Therapeutic preschool programs provide support with key developmental skills for young children, which can benefit any child. The additional support in this type of program may be especially beneficial for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), sensory processing disorder, or other developmental delays. Since children with autism also often experience sensory issues, a therapeutic preschool program might emphasize sensory integration in their daily routine. One way to do this is by creating sensory diets for individual children.
What is a sensory diet?
A sensory diet is a series of activities for a child to perform with the goal of improving how a child responds to different sensory input. Sensory issues can affect every child differently, as some child might be hyposensitive to sensory input (decreased sensitivity), while others might be hypersensitive to sensory input (increased sensitivity). If a child in a therapeutic preschool program experiences sensory issues, their teacher might create a sensory diet that addresses their individual needs. Many of these activities can also be easily incorporated into existing routines in a therapeutic preschool program, so they do not require making major changes to a child’s routine.
Sample sensory diets
Sight: If your child is sensitive to visual input, such as bright light, try replacing fluorescent light bulbs at home or in the therapeutic preschool classroom with a softer light. Also have your child get in the habit of wearing sunglasses whenever they are outside in the sun.
Sound: For children who are highly sensitive to auditory input, try creating a quiet corner in your house or their therapeutic preschool program where they can relax and listen to soothing white noise or classical music.
Touch: If a child is sensitive to tactile input or textures, try using brushing and joint compression techniques at home or school. The deep pressure of these activities can help them to relax and regulate.
Taste: Work with the child to try foods with different tastes and textures, if they are sensitive to tastes.
Smell: If a child is sensitive to olfactory input, have them smell a variety of different cooking spices to expose them to a range of different smells.
If an occupational therapist believes that a child in their therapeutic preschool class can benefit from a sensory diet, they can share this information with the parents and keep communication open. When children are working on sensory processing in their therapeutic preschool classroom, the goal is that they will also be able to generalize this other settings (when they encounter the same type of sensory input in another environment). One way to do this is by having parents add sensory diets into their child’s routine at home. The more practice, the better!
Parents, if you think a sensory diet could help your child at home, there are many online resources, including Pinterest, with helpful tips.
If you think a sensory diet or therapeutic preschool program could benefit your child, contact CST Academy at 773-620-7800. We provide a wide range of services for children in the Chicago area, including ABA therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and feeding therapy.