Friday, October 19, 2012

Starting a Sensory Diet

I feel like such a slacker.

We had an ARD meeting Wednesday morning so I spent the first part of the week preparing for that which ultimately translated into no post on Tuesday morning.

I do hope you won't think my lack of writing means that I'm not thinking of you....

Something interesting came up in the ARD meeting and since October is National Sensory Awareness Month, I thought we could talk a little about how sensory processing can be more difficult for some of our kiddos.

As Lily moves throughout her school day, we are becoming more aware of her need for some frequent breaks that provide her with an opportunity to get regulated for more learning.  So we are going to implement a sensory diet into her day that will consist of both scheduled and spontaneous break times.  The scheduled breaks will hopefully allow her to stay focused on tasks for longer periods of time while the spontaneous breaks will be carried out on an as-need or as requested basis.

So what exactly is a sensory diet?  A sensory diet is a personalized activity plan that provides sensory input that an individual needs to stay focused and organized throughout the day.

Almost every single one of us has sensory needs that we may not even be aware of - things like clicking a pen or doodling while talking on the phone to help us stay focused or drinking tea or reading to unwind after a busy day.

Well, kids are the same way.  But some need even more unique ways of regulating the nervous system.

For example, Lily doesn't just like deep pressure; she craves it.  She needs it.

What most parents would consider good ol' horseplay is serious business around the Rush home.  Of course, Lily loves it when her dad chases her through the house, scoops her up, tosses her on the big bed, buries her under some pillows, and begins applying some deep pressure by firmly pushing on the pillows.  She squeals and giggles just like the little girl she is.

But it's doing far more than simply providing some good father-daughter bonding time.  It's helping her become more aware of her body and it's position in space.  It's regulating her alertness and increasing her attention span.  It's helping her handle situations with less stress.  It's giving her an acceptable way to deal with her emotions when she feels herself losing control.

Since Ryan and king size beds are not available in Lily's classroom everyday, making a Lily sandwich with bean bags is a good way to provide this need for deep pressure.  Lily lounges in a bean bag, the teacher places another bean bag on top of the Bird, and then gently but firmly pushes, giving Lily that body regulation she has such a need for.

Other "ingredients" in Lily's sensory diet include crunching ice chips, going to the cool-down corner, compression clothing, wiggles and brush (a vibration and brushing technique used by Lily's occupational therapist), and foot massages.

Interested in developing a sensory diet for your child?  Speak with an occupational therapist.  And here are two very informative blog posts that will help you get started:

What Every Parent Should Know about Sensory Processing Disorder  from Simply Stavish blog


Sensory Diet for School from Hartley's Life with Three Boys blog.

So what about you?  Does your child have a sensory diet?  How do you incorporate it throughout the day, especially at school?  Share your tips!

31 Days to Crazy Joy:

October 1
1.  My laughing Lily Bird
2.  My new red loafers
3.  A great day at school for Lily

October 2
4.  Pumpkins
5.  A walk around Town Lake in the evening
6.  Overhearing my big girls laughing together while Face-Timing

October 3
7.  cozy naps
8.  Reagan's good idea turning into an exciting new project
9.  peas and cornbread

October 4
10.  homemade applesauce
11.  a new season of Sherlock on Netflix
12.  almost daily text photos of Ryley's "outfit of the day" for LU classes

October 5
13.  libraries full of free books
14.  booking Ryley's ticket home for Thanksgiving
15.  starting the Christmas planning lists

October 6
16.  hot chocolate with LOTS of marshmallows
17.  watching Ryan and Lily wrestling and hearing her girly squeals of delight
18.  a cute new purse - purchased by my mom

October 7
19.  boots
20.  after missing two weeks, getting to go to church
21.  rocking newborns in the church nursery

October 8
22.  a daughter who knits
23.  a helpful husband
24.  pajama days

October 9
25.  Parenthood - best show on TV
26. effective medication
27.  cooler temperatures

October 10
28.  Sonic ice
29.  watermelon - the Bird's current favorite treat
30.  mailing my first care package to Ryley

October 11
31.  the discovery of Duck Dynasty - and a brand new season just started!
32.  my monthly MOSK group - Mothers of Special (Needs) Kids
33.  new Christmas stockings for the whole family, handmade by Reagan

October 12
32.  a weekly delivery of free eggs from a sweet friend
33.  my crock-pot
34.  a beautiful front porch decorated for fall

October 13
35.  homemade spice tea
36.  organic honeycrisp apples
37.  The Pioneer Woman's French Breakfast Puffs

October 14
38.  hearing the words "Lily is rocking it today!"
39.  sweet buddies who volunteer to hang with Lily on Sunday mornings
40.  handing Lily a treat and hearing what sounds like "thank you" in her sweet voice

October 15
41.  gathering with my fellow pastors' wives to just relax 
42.  getting together with new friends and discovering what you have in common
43.  iPic movie theater - WOW!

October 16
44.  an amazing time of prayer for Lily with pastors from all over Austin
45.  the opportunity to teach One Thousand Gifts at a Ladies Retreat
46.  wearing a sweatshirt outside for the first time this year

October 17
47.  pulling something delicious from the freezer when I don't feel like cooking
48.  getting coupons to Barnes & Noble in my email inbox
49.  overnight oatmeal in the crockpot

October 18
50.  Discovering a new author
51.  Putting Reagan on an airplane for a "sister reunion"
52.  Seeing this on Facebook a few hours later:

I hope you're spending some time looking for good days, too! Enjoy the weekend, sweet ones.


