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  • Writer's pictureAmy Duffy-Barnes

Sensory Diets for Autistic People of All Ages

A sensory diet is a carefully planned and individualized set of sensory activities designed to provide comfort, regulation, and support for autistic people. They can be done on a daily basis to prevent emotional and physical dysregulation or they can be used as emergency calming strategies when there are issues with sensory processing challenges or when you become emotionally or physically dysregulated. Most if not all autistic people benefit from sensory diets. These diets are not about food but focus on engaging the senses in specific ways to promote emotional well-being and improve sensory integration. By incorporating various sensory activities into our daily routines, autistic people of all ages can experience a range of benefits.

Sensory diets can help reduce anxiety and stress, improve focus and attention, enhance self-regulation, and boost overall sensory processing abilities. Engaging in sensory activities tailored to an individual's preferences and needs empowers autistic adults and children to better understand and manage their sensory experiences, leading to increased comfort and improved functioning in their daily lives.

Visual Sensory Activities:

  1. Art of All Kinds: Lose yourself in your own art or that of others. Explore painting, coloring, collage, digital media, etc.

  2. Creating Mandalas: Draw or paint mandalas, allowing for repetitive and soothing patterns.

  3. Watching Nature: Observe nature scenes, such as watching sunsets, clouds, or waves crashing on the shore.

  4. Lava Lamps or Bubble Tubes: Watch the mesmerizing movements of lava lamps or bubble tubes.

  5. LED Light Strips: Install LED light strips in living spaces to create calming and visually appealing environments.

  6. Plants: A room filled with oxygen-producing plants is a visual sensory delight.

Auditory Sensory Activities:

  1. White Noise Machines: Use white noise machines or apps to create a soothing auditory background.

  2. Nature Sounds: Listen to recordings of nature sounds like rain, waves, or birds chirping.

  3. Music: Play calming music or favorite tunes to promote relaxation or create sensory-rich dance sessions.

  4. Headphones and Playlists: Use noise-canceling headphones and curated playlists to control auditory input.

  5. Binaural Music: As the sound dances across your brain from hemisphere to hemisphere crossing your corpus callosum, you can feel the anxiety slipping away.

  6. Sound Exploration: Experiment with musical instruments or sound-making toys to explore different auditory sensations.

  7. Sound Bathing: This can be an exquisite sensory experience or a sensory nightmare depending on your personal preferences.

Tactile Sensory Activities:

  1. Fidget Toys: Use fidget spinners, cubes, or textured balls to provide tactile stimulation during stressful moments.

  2. Play-Doh or Clay: Engage in molding and shaping activities with Play-Doh or clay.

  3. Sensory Bins: Create sensory bins filled with rice, beans, or sand to explore textures.

  4. Weighted Blankets: Use weighted blankets to experience comforting deep touch pressure.

  5. Silk or Velvet: Experience the softness of silk or velvet fabrics through touch.

Olfactory Sensory Activities:

  1. Aromatherapy: Use essential oils or scented candles to create a calming atmosphere.

  2. Scented Lotions: Apply scented lotions to enjoy different aromas and promote relaxation.

  3. Flower Gardens: Spend time in flower gardens to inhale the natural scents of blossoms.

  4. Baking or Cooking: Engage in baking or cooking activities to enjoy the aromas of delicious foods.

  5. Spice Jars: Smell different spices from jars to experience a range of scents.

Gustatory Sensory Activities:

  1. Taste Exploration: Try different foods with varying tastes, textures, and temperatures.

  2. Herbal Teas: Sip on herbal teas with soothing properties like chamomile or lavender.

  3. Sour or Sweet: Enjoy sour or sweet candies to experience different taste sensations.

  4. Cooking Activities: Engage in cooking or baking to explore taste preferences and experiment with flavors.

Vestibular Sensory Activities:

  1. Swinging: Use a swing in the park or invest in a sensory swing at home.

  2. Rocking Chair: Relax on a rocking chair to experience rhythmic motion.

  3. Yoga or Tai Chi: Practice yoga or Tai Chi for gentle and calming movements.

  4. Dancing: Enjoy dancing to music with controlled or free-flowing movements.

  5. Floating: Use a flotation tank, tub, pool, hot tub whatever you have to relax the body.

  6. Hammocking: Find a peaceful place in the world and rest in the breeze.

Proprioceptive Sensory Activities:

  1. Resistance Bands: Engage in exercises using resistance bands to provide deep pressure.

  2. Pushing or Pulling Activities: Push or pull heavy objects (e.g., furniture) for proprioceptive input.

  3. Deep Pressure Massage: Receive deep pressure massages to relax and ground the body.

  4. Weighted Vests: Use weighted vests to experience proprioceptive input throughout the day.

  5. Compression Shirts: Use these shirts for an extra squeeze that lasts all day long.

Remember that individual preferences may vary, so feel free to mix and match activities to create a personalized sensory routine that suits your needs and brings comfort and joy. Additionally, it's essential to respect sensory preferences and avoid overwhelming situations when engaging in sensory activities.


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