Journal Club Discussion #3: Early Intervention & Sensory Diets

Hey readers! I took a poll on Instagram about what you guys want to read this week and the vote is in…let’s talk about early intervention (EI)! This week’s article is called “Understanding the Use of Family-Centered Principles by Early Intervention Occupational Therapists in the Development of Sensory Diets” by Danielle Friberg, OTF, OTR/L and can be found using this link if you are an AOTA member: (ps. Follow me on Instagram for more content, discussions, and to vote on next week’s article! @allisontheotstudent).

Background Info – First of all, I had to look up what a sensory diet is before reading this article. Did anyone else think it meant eating foods with different textures and scents?! I guess I’ll learn more about this when I get to my ped’s course, but for now I understand that it is actually a “diet” of physical activities for a child to experience in order to provide them with different sensations. This can be for over-responsive and under-responsive kiddo’s of all ages, not just those in EI, and allows them to remain focused and engage appropriately with their environment throughout the day. This was a really informative website that I checked out to learn more about it, and it even gave examples of different “diets” for kiddo’s of all ages!

The aim of this study was to determine whether and how EI OTs use a family-centered approach when creating sensory diets for kiddo’s as well as the effectiveness of sensory diets and the perceived family barriers and supports to this intervention.

The Results – The OTs in this study reported using a family-centered approach by tailoring interventions to each individual family and by teaching the interventions in multiple ways. One way that the OTs tailored interventions to the family was by asking them to prioritize problem behaviors to then tackle during therapy using a sensory diet. The OTs also reported not using standardized measures to assess the effectiveness of the interventions, probably since each case is so different. I imagine that this may create a problem in getting insurance to cover sensory diets as an OT intervention. Does anyone have experience with this?

What I Think – I think that sensory diets are SO COOL. Granted I just learned about them today, but I love the concept! I think that it is really important to create interventions that are tailored around each individual kiddo and his/her family, because each kiddo has completely different needs. It is also really important to tailor the education materials to each family, since each family will take in that information in different ways. Asking the family to prioritize what they want to work on will allow the OT to intervene in the most effective way and hopefully enable the family and the kiddo to engage in the occupations that are important to them on a daily basis. This can be a real struggle for families with kiddo’s with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who have sensory needs. Rather than engaging in the occupations that they desire, the family may avoid certain situations to avoid negative behaviors from their kiddo. It sounds like implementing a sensory diet can help with that!

Question of the Week – Do you use sensory diets in your practice? If so, what is an example of a sensory diet that you may implement with a kiddo who has sensory needs?

Thanks for reading! Be sure to like this post and leave a comment below!

Citation: Friberg, D. (2018) “Understanding the use of family-centered principles by early intervention occupational therapists in the development of sensory diets.” American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2018.72S1-PO7017


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