Curating Your Sensory Diet

Finding coping skills that work for you or your child can be a daunting task. It is something that takes time, research and a little experimentation. A great way to get started is to consider bodily senses. We humans experience more than just the basic five: touch, taste, sound, sight and smell. We also feel temperature, atmospheric pressure, movement, gravity, balance and more.

Every person experiences the world and its elements differently. For example, sometimes a walk in the sunshine can be a great coping skill. For some, the sun can be a vibrant life-source that charges them and lifts their mood. For others, the heat of the sun can bring feelings of agitation and discomfort. Each sensory experience that exists on this planet creates a unique reaction in every individual. It would be unlikely for two humans to have the exact same sensory preferences. Because of this, it is important to take time in decoding your own sensory preferences or that of the child you are caregiving for. What works for you or feels soothing to you might not for your child. Once a few positive sensory coping skills have been identified, you’re well on your way to creating a sensory diet!

To begin, it takes physically experimenting with varying elements to find what feels soothing and which illicit negative responses. For example, explore varying temperatures while in the shower. How does warm water feel? Or hot water? What about a cooler temp? What brings the highest level of comfort? Would it be different if you or the child was upset? Would a different temperature help in that case? Would a bath be better, perhaps? Soaking can relieve muscle tension, however, for some waiting in a bathtub might be too boring or anxiety provoking and for a child the water play can evoke stimulation rather than relaxation. As you can see, every sensory diet is unique!

How about jogging around the block? Does that help? Does it worsen the feeling you or your child is trying to cope with? Or maybe the pressure on your joints, the movement of your muscles, and the change of atmospheric pressure is just what you needed to avoid a panic attack.

To get started, try choosing just one of the many senses. Explore varying ways to soothe yourself or your child through that sense.

Check out this video for further information about the many human senses: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W0WPPpCFaM

For the out-of-sync child or child with Sensory Processing Disorder, this is an especially important task to help your child learn to cope and to help you learn ways to intervene with dysregulation through co-regulation. Two great book resources for this topic is The Out of Sync Child and The Out of Sync Child Has Fun by Carol Stock Kranowitz.

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