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Massapequa, NY, 11758
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(516) 799-2900

Sensational Development Occupational Therapy of Massapequa, NY provides skilled, child-centered individual and group intervention for children ages birth through 21 who may be experiencing difficulty with daily activities such as self-care, academics, play, social skills, organization, coordination, and behavior. We have teamed up with some of the most dynamic and passionate instructors and we are thrilled to now be offering Yoga! Please call for scheduling and reservations.


Blog posts by the staff at sensational development. We post information and topics of interest for our clients.


Filtering by Tag: Sensory processing disorder

   You’re on a diet? NO, I’m on a “Sensory Diet”

Sara Rutledge

When hearing the word “diet”, as a society, we immediately associate the word with eating healthier or limiting our intake of certain foods and beverages. For parents, when the term “sensory diet” is first introduced, a variety of questions of confusion and curiosity may come into play. Have no fear- this type of diet has no effect on what your child can/cannot eat but what in fact your child can do throughout his/her day to help and assist with attention, arousal, and adaptive responses. A sensory diet is a carefully planned program of specific sensory-based activities that are scheduled according to each child’s needs, consisting of specific components and “nutrition” for the central nervous system (CNS).

Children with a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) may have a difficult time adjusting to everyday stimuli that may not appear as a problem to a person without sensory-processing difficulties. As a child who may have a difficult time adjusting everyday stimuli it may illustrate an under-responsive behavior (low arousal) or an over-responsive behavior (high arousal) (Wilbarger & Wilbarger, 2002). With these children who have a hard time adjusting or modulating his/her behaviors, this may effect a child’s participation in everyday childhood “occupations”, or behaviors and roles that are important to the child’s growth and development. Examples of “occupations” that are important throughout childhood are play, self-care, school, and sleep.  

With all of this information the next step is asking; how is a sensory diet created? As an occupational therapist it is our role to help assist in creating the sensory diet, with the help of parents/guardians, teachers etc. that are with the child on a daily basis. The key to creating a successful sensory diet is by gathering information on the child's day, routines and schedules in addition to observations of the child and how they respond to sensory experiences.  In terms of writing down your child’s daily activities, it is important to note/comment on your child’s performance or activity level during these times or activities. The more detailed you are the more helpful your information will be in determining sensory diet activities and/or tasks that will benefit your child in his/her environment.

For parents and children with a Sensory Processing Disorder, incorporating a sensory diet into his/her daily routine may be helpful in allowing the child to perform as optimally as possible in his/her environment. With this being said, there may be trial and error process, and this is not something to get discouraged about. With the help of your child’s occupational therapist, teachers, and supporters, your child will find a variation of different activities/tasks to helpful maintain an optimal arousal level, in order to find success in each activity throughout the day. Every child with Sensory Processing Disorder is unique and this will reflect each sensory diet differently. Some activities may work for your child and some may not; it is important to stay positive and work through this process- it will be worth the wait!


- Marisa DiRienzo, OTS



Sara Rutledge

Many aspects of development are strongly influenced by oral functions and respiration, including sensory integration.  When children do not have adequate respiration they may fatigue quickly as their muscles are not getting enough oxygen. They may also have difficulty with self regulation and encouraging deep breathing can help to calm a child. As a result, including respiratory activities into your child’s routine may have a positive impact on his or her participation in daily activities.

·         Human Drum: Have child lie on back with neck flexed. Make jungle sounds while gently drumming on belly, under ribcage, or on chest and listen to sound changes.

·         Boat Ride: Have child lie on back on inner tube or pillows and pretend to make the sounds of a motor boat by vibrating lips together.

·         Animal Noises: Either seated or crawling, you can facilitate diaphragmatic action with animal noises (grunting pig, sniffing dog, purring cat, donkey he-haw, owl hoot)

·         Rescue Game: Pretending to be a firefighter, policeman or EMT provides a creative way to help children feel good about saving someone (toy or stuffed animals). This activity provides the opportunity to make loud vibratory noises and the child can change the pitch of the sound while working on coordinating musculature of abdomen and chest.

·         Belly Dancing: Have child lie on back with neck propped up. Place lightweight stuffed animal on belly and see if they can move their belly and make the animal dance until it falls off.

·         “I Smell A…”: Encourage child to do sniffing activities to encourage diaphragm contractions while pretending to smell silly things.

·         Laughing and Play: Gets respiratory muscles working, especially when child is reduced to snorting

·         The Laugh Game: A game for 2-4 players.  The first person says “Ha”.  The 2nd person says “Ha-Ha”, the 3rd person says “Ha-Ha-Ha”, and it goes on , adding a Ha on each turn until everyone is laughing.

·         Silly Songs: Incorporate singing into play whenever possible. Songs with exclamations in them (pop goes the Weasel!, No more monkeys!), facilitate stronger exhalations. Songs with repeated words encourage sound sequencing and longer inspiratory checking.

·         Ghost Tag: You can’t be tagged if you are making ghost noises (“Ooo”). Encourages sustained exhalation.

·         Whistles, Puffamils and Bubbles: Great tools to facilitate respiration

·         Playing in the Band: pretending to be in a marching band using different household items (paper towel rolls, paper cups, water bottles).

·         Bubble Mountain: Fill a container with lukewarm water and dishwashing soap. Using a straw, blow bubbles in the water/soap mixture to make a mountain of bubbles.  

