Sensory Diets

by Bonnie Hanschu, OTR, and Myania Moses, OT What helps you get started in the morning?  Hot shower?  Cold shower?  Your regular exercise routine or morning run?  Quiet time? Music?  All these activities provide sensory stimulation to the nervous system in the same way that food provides nourishment to the body. Some sensory input such as clapping is like a snack, low intensity and short duration.  Swinging is more like a meal, higher in intensity and longer lasting.  A good sensory diet provides the combination of input needed for peak performance from the time we wake up until we go to bed. Sensation stimulates a primitive part of the brain, known as the brain stem, which responds to touch, movement, and muscle action by releasing chemicals that wake us up or calm us down. Everything we do, think, or feel is possible because of the automatic modulating activity of the brain stem to keep us at an appropriate level of…

How Sensory Integration and Nutrition Interact

by Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND, co-founder, Developmental Delay Resources Sensory integration (SI) is a complex process that makes it possible for a person to take in, organize and interpret information from our bodies and the world.  (Is the soup hot or cold?  Did the bee sting hurt?  Where are my arms and legs?  Do I need to go to the bathroom?)  Using sensory information efficiently enables us to function smoothly in daily life. Most people naturally get a good “sensory diet,” which nourishes the nervous system and creates healthy circuits capable of relaying accurate information.  For children, ordinary touch and movement experiences, such as swinging, climbing, digging, and molding playdough, are “food” for the brain. Children with SI dysfunction, however, misread sensory input, often under- or over-reacting to it.  If a child’s sensory processing is disorganized, he may be hypo- or hypersensitive to temperature, pain, and the way his body works. If behavior becomes out of sync with life, therapy…