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Sensory Diet vs. a Sensory Buffet

I want to begin this blog post by stating this is merely my introduction to you on discussing sensory diets and the use of them for children with sensory needs. I will scratch the surface to define what a sensory diet is, why it’s used and why I prefer to use a sensory buffet instead of a diet, to assist children who show sensory characteristics. I do plan on writing more on this subject, in order to delve deeper into the use of sensory diets today, how many more people, not just OTs, are creating sensory diets for children, how OTs can help support other non-OTs in creating sensory buffets that offer more flexibility to the children they will be serving, in order to better cater to the daily differences in those individuals varying sensory needs. So if you enjoy the information I present here, stay tuned for more sensory diet discussions in the coming weeks.

Understanding Sensory Diets 101

Recently, I have been asked to write sensory diets for children who display a great amount and variety of sensory characteristics throughout their day. A sensory diet is a prepared schedule of sensory input and support for a child, who is displaying many sensory needs and sensory expressions. A therapist puts together a schedule of when to provide input, the type of input, and when to give the child/student breaks.

What’s a Sensory Buffet?

I understand the need for sensory diets but prefer to provide more of a sensory buffet. Like sensory diets, a sensory buffet is personalized to each child. I tend to provide a wider variety of sensory input at each section of the plan. A child’s sensory needs vary day-to-day. I personally like to provide a list of individualized sensory input, adaptations and tools for a caregiver to choose from for each sensory area including proprioceptive, vestibular and tactile. Again, I refer to this as a sensory buffet.

The Benefits of Using a Sensory Buffet

I see this often when a child will come into a classroom and will display many sensory processing characteristics, however, their needs of how much and what type of proprioceptive, vestibular or tactile input will differ daily. So many factors go into the change of response or sensory need of a child, which will affect the type of sensory input they need or are displaying for us. The factors could include, but aren’t limited to, the amount of sleep the child got, how their morning went or how their experience was on the bus. When I create a sensory buffet, I start with a list of the types of sensory input that could alert versus calm a child. It takes more training on the part of the caregiver to provide more of a sensory buffet, but it is well worth the time because the caregiver will feel more equipped to assist the child and they will also have a stronger understanding of what the sensory characteristics are asking for.

If you have a different idea or something that you have seen work to help children progress in their sensory roller dex, please don’t hesitate to share your story in my comment section below. Thank you so much for reading and for helping children.

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