A sensory diet is the strategic use of sensory activities to help individuals with sensory processing disorders. You may or may not have known about your teen’s sensory issues as a child, but either way, you need to create a sensory diet appropriate for your teen’s interests and goals. An appropriate sensory diet for your teen can help your child focus in school, practice emotion regulation and engage in social interaction, all of which are important skills for teens.
Make a list of the seven sensory systems. The senses of touch, smell, taste, hearing and sight are all well known, but vestibular sense, which is the feeling of movement and balance, and proprioception, or pushing or pulling on muscles, can often be overlooked. Make a list of activities that fit within each sensory system. Involve your teen in this step.
Create activities appropriate for your teen’s abilities. While carrying a bag of groceries is appropriate for proprioception for a younger child, a teen can lift free weights, do heavy work like raking leaves or mowing the lawn or enjoy a firm massage. Similarly, while swinging is enjoyable for younger children, teenagers might enjoy yoga or swimming to aid vestibular input.
Check your list of activities to ensure all seven sensory systems are covered. A daily sensory diet for a teen might include listening to relaxing music, doing yard work after school, hobby time such as sculpting or knitting, organizing his desk, trying a new food at dinner, practicing yoga and lighting a candle during bath time. According to West Metro Learning Connections Inc., the teen’s brain is not like the adult brain because it is still developing, which is why it is important to provide a variety of sensory activities.
Talk to your teen about each activity and his goals. For example, organizing his desk might give your teen soothing visual input, which in turn helps him focus on school work. Listening to a favorite tune might help your teen calm down, which improves his emotion regulation. Yoga practice improves his body awareness, which can help your teen display appropriate body language in social situations. The purpose of talking to your teen about goals is that it gives him a reason to do the activities and works toward independence.
Your teen is developing, so his interests might change. Don't be afraid to adjust your teen's sensory diet as he becomes interested in other activities.