Wednesday, October 6, 2010

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Sensory diet 101

As pathetic as this may be, I didn't know what a sensory diet was until I looked it up five minutes ago. That is to say, I knew what it was, but I didn't know the correct term. I had seen the words
"sensory diet" about nine million times on support groups for SPD, but never thought to ask about it, as Logan's OT never referred to it in that way.

This is what I found as a definition for "sensory diet". I was rather impressed.

Just as your child needs food throughout the course of the day, his need for sensory input must also be met. A “sensory diet” (coined by OT Patricia Wilbarger) is a carefully designed, personalized activity plan that provides the sensory input a person needs to stay focused and organized throughout the day. Just as you may jiggle your knee or chew gum to stay awake or soak in a hot tub to unwind, children need to engage in stabilizing, focusing activities too. Infants, young children, teens, and adults with mild to severe sensory issues can all benefit from a personalized sensory diet.
quoted from:

Logan, being very much a non-seeker, requires a lot of motivation and physical exercise to keep him focused. For example, today we had a visit from Jessica, Logan's SLP. He was doing well for about 15 minutes, and then just glazed over and stared into space, not really interacting at all. We know that this is one of his signals that it's time to run laps around the house. After a few minutes of running and jumping and wrestling around, he went back to the table with Jessica without prompting, and settled right back into the activities she had been doing with him.

We have also learned this past week that chewing gum keeps Logan focused. I don't know why he doesn't swallow it, but he never has. He will chew and chew and chew for literally hours.  Jessica was thrilled with this, and likened it to his vibrating chew stick, in terms of being aware of his mouth and the way it moves. He's picking up a LOT of new words all of a sudden, and parroting words he's never used before.

But, Logan's favorite sensory activity is one that I never would have come up with on my own. Months ago, our EI case coordinator came for a visit and brought a piece of foam egg crate with her, cut  in a rectangle that perfectly fits on the bottom of the bathtub. What you do is, put it in the tub bumpy side up, squirt liquid dish soap all over it, and get it nice and soppy wet. Then let 2 or 3 monsters dance all over it, making lovely squishy bubbles  under their feet. Logan likes to hold on to the side of the tub, dressed in swimming trunks, and jump up and down on the bubbles so they fly all over heck and creation. Because of his allergies, Logan cannot tolerate liquid dish soap. We use all over baby wash, and it makes wonderful bubbles!

It's so frustrating to the older monsters that I praise Logan for making messes or running around the house screaming like a banshee, and it's been difficult for them to understand that this type of behavior is encouraged for him, but not them. Ben and I have both been careful to explain Logan's need for sensory stimulation, because he does not seek it out on his own. Now, after months of exposure, the older monsters are initiating sensory play with Logan on their own. Our sensory table, mini trampoline, and Logan's bubble mower are used daily as his siblings encourage him in his sensory diet.

I cannot stress enough the importance of having the whole family involved in therapy. It is so helpful to have a monster or two help out by coloring with the twinnies, or blowing bubbles for them to chase while I make dinner each evening. Logan caught on to sign language extremely quickly because it was reinforced by seven other people all day long, right down to our #5 monster, who turned 5 in April. He would continuously sign "Jump!" to Logan as he used the trampoline. 

It makes the monsters feel important and needed when the are involved, and it provides some relief for the Daddy and me when we need to do something like measure medications or prepare a meal or get diaper bags, sippy cups and activities ready for a trip to town.

On the flip side, we have learned that in order to sleep, Logan needs noise and movement and sound. We have become devout classic Disney junkies. Any one of the monsters can quote Sleeping Beauty, Fox and the Hound, 101 Dalmatians, etc. because Logan literally cannot sleep unless there is a movie playing. We've tried using only a CD of classical music. We've tried night lights and a book on tape. Nothing works except classic Disney. Baby Einstein will work occasionally. 

During our last hospital stay with Logan, the nurses were amazed that Logan stayed up until 3am, before I realized he really could not sleep. Ten minutes later, a video of Cinderella was playing in his room and Logan was out cold. Thank goodness for understanding nurses and a playroom that had multiple TV/VCR sets that could be moved into patient rooms!

If you do not have a sensory diet plan for your SPD child, talk to your OT about it. It has made life here at the Monster House a lot easier to understand, and the progress Logan has made since being on a sensory diet is nothing short of miraculous!

1 comment:

Dena Page, M.Ed., CBA said...

Another great sensory activity (for quieter pursuits) is putting texture under a coloring page for extra input through the hand and arm. Sugar, sand, cornmeal (if diet-friendly for you, quinoa, whatever. Just sprinkle a bit on the table, put the coloring page overtop, and work away. Just make sure it's in an easy-to-clean part of your house so you're not cursing me when you're still hoovering sand from your carpet three months later!

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