Our Journey Through Occupational Therapy: SENSORY DIET

Since we posted our first blog about Our Journey Through Occupational Therapy: The Diagnosis, we received a great number of responses and support from friends who have had similar experiences. We’ve heard from people who have used occupational therapy and also received recommendations from people that did not use therapy but offered tips and practices that might be helpful for Lady C.

We thank you! Community sharing was the main goal for this blog series.

As it stands, Lady C is still seeing her occupational therapist on a weekly basis. The therapist has provided us with feedback and also a plan of action including a “sensory diet” to assist.

What’s a sensory diet?

Occupational therapists use the term “sensory diet” to refer to a planned and scheduled program of sensory activities designed to satisfy the nervous system’s sensory needs throughout the day.

We received a sensory diet that will help Lady C for the following situations:

  • “Proprioceptive Experiences” for when she is overwhelmed and needs to be calmed
  • Hand strengthening
  • Encouraging Hand Dominance
  • Visual Motor Skills

Here are the some of the recommendations we received and many of these things we already do – we just do them more thoughtfully now – hope they help someone else!

PROPRICEPTIVE EXPERIENCES

These activities are also known as heavy work activities and can help improve focus and attention and improve body awareness:

Pushing and pulling

Crawling or wheelbarrowing

Holding or pushing the wall

Using playdoh

Squeezing bottles

Kneading dough

Stretching

Giving tight hugs

HAND STRENGTHENING

These activities help to build hand strength:

Crumpling paper into a ball

Using squirt toys

Use clothespins to hand things (for pincer strength)

HAND DOMINANCE

These activities are key for Lady C because she switches hands quite a bit- Using her left hand to write and switching to the right for other activities. 

Stirring batter and holding bowl with other hand

Using helper hand to stabilize paper when writing

Picking up small objects with chopsticks

Pouring sand from one container to another

Scissors activities

VISUAL MOTOR SKILLS

Playing board games

Doing Mazes

Tracing and coloring pictures

Doing word searches

PLEASE SHARE ANY OTHER SUGGESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVE – LOVE HEARING AND SHARING WITH YOU!

Next up for the blog series – how we integrate the sensory diet into our daily routines.

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Our Journey Through Occupational Therapy: THE DIAGNOSIS

Fidgety.

    Uncoordinated.

Muscle Weakness.

            Lack of Body Awareness.

Sensory Sensitive.

                     Sensory Seeking.

These were some of the words that we heard from Lady C’s school occupational therapist last fall that has led us on the path of occupational therapy, something that neither of us had heard about until last year when we decided to enroll our left handed daughter into a handwriting class. If you are like us and need a little primer – here’s what we first found on Wikipedia about occupational therapy:

Occupational therapy (OT) is the use of assessment and treatment to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills of people with a physical, mental, or cognitive disorder. Occupational therapists also focus much of their work on identifying and eliminating environmental barriers to independence and participation in daily activities

From an early age we noticed that Lady C held her body with little core control, ran a little slower and awkwardly, had trouble balancing on one leg… little things and it is something we always made her Pre-K teacher and now kindergarten teacher aware of and we discussed it. At first, we thought we might be focusing on it too much because on the reading, vocabulary and social skills spectrum, Lady C was off the charts, independently reading at the age of two and holding conversations with grown ups very early – perhaps we wanted her to excel at physical development and motor skills too quickly.

But – it’s something we’ve monitored closely and for the past few weeks, she has been engaged in occupational therapy once a week in order to help her build body awareness, build muscle strength, improve motor skills and continue to improve her handwriting skills. In addition to occupational therapy, we’ve also gotten her more engaged in activities that build strength: karate, ballet and gymnastics.

It has been humbling and overwhelming to realize that your child needs help and that you have to ask for it.  There is so much to learn and deciding to blog about this was not easy because it admits out loud that something needs to be “fixed”.  Coming from a generation where a fidgety and uncoordinated child would just be marked as clumsy and distracted, most of the time the “solution” was … THEY WILL JUST GROW OUT OF IT.  Now, occupational therapy is a growing field and early intervention at childhood is being used more and more these days to help with body awareness issues and motor skills development… so we are navigating the mines and plan to share what we are going through in case it helps others. Perhaps, we will get some help too! We hope so…

We plan to share the high and lows, our “sensory diet plan” and how it’s going and we hope that if there are others out there with children in occupational therapy or thinking about doing it – that we can engage in a dialogue and conversation through this series of blogs.

More to come! If there are particular questions you have or things you want addressed please let us know in the comments.

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