Sensory processig disorder (SPD) refers to a group of disorders that cause problems regulating and processing sensory input. Sensory issues can also be prevalent in autistic individuals. I for one have strong sensry needs, and have lately considered creating my own sensory diet.
What is a sensory diet? It involves all sensory input we deliberately create to meet a person’s sensory needs. I reckon it can also be sensory input we remove, because some people actually get overloaded by certain stimuli. In sensory integration dysfunction, a particular type of SPD, people roughly fall into two types or a combination of both: sensory seeking and sensory avoidant. I for one avoid certain stimuli and crave others, which both can be addressed in a sensory diet.
Here are some examples of sensory activities and input you can use in a sensory diet:
- Fidgeting. This is perhaps the easiest to incorporate, as anyone can be fidgeting. It may be necessary to teach yourself or the sensory person in your life to fidget in a non-obvious way as to minimize social stigma. Then again, consider also educating the people aroudn the sensory person about toleracnce of varying sensory needs.
- Weighted blankets or vests. I have not found a weighted blanket in the Netherlands, but honestly have not been looing yet. A weighted blanket, as the term says, is a blanket with extra weight added to it to provide deep pressure. Even people who may be sensory avoidant towards the slightest stimuli, may like this. A weighted vest should not be worn all day. I don’t know about a weighted blanket for sleep.
- Play dough or clay. Use play dough for a younger child and perhaps some type of clay for an older child or adult. I prefer polymer clay to earth clay because it gets less messy.
- Swinging, jumping, running, exercise. This seems more appropriate for a child, but then again sensory needs don’t cease to exist when a child grows up. Adults might like to swing too. As an alternative if no swings are available, consider certain types of exercise.
These are all activities for the sensory seeker. For the sensory avoidant person, you may need to eliminate certain stimuli. For example, a person might want to choose dim lighting in their house (I realize this is not an option in schools or public places). There are lamps that shine upward to provide a more even lighting experience.
Most SPD people have trouble integrating multiple stimuli. Avoid having the radio or TV on when talking to them for this reason. It may seem like an inconvenience, but please realize most SPD people are already overwhelmed by the lighting in a room and ordinary sunds that cannot be eliminated. Note please that thoughtless exposure may ultimately teach a sensory person to avoid meltdown, but will not get them to avoid overload.