As I write this blog today, it is our typical Friday afternoon.  The great feeling that the weekend is upon us, the traditional pizza dinner (eaten in the den) and the chance to unwind from what was a busy school week for us all.  

Relaxation takes on many different forms depending on the person who is doing it.

Michael relaxes by bouncing a basketball and chatting away, about his day, Elizabeth on the other hand, relaxes by watching some television.  By herself.  Laying on the floor. Never on a chair, never on the couch.  It is what feels right to her.

We all have our own like and dislikes when it comes to listening to what our bodies and minds need through the course of each day.  And most of the time we can adjust from what we want to do to what we have to do, pretty much without missing a beat.

Example:  We may want to remove ourselves from a long, tedious lecture, but what we do is move to a new position to get comfortable, tell ourselves “only 15 more minutes”  and watch the clock.   (We may complain in our head about things or mumble a bit) but for the most part, we can manage to get through the lecture and our day.

But for those whose neurological system has trouble regulating itself…those times when we can manage by doing things like I mentioned, are the very times they cannot do it alone.  They need help to get their system to cope with and adjust to the environment around them.

Those on the Autism spectrum have sensory needs.  Those who have Sensory Processing Disorder have sensory needs.  Truth be told, we all have some sensory issues (I throw out the topic of itchy tags…anyone else guilty of ripping them out themselves?) but it is the degree to which they affect one’s day and life that makes the difference.  

There is something called a Sensory Diet, a phrase coined by OT Patricia Wilbarger.  It is a carefully designed, personalized activity plan that provides the sensory input a person needs to stay focused and organized throughout the day.

What this means is that certain sensory inputs are offered to the person in need throughout their day to help them.  Be it sounds, lights, texture and more.

Our brain receives sensory input from our five senses:  Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting, Tactile or Touch. These very senses, whose input can overwhelm a certain person’s system when they are too much,  can actually be used to calm another person who has different sensory needs.

And this is where the wonderful, unique and so amazing thing called a Sensory Diet comes into play.

Some people need less noise,  others need  to hear music or calming sounds, or even to block out sounds with something like earBanz to stay organized.

Some people need lighting that is calm, like when teachers use Fluorescent Light Filters to take away lighting that is too bright.

Some people shy away from being touched and others crave touch and pressure so weighted blankets can provide the input they are looking for.  As can weighted lap pads.

Fidget toys, such as chewy necklaces, chewelry or chewy tubes, can offer sensory input to those who need to move or fidget and even for those who have a sensory need to chew. 

So many things can be used to help a person who has sensory needs, it is all about finding the right item, in the right amount at the right time.  And this is where the OT or occupational therapist comes in.   

To get a sensory diet tailor made for your child will help beyond measure.  In my opinion, it is one of the most important things.  

The OT can help make this diet. And they can decide if your child needs brushing  which is officially called the Wilbarger method.  Please read about this wonderful protocol when you can.  But those brushes called Wilbarger brushes are the things that I feel helped Elizabeth the most in her earliest years.

A sensory diet is unlike any diet that one hears about on an infomercial.  It is not one that will trim a waistline or help with cholesterol.  For those who have sensory needs, it is downright life changing.    Please search our  website to see the amazing selection of sensory items, read how they are used and please ask questions to those who work with your child or please ask questions here on this blog site.  

I can share what we did, you can share your experiences and we can help those who just started learning about their child’s needs.

I wish you a peaceful week.