glitter lamp.
- Starry Sky Lamp.
- Giant Bubble Column.
Sensory Diet ~ Smell (olfactory) Input
Scents can have a huge impact on helping give a kiddo some energy or helping them calm down. It can take a little bit of trial and error to find what ones work best with your kiddo since certain smells can make these kiddos not so happy too.
- Adding different scents to a diffuser can help calm and give a kiddo energy they come in different sizes that can last for a few hours through a whole day, 100ml Diffuser, or a 300ml Diffuser.
- Having kids color with different scented tool like Scented Markers or Scented Crayons.
- Giving them a Scented Stuffed Animal to sleep with. While the ones online are great most of them cannot be washed so we have found that the Scensy stuffed animals are great. They come with a changeable scent pack and even better they can be washed.
- Before having your kiddo go to bed try rubbing some calming body oil on them to help calm them down so they can sleep.
- We pour some epsom salt and a few drops of lavender and chamomile essential oils into the bath and have them soak for at least 20 minutes for our kiddos who has issues sleeping and this helps him calm down before bed.
- Calming Room Candle.
- Make Play Dough and add different scents to it.
- Relaxing Bubble Bath.
Sensory Diet ~ Taste (Oral / Oral-Motor)
Children who put things in their mouth well past the little baby stage of mouthing everything may be looking for oral input. These kids may chew on their pencils, clothing, fingers, bite other kids, or put toys in their mouth. They are doing this to help them find an appropriate arousal level.
We have kiddos on both spectrum. One of our SPD kiddos would eat even non food items. When he was about 3 trying to get him not to eat the peat gravel when he would go out to our play area was almost impossible. This kiddo would chew on his fingers until they would bleed, chew on his clothes, or anything else for that matter.
We finally got him chew tubes which were helpful until he got braces then the crunchy foods and chew tubes were no longer allowed. He was so upset about this that within 24 hours of getting his braces put on he literally pulled them back off of his teeth. Needless to say the dentist decided to allow him to chew on sugar free gum to help him.
We have another kiddo who would eat only about 10 different foods until we had him go in for feeding therapy at about age 14. The textures of different foods was just something he couldn’t stand no matter how hard we tried. Now he eats a much bigger variety of foods, but it still a little picky.
- Make faces in the mirror. Some ideas are open mouth wide, stick out tongue., fill cheeks with air, smile, stick tongue out, frown.
- Make noises like. Buzzing like a bee, humming, blowing raspberries, humming, click your tongue.
- Taking deep breaths in and out through your mouth and nose at the same time.
- Signing or maintaining a sound for as long as possible.
- Licking stickers, stamps, or lollipops.
- Drinking yogurt, applesauce, milkshake, smoothie, or pudding through a straw.
- Drink beverages through a straw or straw cup.
- Blowing bubbles.
- Using blow pens.
- Blow a feather.
- Use a party horn.
- Blow up balloons.
- Using any instrument that requires blowing.
- Blowing ping pong balls.
- Using whistles or a kazoo.
- Blow cotton balls or pom poms using a straw.
- Use a straw to blow paint.
- Blow out candles.
Chewy, crunchy, sour, hot, cold Foods ~ I have included different candies in this list. We very strictly limit sugar intake with our kids since it just isn’t good for them. I would be especially cautious with a sensory kiddo who tends to get hyped up.
- Gummy bears or worms.
- Lemon wedges.
- Frozen grapes.
- Dried cereal.
- Ice chips.
- Graham crackers.
- Soft pretzels.
- Peanut butter.
- Swedish fish.
- Jju gummy.
- Chewy sweet tart minis.
- Crunchy pretzels.
- Animal crackers.
- Beef Jerky.
- Chewy caramels.
- Tootsie Rolls.
- Mike and Ikes.
- Celery with or without peanut butter.
- Dried fruit.
- Now and laters.
- Fruit leathers.
- Chewy sprees.
- Sausage sticks.
- Sour patch kids.
Misc. Chew Toys
- Knobby Tubes.
- Chew Tube T’s 4 Pack.
- Block Necklace Chewlery.
- Beaded Chew Necklace.
- Chewable Pencil Topper.
- Vibra Chew.
- Nuk Brush.
- Z-Vibe Oral Stimulator.
- Chewable Stretch Necklace.
Sensory Diet ~ Proprioception
Proprioceptive input aka heavy work it informs us of where our body is in space. Ways that you will know if your child has issues with this area would be they crash into walls, objects, people, etc. These are the kids that are always full of excessive energy. They always break things you might say a bull in a china shop. These kids may appear uncoordinated and clumsy.
