Sensory diets are a simple planned sensory routine that is embedded within their normal routine. So how do we set up sensory diets in our classroom to set up our students for success?
First- Look at your Daily Schedule. Now- consider charting your students behaviors. You can consider this as a group- or on an individual basis. I always look at my class' behavior as a whole to start. When I see that there are certain times of the day that as a class- it's unmanageable. I re-evaluate my schedule if that is the case. One example for me was trying to transition my students straight from the bus to the classroom. That is why I start my day with morning fitness to allow some sensory integration before we even step foot in the classroom.
More importantly- it's very important to look at sensory diets on an individual basis. Chart behaviors and look to find patterns. What are the challenging times for the student? When are the students having difficulty focusing? Difficulty sitting? Look and see if you can find consistent times or consistent activities that produce certain behaviors for each student.
From here you can start to implement different strategies to help the child to succeed within the day.
If the student is overstimulated and having trouble focusing consider some of these CALMING strategies:
- deep pressure
- dimming lights
- weighted vest
- spin (computer chairs are GREAT for this)
- rocking in a chair
- bounce on yoga ball
- fidget toys
If the student is under-stimulated and acting lethargic consider some of these ALERTING strategies:
- bright lighting
- drink ice water
- chew gum
- increase movement opportunities
I really do challenge you to step back and look at your students from a different viewpoint. Consider different sensory needs. Some of our most challenging students may turn into a different child if we are able to make the accommodations and provide the supports appropriate for them.
This is the MOST basic post about sensory diets. It really is just an overview and to introduce the idea of implementing sensory diets within your classroom. Because this is just so ABSOLUTELY important I wanted to provide you with several links to help you get your sensory diet's set up! Bookmark these links :)
And most importantly- consult with an occupational therapist. THEY ARE THE EXPERTS. Let them help you help the students. Lean on each other to find the right balance of activities for each kiddo!