·         Bubble Paper Printing: Set up Bubble Mountain and have liquid food coloring and paper available.  Once you blow a mountain of bubbles, drop several drops of food coloring and press white paper into bubbles.

·         Balloons: once a child has good respiratory strength for force exhalation and adequate jaw and lip closure, they can work on blowing up balloons.

·         Blowing Relay Races: While on scooter or crawling, use straws to blow cotton balls, ping pong balls, or other lightweight objects down the hall or across a table.

·         Straw Pick-up games: Using short straw and lightweight objects, try to inhale to pick up objects and place at another location.

·         Jump and Count: Create rhythmical jumping activities where child can jump and count out loud to increase respiratory volume and endurance.


‘Tis the Season!

Sara Rutledge

The holidays are fast approaching and although this is a time for family, memories, joy and giving, it can also be a time of stress for children and their families, especially when sensory processing difficulties come into play. The lights, carols, sounds of bells, Christmas trees, smells of pine and peppermint, Santa and his Elves at the mall, as well as increased traffic and shoppers out in the community can create a state of sensory overload for many of us.  Just imagine how a child, maybe even your child, feels during this time. The house, entire neighborhood even, can look different with trees trimmed, lights on and blinking and decorations galore.  Driving up to your beautifully decorated home may cause stress for your child if it looks different than usual. Try including your children in the decorating process. Maybe even tell a story or talk about decorations, what specifically will be in or on your home and how it will make the environment look different. When decorating your home, it is important to consider and respect your child’s sensory preferences and needs. This may include choosing lights that stay lit rather than ones that flash or change color, choosing decorations that are silent rather than ones that make noise.  Holiday stories may also cause anxiety, stories about reindeer on the roof, being naughty or nice etc.

Taking shopping trips and general trips into the community during the holidays are times to consider implementing sensory diet techniques more than usual. When you are aware that your day may include activities involving a great deal of sensory information, try to schedule other times of the day to involve calming activities. It will be important to watch your child for signs of sensory overload, shutdown or fright/flight/fight behaviors.  Meltdowns may become more frequent, causing your holiday errands and shopping to become more difficult. Other signs of stress include: changes in sleep wake cycles (having a more difficult time than usual settling down or waking up), changes in overall activity level, changes in their interactions with others (more aggressive than usual).  Prepare your child for any changes in routines; use calendars and visual schedules whenever possible. Writing and drawing a list on a small paper or whiteboard to take in the car can also help. Have your child/children cross off each errand/store as it is accomplished. This should also decrease the “Are we done yet? When can we go home?” questions. You could also try giving your child a “visual shopping list” so they are part of the shopping process and this could keep them attentive, involved, prevent them from pulling everything off of the shelves as well as giving a sense of accomplishment. Baseball caps can decrease the spatial and visual components of being at the mall and oral input (gum, sucking candy etc) can also be organizing.

Please remember to be consistent. If you say you are going to one more store and then going home for dinner, it is important that you follow through with this. Children have a hard time understanding how time elapses and phrases such as “just a minute” or “we will leave soon” may cause your child to become easily frustrated.

A holiday event itself can be difficult as there are typically many more people around possibly bumping into you unexpectedly, more noise and movement and many unfamiliar or strong smells. Keep an eye on your child during the event. Watch for signs of stress and facilitate opportunities to take breaks from family members, go for a walk, and have the child “help” incorporating heavy work activities. Allow the child to stand on the outskirts of group activity (i.e., if the cousins are playing loudly). Maybe go for a walk, have the child get firewood from outside or something out of the car. Also, inform family members that it would be appreciated if they would allow the child to warm up to them prior to approaching them and invading the child’s space before they are ready.

Spending more time in the car can be difficult as well. Keep activities in the car to help with the driving around. If your child gets carsick easily, incorporate heavy work. Provide your child with chewy snacks or gum/lollipops. Wearing a baseball cap in the car can decrease the amount of spatial and visual input too. Play calming music in the car, slow rhythmic music, low frequency sounds such as drumming or classical music can be great. Avoid strong air fresheners or smells in the car as well. If in a car seat, try to provide your child with a surface to place feet flat or push against the back of the seat in front of them.

When sleep/wake cycles are interrupted this can impact the entire family. A bedtime routine is important.  Over time, a routine can help your child’s body get ready for bed before even getting to the bedroom. If bath time is part of the bedtime routine, bring PJ’s into the bathroom and put them on after a vigorous rubdown with a towel before ever opening the door and changing the temperature. A warm towel thrown into the dryer 10 min prior to bath time can also be nice. Background noise such as a humidifier, fan or heater or soft calming music may be helpful, especially if you know music/auditory input is helpful for your child. Respect your child’s preferences for sleepwear. A child who is sensitive to touch may not like footed pajamas or may prefer tighter fitting pajamas that offer deep pressure to the entire body.  Heavy blankets or large pillows may be beneficial too as well as stuffed animals to hug or cuddle with. Massage, joint compressions or pillow squishes may be a way to provide calming input prior to bedtime.  Some children need to be slowly awakened as well; including slowly introducing light into the room, massage, gentle squishing, or rocking. Always limit conversation first thing in the morning for a child who has a hard time waking up.

Be sure to catch your children being good! This includes praise for following directions or routines, displaying appropriate behavior etc. 

And most of all, have a wonderful, happy and healthy Holiday Season and New Year!