Do you love big hugs? Do you get carsick easily? Do you prefer subtle or spicy foods? Many of our likes, dislikes and traits can be tied to our sensory diet profile!
Sensory profiles can be broken down into two basic categories, with lots of in-betweens of course! These two categories are sensory seeker and sensory avoider. Being a sensory seeker means that your body is under-responsive to stimuli in your environment and craves more input. Being a sensory avoider means that your body is over-responsive to stimuli and can get overwhelmed by too much input easily. Some of us are strictly seeker or avoider, and many of us are a combination of both. Maybe you love spicy food and hate loud noises, or vice versa?
Our sensory profiles aren’t set in stone, as our preferences and sensitivities can change over time with age and new experiences. But they are a great way for us to get to know our bodies so that we can take better care of them.
So what is a sensory diet?
A sensory diet is taking our understanding of our sensory profile, and creating a series of activities that cater to each of our senses and their specific preferences and sensitivities. It can sound complicated, but sensory diets are built using things that we do every day! Carrying groceries, cooking dinner, smelling the flowers on the way to school...all of these activities are valuable sensory experiences!
Finding the right sensory balance can improve our concentration, keep us calm and get us into that "just right" state of mind so that we can be more present and alert. Whether you are a seeker or avoider, our sensory diets break down into the following 7 categories of activity:
- Proprioceptive/heavy work: our body’s awareness of its position in space
- Visuals: Seeing lights, colors, textures, words and more
- Auditory: our body’s awareness of sound and noise
- Tactile: our body’s sense of touch
- Oral motor movement: our mouth’s senses in the tongue, jaw, lips, cheeks and mouth
- Vestibular movement: our body’s awareness of position, balance, and righting in space; controlled by our inner ear
- Scents: smells in our environment, both good and bad
Here are some activities that are tailored to each of our 7 senses!
Proprioceptive/Heavy work Activities:
- Carrying books or groceries
- Doing wall or floor push-ups
- Giving big bear hugs
- Using a weighted vest or lap pad
- Jumping on the floor or on a trampoline
- Pushing a vacuum or wheelbarrow
- Playing games like I-Spy and mazes
- Looking at lava lamps and sensory jars
- Reading picture books
- Playing with LED light toys
- Blowing whistles or playing an instrument
- Humming and singing
- Listening to calming and active music and describe the differences
- Taking a walk and talk about the sounds around you in nature
- Listening to a minute of silence and talk about how it makes you feel
- Cooking and baking
- Petting animals
- Doing arts and crafts
- Feeling different fabrics and textures
- Exploring sensory bins
Oral Motor Movement:
- Chewing crunchy foods
- Using a vibrating toothbrush
- Learning to whistle
- Trying foods with different flavors and textures
- Drinking out of a straw
- Using a chewy
- Jumping rope or on trampoline
- Playing on swings
- Dancing and marching
- Walking on a balance beam
- Bouncing on a yoga ball
- Riding a bike or scooter board
- Sniffing different spices and herbs
- Smelling different candle scents
- Using scented putty
Sensory diets can be personalized to fit both the sensory seeker and avoider profiles. Working with an Occupational Therapist (read more) can help you identify which senses should receive various sources of input at different times of the day. Here is a helpful template to help track activities and responses.
If you have more questions about sensory diets and profiles, please reach out to us in the comments or at [email protected]!