As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, you understand the unique joys that come with the day-to-day of raising our remarkable children. Yet, one of the consistent challenges that plays a significant role in autism spectrum disorder is sensory processing.
Children on the autism spectrum experience a wide range of sensory sensitivities and sensory-seeking behaviors, which can greatly impact their overall well-being and ability to engage with the world around them.
This is where the sensory diet comes in. A sensory diet is a personalized set of activities and strategies designed to meet your child’s sensory needs.
In Part 1 of this blog, we explored the differing sensory input your child might be seeking. Using that information, you can put together a daily schedule that will make your child’s life easier and add some peace to your day-to-day routine.
Identify Your Child's Sensory-Related Behaviors
Your first job is simply to observe your child. What are the sensory-related behaviors your child demonstrates? How does your child cope with challenges? Use our previous blog for some clues to the behavior you are taking note of.
If any meltdowns occur, write down what took place, what the environment was like, and the behaviors your child exhibited. Analyzing their actions over time will show you what is posing challenges for them, and what input they are going after.
Determine the Reasons or Causes Behind the Behaviors
As you analyze that data, the big question you should be asking yourself is “why?”.
- Why did they react to that environment in that way?
- Why was that the behavior they chose at that moment?
- Why did my child seem stressed at that moment?
- What sensory input was present at the time of the meltdown?
Answers to these questions will guide you towards the modifications they need throughout their day in order to be more regulated.
Draft a Schedule
When you plan out your sensory diet, you need to consider three things:
- the sensory needs of your child
- the times your child seems the most dysregulated
- the lifestyle of the family
Using the family routine and the information you’ve gathered as a guide, make a list of potential modifications and times you can fit them in. Then, write down your first sensory diet schedule. We say “first” here because there will be some trial and error involved.
Here is an example for a child who craves vestibular activities, oral motor activities, and tactile activities, and struggles with transitions:
Use Trial and Error to Monitor Progress and Adjust as Needed
You now have your first draft. Give it a week or so, and see how effective it is in managing your child’s needs and keeping them regulated throughout the day, as well as how it fits with your family’s schedule. Tweak any parts necessary and try again until you feel like it is working.
Your child on the autism spectrum will constantly change and grow. Their sensory input needs will change as well. Continue to monitor how effective the sensory diet is over time, and as their needs evolve, be open to adaptation and exploration.
By building a sensory diet for your child on the autism spectrum, you are equipping them with the tools they need to thrive in a world filled with sensory experiences. With patience, observation, and a commitment to understanding your child’s needs, you can create an environment that fosters comfort, engagement, and growth.
When building a sensory diet, don’t hesitate to ask for input from your child’s occupational therapist. They will offer you valuable insights and guidance as you work to build the sensory diet. You can reach out here for more information.
Reach out today and speak with one of our enrollment specialists to get started with Springtide