What is a sensory diet?

By Kate Kelly

At a glance

  • A sensory diet is a treatment that can help kids with sensory processing issues.

  • It includes a series of physical activities that are tailored to sensory needs.

  • An occupational therapist can create a sensory diet.

A sensory diet is a tailored plan of physical activities and accommodations designed to meet a child’s sensory needs. This type of treatment has nothing to do with food. The goal is to get kids in a “just right” state. 

What does that mean? For kids who tend to get overstimulated, a sensory diet will include activities that help them come down from an overloaded state and feel calm. Kids who feel or seem sluggish will do activities to help them feel more alert. 

Having the right sensory input helps kids pay attention in school, learn new skills, and socialize with other kids. But not all kids are able to recognize when they’re not in a “just right” state. Using a sensory diet regularly can help kids build that self-awareness.

Usually, an occupational therapist designs a child’s sensory diet and uses it during therapy sessions. The more kids practice, the better. So parents and caregivers should use the diet at home, too. Teachers can also do some of the activities in school.

Adults with sensory processing issues may benefit from the types of activities in a sensory diet, too. But typically a sensory diet is a plan used to help kids who are struggling.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Keri Wilmot is an occupational therapist who works with children of varying ages and abilities in all areas of pediatrics.