By helping children who have issues with their proprioceptive system you can help the children increase attention, they can sleep better, modulate their arousal levels, and decrease defensiveness. As I’m sure you can imagine just helping them in this one area can be an amazing help to the child and their family.
- Weighted Vests.
- Deep Pressure Tank Top.
- Burrito wrap.
- Steam roller.
- Weighted Lap Pads.
- Pushing or pulling a toy shopping cart.
- Bubble wrap popping.
- Using moon shoes.
- Temperature Regulating Sheets. We have a set of these sheets that have been simply amazing for our son. He has major issues with being too hot all the time, but especially when he was sleeping. These actually keep him cool. They also keep kids warm if they are too cold. It is a patented technology made by NASA.
- Cooling Pillow.
- Playing leap frog or wheelbarrow walking.
- Pushing or carrying a laundry basket.
- Pillow fight.
- Monkey bars.
- Weighted Blankets.
- Pulling a kids wagon with or without things in it.
- Run, jump, skip.
- Wobble Cushion.
- Pushing a stroller.
- Balance Ball.
- Squishing thinking putty, play dough, or silly putty.
- Balance Ball Chair. A great resource for kiddos who have a difficult time to sit still during school.
- Wear a Body sock.
- Shoveling snow.
- Moon shoes.
- Raking leaves.
- Sit in a Bean bag chair.
- Using a push broom to sweep driveway, sidewalk, etc..
- Pushing a wheelbarrow.
- Playing tug-of-war.
- Riding a scooter, bike, roller blades, etc..
- Animal walks.
- Carrying or lifting books.
- Crashing onto bed, beanbag, or a Giant Crash Pad.
- Stomp Rocket.
- Climb a tree.
- Push someone on a swing.
- Slip N Slide.
- Push people in a chair with wheels.
- Disc Seat.
- Climbing a slide.
- Trapeze Bar.
- Dig in the dirt or in a sandbox.
- Play in a sensory bin in a sensory table.
- Buoy Ball Swing.
- Jumping on an old mattress, couch, big trampoline or a Mini Trampoline.
- Wall push ups.
- Twist Whiz – Zip Line.
- Give them a massage.
- Bear hugs.
- Jump Rope.
- Throwing and catching a ball or Frisbee.
- Using a Pogo Hopper, Hop Ball, Pogo Stick.
- Using thera bands for exercises or around a chair.
- Wearing ankle weights.
- Carry a bucket with sand or water.
- Tether Ball.
- Fill empty milk or water jugs with beans, sand, or water and carry around.
- Stack chairs.
- Carry groceries.
- Push a mini shopping cart.
- Using a watering can.
- Rolling on a Therapy Ball.
Sensory Diet ~ Auditory
Kids that have auditory issues will show the problems in a couple different ways. One way they will show it is not hearing you. You will call their name over and over and they don’t hear you. These kiddos can hear perfectly fine, but their brains don’t process what is being said. Like a traffic jam in their brain. They struggle with directions and often times need visual directions or only 1 or 2 steps at a time to accomplish a task.
Another auditory processing problem would be going into a noisy place and your child starts to go crazy. It will often be those parents who have kids screaming in the store. So be careful how you judge those parents, it’s not always a discipline issue.
I remember us bringing our kids to the circus thinking it wouldn’t be to loud and would be a great experience for them. Well I should have known better, we sat the entire time with our hands over our kiddos ears with him shoving them into his head as hard as he could push. The noise was just too much for him. We now just about always carry noise cancelling headphones with us.
Another example would be the fact that we couldn’t sing “happy birthday” in our house for 5 years. Every time we would sing it our kiddo would start freaking out. The tune or the song I’m still not sure to this day would just send him over the edge.
- Noise Machine.
- We have used listening therapy with one of our kiddos who struggles with noise and this has been a huge help for him. They also offer some songs you can download from the app store.
- Noise Cancelling Earmuffs.
- Sound Therapy Pillow.
- Headband Headphones (CozyPhones).
- Relaxation Water Fountain.
- Finding what kinds of songs helps calm them is helpful. Is it classical, country, jazz, etc..
Well there are plenty of ideas for you to try adding some into a sensory diet for your SPD kiddo. Kids sensory needs change over time, so some of these sensory diet ideas will work well at some points and time and then later they may not be so helpful. Work through the list and see what works best for your kids.
Do you have any other sensory diet ideas that have worked well with your kids? Leave a comment below letting me know. I would love to hear from you!
Looking for more Ideas? Head over to my special needs ideas Pinterest board for more great sensory diet ideas.
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