We often find that our children with sensory processing differences are still unsupported in the environment because of the structured, prescriptive style of “sensory diets”.
It is perceived that if we expose someone to stimuli that dysregulate then we will become resilient to it and therefore it becomes tolerable to us and we are being supported.
What this actually does is take away our autonomy. It teaches us that we should mask and comply and that our voices are irrelevant.
Sensory diets were supposed to be a form of extra support for children who are disabled by the environment.
They were designed to enhance an experience.
Help us regulate, teach us about our bodies and help us understand what works and what doesn’t, and how we can improve on those experiences.
Over the many years since I first saw a “sensory diet” they are being implemented in every way they were not designed for.
Prescriptive and structured, for the advantage of everyone else but the dysregulated person it is supposed to benefitting.
This is NOT Sensory Support Success!
If we continue to use these documents in such a structured way that it does not benefit the child then we need to revise it.
Is this document supporting?
Is it written in a way that the support is given at the same time, for a specific amount of time during the day?
Is the child benefitting?
Was the support written in collaboration?
Have you taken into account the Sensory and other “spoons”?
Is the support inclusive?
Is it unstructured?
These are the steps to Sensory Support Success and if you’ve answered NO to any of the questions above then this is not going to be successful.
If we are giving children 3x 10-minute movement breaks at 9:30 am, 12:00 pm and 2 pm every single day then this will become False Inclusion.
The child will suffer, and depending on whether masking is involved the class and family life will break down.
It is often not the OT document that is in question here, it is how we transfer that advice to an IEP or similar and the implementation.
We have to use our judgment, our knowledge and our experience. We need to study non-verbal communication and behaviours and we need to make decisions at each moment in REAL TIME and support off the cuff, situationally and non-prescriptive.
Instead of checking the clock for the time of a designated sensory break, check the child for whether or not it is needed. The clock won’t tell you the amount of distress a child is in. But the child’s body language and ability to integrate will.
Communication can come in lots of different forms and when we have a child who is dysregulated we need to act at that exact moment.
Even better, we can use these moments as teachable moments and tune our systems to alleviate the sensory pressures before communication is needed or given by the child or adult.
Training your own inner systems to be in tune with those sensory-sensitive pupils will enable you to be ALL INCLUSIVE! And it will also help the child to begin to understand their own body signals and interoception.
1 Interoceptive Aware
All of the above will help support co-regulation.