  1. Little Miss has had an informal sensory diet for a long time now -- including "sit-ups" on the rocking chair, chewing Twizlers (we call 'em "chewies" in our house), and carrying heavy things. Other more infrequent sensory activities include playing in her bean box and water play. Heck, even tubby time is a sensory activity in our house -- Little Miss is allowed to stay in the tubby as long as she wants (well, within some reason) to help her regulate.

    Ok.. so shameless plug time too... do you already know about the SPD Blogger Network? ( It has some great resources about Sensory Processing.. We're (I'm and editor) also running a giveaway right now for a custom weighted blanket (I bet Lily would love it). Check it out! ==>

    1. Karla - I LOVE SPD Blogger Network and I should've plugged it myself! Can't believe I forgot! I'm glad you got it out there - and I'll put it in a tweet when I shamelessly plug the blog post over the weekend. :) And I am so going to enter that weighted blanket give-away. Thanks for letting me (and the readers) know!

      Twizzlers - what an awesome idea. I wonder if I can find some without any dyes....

  2. I like the bean bag sandwich idea! Lily is so fortunate to have such a loving, supportive, and knowledgeable mama!

    Here's just a few ideas that I've found helpful in the past. Lily may respond to modeling's much harder than it's great for deep pressure into the hands. A weighted lap blanket may also prove can be used in so many ways. Vestibular input through a special seat cushion might help too.

    It sounds like Lily is doing well with school. I'm so happy for her!

    1. Thanks for the tips, Bea! Modeling clay is a great idea - I'll be sure to pass it along to her teacher. We were even talking about having her sit on one of those big exercise balls when she's working at the computer to see if it helps her focus more.

  3. You, a slacker?!?!? NEVER would enter my thoughts!!!
    And though probably not your intention, but this post has given me some extra ideas for the times that I GET to buddy with the Bird. Does she love Sonic Ice as much as I do?!?!? I knew we had a bond!!!
    And I'm guessing she is actually enjoying our "snuggle" time with the Ipad almost as much as I do since I have a tendency to hug her tightly when we get to hang out and massage her sweet head!!!
    I am so encouraged by this, Lana!!!! Can't wait to spend more time with her!!!!!!!
    On another note, how do you get those B&N coupons?!?!? As often as I am there, I should be on the payroll, but somehow not receiving coupons!! It's a travesty I say!!
    Thanks for the inspiration -- Loving your joy posts too!!

    1. Ummm - does she love Sonic ice? Yes ma'am! We hit happy hour at least 2 times a week, and always get a cup of ice for the Bird. And your snuggle times with her are just perfect for her sensory processing.

      OK - B&N coupons... I'm a member, are you? I think that's how I get them. And fyi - this time of year is a great time to join if you're not a member b/c coupons come more regularly during the holidays. Sign up at the store and they'll give you a card. It costs like $25 but I more than make up for that in the money I save on book purchases throughout the year. Once you sign up, you should get a weekly email from them called Buzz that tells you what's new that week in books. Also, follow B&N Buzz on Twitter and Facebook.

      Have a great weekend, my sweet friend! :)

  4. Lana - you never cease to amaze me with your creativity and research regarding the Bird! I have learned so much from your blog with regard to special needs kids. It is simply amazing what a little education, follow through, and consistency with ALL who are involved in the Bird's life. I am fully confident that SHE WILL TALK and sooner than we all think!! Praying that daily for her. The special bonding with her dad is so fantastic! (Not to mention the bonding she consistently has with you throughout the day as well as her sisters...I know you all have had a hand in coping with all you have gone through since the Bird was born.) I am truly blessed to be touched by your family's lives as well as being a member of BBC. Love to your family and KEEP UP THE TERRIFIC JOB (And BLOG TOO!) ! :)

  5. p.s. The pictures you post are precious memories! :)

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Teresa. We HAVE all learned a lot, haven't we? And I feel so blessed to share this journey with our precious church family - we just love y'all so much! And keep those prayers coming! :)

  6. I've never thought about sensory diet in that way. I usually just think of the GF/CF diet that was mostly just ehh for us. Didn't really see a big difference but now I wonder if might have helped more than I thought. I'm looking forward to checking out this book you speak of and seeing what kinds of things we can put in place. C's school wants to mainstream him for reading, math, and special area. One teacher he does well with and one teacher ends in disaster. Maybe some of these ideas will help out! Love it!

    1. Hope you find some good stuff that works for you!

  7. Sensory diet was very important for Toots from the time he first started OT and all of the things you mentioned were very important - especially the sandwiching between the bean bags. Now that he is growing, and a little older, he does not require as much sensory input as he did. He is no longer having OT and it doesn't seem to affect him as far as focus is concerned at all, which is a blessing.

    I am fascinated by #40 on your list!! And I will keep sending prayers for more like this every day! Love the picture of Reagan and Ryley! They look so happily united!! xoxo

    1. I look forward to the day we don't need as much sensory input.

      #40 was out of the blue - but we're hoping for more!

  8. Great post! I so remember our 'duvet sandwich' game that we'd play most days on the bed. He loved it so much ands insisted that I got my turn in the 'sambo' that contained all kinds of 'boy' ingredients like a pillow for dog poo etc!

    Standing arms length from the wall then pushing the wall with his hands was also another good one for us. As was the outdoor and smaller indoor trampoline.

    xx Jazzy

  9. We just started doing more deep pressure and "sensory stuff" with Sadie this summer. I swear it's helping her walk better. People think I'm crazy (except for her OT and Spasticity Doctor) but really it's doing something! We are getting her sensory processing disorder evaluation today. I can't wait to learn more!


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