How to Start a Sensory Diet With an Autistic Child

Written by melissa hincha-ownby
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How to Start a Sensory Diet With an Autistic Child
Modelling clay can help with a sensory diet. (colourful clay image by Karin Lau from

Many children with an autism spectrum disorder also have problems with sensory integration. Some children are sensory avoiders and loud sounds, light touches and bright lights can cause discomfort. Other children are sensory seekers and crave deep pressure and other types of sensory input. Whether your child is an avoider or a seeker, starting a sensory diet can help regulate his sensory systems.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Large pillows
  • Foam mat or bean bag
  • Laundry basket
  • Child-safe modelling clay
  • Beads
  • Shaving cream, gel and foam

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  1. 1

    Place a foam mat or a bean bag on the ground and surround it with several large pillows. Under your supervision, have your child jump onto the mat or into the bean bag, landing on his feet, knees or with his legs crossed. Depending on the child's comfort level, he may also like to fall onto the mat. This crashing provides the child with important proprioceptive input and is a popular activity included in many sensory diets.

  2. 2

    Fill an empty laundry basket with items to weigh it down. For a smaller child, fill the laundry basket with toys. For a larger child, you may want to put washing powder or something else a bit heavier in it. Once the laundry basket is filled with enough weight to provide resistance for the child, encourage your child to push the basket. Some children are more inclined to push the basket if you make a race out of it and see how quickly they can get the basket from point A to point B. Pushing a weighted laundry basket is called heavy work and is an important part of any child's sensory diet.

  3. 3

    Open your child's favourite colour of clay and mix the beads into it. Many sensory avoiders are tactile defensive, so they may not like the feel of clay on their hands. By choosing their favourite colour, the child is more inclined to play with the clay. Implementing a form of tactile input is an integral part of a sensory diet. By mixing the clay with beads, the child will experience multiple tactile sensations during one activity. Encourage the child to continue to play with the clay by asking him to find beads of a certain shape or colour within the clay.

  4. 4

    Spray shaving cream onto a smooth, clean surface and have your child draw pictures in the shaving cream. Different textures are important when creating a sensory diet for your child. Experiment with shaving cream, gel and foam.

Tips and warnings

  • Go at your child's pace when challenging him from a sensory standpoint. Some children may be very resistant to an activity at first. Try to make the sensory diet a fun activity for your child.

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