Autism & Sensory Diets for Sensory Regulation – An Autistic Perspective

Sensory Diet? What’s that? Well believe it or not, this week we are NOT talking about nutrition and eating healthier.

If concept of sensory diets is new to you or you are simply looking for more specific information  on this topic, from an Autistic perspective – stay tuned!

Transcript:

Sensory diet what’s that?

[00:00:05] Well, believe it or not, we are not talking about nutrition and eating healthier this week.

[00:00:12] If the concept of sensory diets is new to you, or you’re just simply looking for more information on this specific topic, from an Autistic perspective, stay tuned.

[00:00:58]Sensory diets, aren’t  new. In fact, you may have heard me talk about this in the past, but before I knew there was a word for this, since it’s something I’ve been doing very naturally on my own for years, even before I knew I was Autistic, I just called it sensory maintenance or regulating my senses.

[00:01:18] It’s kind of neat when you describe a concept and then you find out that there’s actually already a word for that.

[00:01:26] That word this week is “sensory diet”.

[00:01:30] I always like a good definition when we start off these conversations. So the term sensory diet was coined by Patricia Walberger and I probably messed up her name, my apologies, in 1984 and has nothing to do with food.

[00:01:45] A sensory diet is a program of carefully designed sensory activities that people can do  during the day to ensure that they are getting the input their bodies need, helping people to keep their sensory systems in check and properly regulated.

[00:02:03] Sensory diets are sometimes used as part of sensory integration therapy and are usually designed by an occupational therapist.

[00:02:13] Let’s talk about this in plain English.

[00:02:16]Do you ever chew gum spin in your chair or fidget with things on your table during class or a meeting at work?  If you’re feeling restless or tired, do you get up from your desk? Do you move around, take a walk or have some kind of a break just to keep yourself fresh and focused?

[00:02:41] When you are getting up and moving, you are now redirecting your energy. You are providing yourself sensory input  and that’s something our bodies crave and it helps us to stay focused and attentive.

[00:02:59] Those of you who have been with me on social media since the beginning may know this already, because we’ve spoken about movement in relation to sensory processing a lot over the past four and a half years.

[00:03:11] A sensory diet is a set of activities that make up a strategy that is tailored very specifically to an individual’s sensory profile and sensory processing needs.

[00:03:22] While some people with sensory processing issues may require more sensory input. Others may be more sensitive to certain types of sensory input, and then they may require to avoid and have less sensory input.

[00:03:42] Because each person is unique and each person’s sensory needs are unique, sensory diets can vary greatly from person to person.

[00:03:55] What is helpful for me, for example, may not be helpful and is likely not to be helpful to the next person because of these differences in the way every person processes, sensory information.

[00:04:11] Sensory diets are typically carefully crafted often with the help of an OT,  occupational therapist, and they will include activities that target specific sensory issues.

[00:04:24]What might this sensory diet look like?

[00:04:28]I’m going to share with you some  examples from my “sensory diet” – disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer, as I mentioned earlier, most sensory diets are designed with the help of an OT – but I realized I’ve been doing a lot of this naturally on my own as an Autistic adult, without any help or guidance.

[00:04:48] That said I’m always open to help and guidance and so if you have the resource to get guidance and professional help with this, go for it. I’m just going to share with you what I’ve been doing, because I think a lot of us may naturally do things in a way that is good for us, if we’re allowed to do so. When people leave me to do things my own way. I tend to build sensory regulation into my life.  I’ve been doing this even before learning I was Autistic.

[00:05:20] As I said, a sensory diet is made up of a bunch of activities that are specific to an individual’s sensory profile.

[00:05:29] I’m someone who struggles to sit still and I also tend to have too much energy during the day. This can make it hard for me to sit still and focus.

[00:05:40] This can be much worse if I am not properly taking care of, or regulating, my senses.

[00:05:48] I start my day pretty early. I will be out of bed by 6:00 AM at the latest.

[00:05:54] I’ll listen to one of my iTunes playlist and start my day dancing and singing. This gets me pumped up and ready as I start to get dressed and ready for work  because first thing in the morning, I don’t have the energy and oomph I need to get going in my day. So this helps me get energy when I don’t have enough just yet.

[00:06:20] Then about an hour or so later, I’m going to make myself a nice hot cup of coffee, and I’m going to drink my nice hot coffee while I read my emails.

[00:06:33]I’ll also have a little space heater under my desk, blowing on my feet, early in the morning. So I’m just soaking up the heat, and charging my senses, because I crave warmth and I get cold very, very easily.

