Requesting A Sensory Diet For Your Child: What To Expect

Requesting a sensory diet for your child: What to expect

What types of accommodations can you expect for your child?

You, your child’s OT, and the school will collaborate as a team to develop specific recommendations for your specific child. This post will help make you aware of what you can reasonably expect — and how to ask so your child receives what s/he needs. Here are some examples and explanations of issues and accommodations. 

Testing accommodations

Here are some possible accommodations a sensory sensitive child may need/receive:
– If distractions are an issue, she may need to take tests in a room by herself or with just a few other children, to reduce sensory input
– If he processes information more slowly than his peers, he may need extra (extended) time
– If writing by hand is problematic, she may need to type on a computer or dictate to a scribe

Instructions accommodations

Especially if your child has auditory or visual difficulties, s/he may need in-class, homework, and test-taking instructions, and the day’s schedule, to be provided both verbally and visually. Visual instructions can be written either on the board or on paper (as a handout). 

Organizational accommodations


Organizational assistance 

Children with sensory processing disorder are often disorganized and need more time than their peers to learn how to become organized. Here are some ways your sensory sensitive child’s teacher could help him with organization so he can get his work done on time and correctly:

– Backpack backup check

The teacher or aide could help your child check her backpack at the end of the day to be sure she is bringing home all the correct books and papers she needs to do her homework. 

– Homework backup notebook

Your child could be given a homework assignment notebook which includes, along with copies of the assignments, space for short notes or comments between you and the teacher. Both you and the teacher would sign the notebook every day.

– Backup books

Your child could be given a second set of books to keep at home in case he forgets a book at school. 

– Backup assignment directions

If the teacher has an online class page, and is amenable to doing so, s/he could post directions and deadline dates for multi-step assignments, so you can help your child stay on top of homework.

– Other parents as backup resources

Your child’s teacher (or you) could ask a few other parents for permission to share their email addresses and/or phone numbers with you, if they would be willing to send you homework assignment instructions your child missed, or even lend you a book that she forgot to take home.

Classroom accommodations


Concentration accommodations

Your sensory sensitive child could sit at a single desk away from other children when working on multi-step, complex assignments, for better concentration without distractions.

Visual accommodations

Accommodations would vary according to your child’s specific needs. For example:
– Your child would be allowed to wear any necessary eyewear prescribed by his doctor or recommended by his OT, including colored lenses and sunglasses indoors as part of his sensory diet.
– Your child would be provided with written directions in a form she can easily read. For instance, if she has difficulty reading colored marker on a whiteboard, or white chalk on a blackboard, she would be given a copy of the assignment in black ink on white paper.

How to talk to your child’s teacher and develop a relationship

It’s critical to get your child’s teacher on board from the beginning as an ally and advocate for your child so s/he is invested in helping him thrive. Once the teacher understands what your child’s challenges are, s/he will help find ways to to help him succeed in the classroom. 

Begin at the beginning

Meet with the teacher as early as possible in the school year, perhaps even during a prep day when the teacher is in school but the school year hasn’t begun. Ask that you support each other so your child receives consistent input at home and at school. 

Be as specific as possible about challenges…

Make the teacher aware of your sensory sensitive child’s challenges. Is auditory overload a problem but not visual? is sitting still an issue? etc. Also consider bringing a written summary so s/he has it for reference.

and also about strategies that work…

Let the teacher know what strategies are successful at home and what has worked at school. Perhaps it would be helpful for him or her to speak with last year’s teacher for additional input; if so, don’t hesitate to ask. 

including current school accommodations

Give the teacher a copy of your child’s IEP or 504. Perhaps highlight the accommodations your child is receiving. If they aren’t written into the plan, give the teacher a list of equipment/physical modifications your child uses (see the previous post for examples).

Go ahead, brag a little

Tell the teacher about your child’s strengths, too. Your child is not defined by her sensory processing disorder. What is she best at? What is she passionate about? What is she likely to contribute to the classroom?

Ask for the teacher’s opinion and…

Make it clear that you respect his or her skills and knowledge and are prepared to listen to his/her ideas as well as your own. After all, you’re always open to trying new strategies, right? Make sure the teacher knows this.

Ask what the teacher wants you to do on your end and…

Be sure to communicate that you expect your child to keep up with the rest of the class and that you will be doing your part to help meet that goal. Make sure the teacher knows that s/he can call on you at any point to resolve any issues. Ask if the teacher would like you to follow up on this initial meeting, and if so, when and how (phone? email? in person?).

Follow up with a written or emailed thank you

Thank the teacher for his or her time when you leave, and also send a thank you note or email. You can summarize what you talked about if you feel a written record would be helpful, but keep it short.

Looking ahead:

Now that we’ve discussed sensory diets in quite a bit of detail, I hope that you feel confident about the process of creating a program that works for your daughter or son, both in and out of school. Remember, you are not only your child’s parent and champion, but also the expert on the subject of your child, so don’t hesitate to advocate for him as strongly as is necessary. In an upcoming post, we will discuss ways to adapt the environment to make life easier for your sensory child (and you!).
Do you or your child regularly face specific challenges you could use some advice on how to handle? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Also, let me know there or via email what other topics you would like to discuss or hear more about. 
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I look forward to hearing from you!

All the best,

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