Chillicothe News - Chillicothe, MO
by Antonio Prokup
Sensory Diet
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By Antonio Prokup
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March 12, 2013 5:16 p.m.

Iím sure that if I were to use the word diet many, if not all, people would think of a food diet. This paper is going to introduce you to a new kind of diet called sensory diet. I became aware of this diet about a year ago and it has made quite a difference in my life. Unlike food diets it has nothing to do with the amount of calories you intake. A sensory diet deals with the nervous system. It is designed to help provide the right amount of sensory input your body needs. Most people do not require such a diet, but those of us that do will appreciate this information.<>
Most sensory diets are designed by occupational therapists working with children. However teenagers and adults can benefit from such a diet. To find out what areas you should work on, take a survey. This will then lead you to the area of concern. The following are the sensory areas and activities to consider.<>
Proprioceptive input deals with the sensations from joints, muscles and connective tissues that lead to body awareness. The diet deals with lifting, pushing and pulling. For toddlers you could firmly hug them or press on their legs and arms. Jumping on a trampoline is great exercise and gives an enormous amount of pressure and input. I personally use a steamroller. Its design comes from a variation of a squeeze machine designed by Temple Grandin, an adult woman with autism who has become quite famous because she has overcome many obstacles even with her disability. My steamroller is designed like the old wringer washing machines, with 4 big rollers that I squeeze my body through. After being squeezed, my body feels less tense and I am able to focus much better. <>
Vestibular deals with the inner ear. Movements such as spinning, rocking, or hanging upside down, gives the body what it needs to calm and focus. For the very young child spinning him like an airplane or spinning on a spin disc toy are some of the activities that can benefit the child. However, be careful not to over stimulate. As the child gets older, he should know when enough is enough. For the teenagers and adults, rocking in a rocking chair, swinging in a hammock is socially acceptable and beneficial.<>
Tactile sense helps you be aware of the deep pressure, textures, light touch, temperature and pain. I have many issues with this area. I am an extremely picky eater because I canít tolerate new textures in my mouth. I canít wear certain clothing and I donít like to wear shoes. For young children, it is suggested to have available many ďyuckyĒ items to play with, and play dress up. If these activities were done with me, I may be more tolerant today. However, now at the age of 15 I am slowly improving. I need to continue trying new foods and textures. Learning to accept new textures, leads to improvement in other areas of concern.<>
Auditory refers to what we hear and how we listen. This area is extremely problematic for me. I canít tolerate most loud noises especially when I am not prepared for it. They suggest that children should walk in the field and try to pick out certain sounds being able to block out the unwanted sounds. I have great difficulty blocking out unwanted sounds. I need to train myself. A person who has trouble sleeping because of sounds can listen to nature CDs such has rain falling, or waves splashing. I personally watch TV to fall asleep. It works very well for me. It has also been suggested to stay focused by using back ground CDs that are designed to desensitize someone with issues with the flush of a toilet, thunder or for me applause, yelling, and school bells. These sounds really bother me even if I know they are coming. It isnít always the loudest sounds that are bothersome. Each person is different. I wear headphones listening to music when appropriate. This helps a lot.<>
Visual distractions are the worst. I have a particularly hard time in rooms with lots of clutter and color. My room is dark blue and uncluttered which is good for me. I along with others, have a hard time with light. If I am over stimulated I canít sit still and need to move or maybe run to get away. The suggestions for this is if at all possible, hide the clutter. It is suggested to use neutral colors and plain carpet or rugs with no patterns. The hardest room in our school for me is the art room. There are way too many distractions. I have learned to focus better in art by being allowed to wear headphones and listen to music. This has helped immensely. Some children, on the other extreme, need the bright colors to focus. Not me.<>
I do not have a problem with smells. But those people who do have a hard time concentrating and focusing when the smells are powerful. Suggestions for these people are try to condition yourself to accepting certain smells by making the smells available to you in small dosages at first and then increasing. Also smells can be comforting to you and can help you focus or even sleep better. Occasionally my mom will put a certain kind of oil on my wrist before I go to sleep to try to comfort me. I enjoy the smell and it is relaxing for me.<>
All of these senses together can drive a person a little crazy if each of them is overly sensitive. A sensory diet is the answer and occupational therapists have the answers. Most OTs are not trained in sensory integration, but those who are, are irreplaceable. My OT, Karen Dent, has been an enormous help to me. I have improved so much since she has been working with me. I think any child or adult with autism would benefit from a sensory diet.<>

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