[00:06:48] By 9:00 or 10:00 AM I’m going to be feeling a bit more energetic and I will probably get up and move at this point.

[00:06:57] I’ll take a bathroom break and I will feed the dogs. I will make maybe some more coffee .

[00:07:04] Just going to say it’s decaf. Don’t worry. I’m actually not ingesting that much caffeine.

[00:07:11]Then I might grab a crunchy chewy snack. And I’ve been eating a lot of  freezer, ice pops recently, and they’re crunchy and I love how it feels in my mouth. I really love crunchy foods. That is a sensory activity I really personally enjoy.

[00:07:32] Whenever it is appropriate to do so during the day I may work while standing or while pacing. This is easier with phone calls than with Zoom,  now a lot of things are on video call and moving around would be distracting to other people in that call in that situation so in Zoom, I have to find other ways to move and remain active.

[00:07:59] By 11 or so, I will probably take some sort of a quick exercise break.

[00:08:06] I’ve been doing yoga for many years now. I also might go take a walk if I have a little bit more time or do a little roller skating out in the neighborhood if I have a lot of time or maybe just in my place here, if there’s less time and if it’s cold outside and the weather doesn’t work.

[00:08:30] I used to have a trampoline. That was really a great thing that I could just pop off and jump on the trampoline for like five, 10, 15 minutes, and then get back to work. That was something that I would kind of do in my day. That was really, really nice. Really kind of missed that trampoline actually.

[00:08:49]Midday, really important – don’t forget to eat.

[00:08:53] I don’t do well when I don’t eat that really messes me up and eating is also a great sensory activity.

[00:09:01] I really like to sensory seek bold flavors and bold foods. I will probably have something spicy for lunch or at least something that has very bold flavor to it.

[00:09:16] Then I may wrap myself in my weighted blanket after lunch or while I’m eating lunch for a while, until my next  call. Then I will drop it down into my lap, where it is off camera and out of the screen,  so I have the bottom half of me wrapped in my weighted blanket while I work.

[00:09:33] It is so comfy and once again, warm, because cold is something that is a sensory trigger I have to avoid.

[00:09:44] At the end of my workday, in the early afternoon, because I often start very early, I will go outside whenever possible.

[00:09:53] I really enjoy spending time in nature, even if it’s just walking, nature is full of sensory experiences, listening to the birds, feeling the breeze or the sunshine on your skin.

[00:10:10] I can go for a nice walk, a long walk, a hike, or like I mentioned earlier, go do something more physical, like skating, swimming, kayaking.

[00:10:21] I am also using stim and sensory tools throughout my day, whenever possible.

[00:10:28] Like I mentioned, the weighted blanket earlier, or when I’m in meetings, I may have something in my hand, like a fidget ring. That way it helps me to sit still and listen, without being distracting to the other meeting participants.

[00:10:42] I also used to have a yoga ball that I sat on when I worked, but I actually don’t have that anymore, now that we live in the RV and we have to be a lot more mindful of our space and the types of things that we keep on hand.

[00:10:58] I also tap my toes and bounced my legs under the table, doing video calls and meetings. 

[00:11:04] I feel like people moving actually distracts me sometimes when I see movement, so I don’t want to be the distraction to other people in the, in the call as well. Just out of respect.

[00:11:16] These are just a few of my own strategies.

[00:11:19] I’ve actually called this before my “sensory lifestyle” – so sensory diets, sensory lifestyle, sensory regulation, routine –  what do you have that you help to keep your sensory system in check?

[00:11:35] Let me know, sensory beings. What is it that you do?

[00:11:38] Because every one of us has a different sensory system. We have different sensory processing needs and our sensory profiles are unique and that means none of these sensory diets are going to be the same.  I’d love for us to all share with each other so that hopefully we can all help each other, find things that will work for each and every one of us.

[00:11:57] Thank you so much for hanging out with me this week. I put out new videos each and every Wednesday.

[00:12:02]Don’t forget to subscribe and turn on the notifications, so you don’t miss when those new videos come out.

[00:12:10] A huge, huge special, extra special, thank you to my Patreon, subscribers and Facebook supporters, who help to make the quality content of this channel possible. I could not do it without you.

[00:12:23] As a  thank you, those users do gain access to videos like this one early – often about a month early.

[00:12:30]It’s just a little, thank you. It’s not nearly enough for all of the help that you do.

[00:12:37] Thank you all. And thank you to everyone just who shares my content because really sharing is caring and that is extremely valuable to me as well.

[00:12:46] So thank you each and every one of you, I will see you all next Wednesday.

[00:12:51] Talk to you next time. Bye .

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