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669 Broadway
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 diet

   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.


Fall Activities

Sara Rutledge

Fall is here! When the air starts to feel cool and crisp and the streets become filled with colorful leaves, many people take advantage of this beautiful season by participating in Autumn-themed activities such as pumpkin-carving and apple-picking.  This time of the year is filled with plenty of outdoor festivals, pumpkin farms, apple orchards, and other seasonally based activities that can sensory-rich provide fun for the whole family.  Here are some suggestions for fall activities that you can complete at home to address a variety of sensory-based skills while providing a fun and engaging way to celebrate this season.

 Heavy Work Activities:

  • Go pumpkin picking and have your child pull the cart or find the largest pumpkin to carry
  • Rake the leaves into a big pile to jump in
  • Draw large pictures on the sidewalk using chalk
  • Build an outdoor obstacle course
  • Build an indoor or outdoor fort using pillows, blankets, and furniture
  • Cooking activities: Make homemade applesauce, roll out the dough to make a pie, or use cookie cutters to make Fall cookies

 Tactile Play:

  • Carve a pumpkin and use hands (with gloves if needed) and spoons to remove the inside parts and seeds
  • Make Pumpkin Goo or Ghost Goo
  • Go “bobbing” for apples using hands or large ladles
  • Create arts and crafts projects including leaf painting and apple prints
  • Visit a farm, go on a hay-ride, and take a trip to the petting zoo 
  • Make “guess bags” with various fall-themed items inside. Allow the child to use only her hands to identify the items (great tactile discrimination activity)
  • Cooking activities: Get messy by making mini caramel apples or pumpkin rice crispy treats. Be a helper in the kitchen stirring batter, using a whisk or a rolling pin.

 Visual Perceptual Games:

  • Take a hike! Go on a nature walk scavenger hunt around town and search for fall items (i.e. various colored leaves, acorns, pine cones, decorate Jack-o-Lanterns, favorite Halloween decorations, etc).
  • Decorate the front door and the house for Halloween and Thanksgiving
  • Visit a Farmer’s Market and search for interesting looking fruits/vegetables
  • Complete a balloon toss using a cone-shaped cup. Decorate the balloon and turn him into a pumpkin! 
  • Visit a corn maze and use a map to find your way out

 Visual and Fine Motor Activities:

  • Decorate a pumpkin using stickers, paint, markers, etc.
  • Collect pinecones and acorns to decorate with paint, stickers, markers, beads, etc.
  • Decorate a window with window markers or paint, draw seasonal themed pictures.
  • Visit a pond and bring some bread to tear and feed the ducks
  • Collect old clothing, stuffing material, and other items to build a scarecrow.

 Oral Motor and Respiratory Activities:

  • Have a taste-test: get the craziest gourds and root vegetables you can find. Have a mini-food taste test and see if your kids like rutabega, spaghetti squash or turnips the best.
  • Straw sucking races: Use a straw to pick up various lightweight fall items such as leaves and large pumpkin seeds and transfer into a basket. See who can get the most items in their basket first!
  • Leaf blowing game: Create a pathway or maze on the floor. Have your child lie on her belly and use deep breaths to blow a leaf to the finish line. Turn it into a race and see who can get their leaf across the finish line first!
  • Pretend to be a ghost and make the "Oooooo" sound, see who can make it the longest with one breath

Sensory Friendly Businesses


 Siobhan Stellato, MS OTR/L

Happy Halloween

Sara Rutledge

Fall is a time of the year that many people seem to look forward to and enjoy. This season is filled with the anticipation of changing leaves, apple and pumpkin picking, and of course all of the events surrounding and leading up to Halloween.  Although the traditional preparation and activities involved with Halloween may be a fun and exciting for most families, a reasonable number of children may also find this time to be filled with frightening decorations, uncomfortable costumes, and unpredictable sounds and surprises.  The anticipation of encountering these holiday stressors may cause a child to experience anxiety and discomfort in the presence of Halloween events.  As individuals who celebrate Halloween by distributing candy, Trick-or-Treating, and attending costume parties, it is important to remain aware of these stressors, do our best to prepare our children for this event, modify the environment to address their concerns, and provide every child with the opportunity to participate in this exciting holiday. 

In the last few years, there has been a powerful quote shared throughout social media that has raised awareness of the challenges that many children may face during the events that surround this fright-filled holiday.  It reminds us to remain open minded about each individual child’s needs and be aware of our ability to remain patient and try to understand that the children we see celebrating this day may be facing their own obstacles in order to engage in the various Halloween activities. 

Tonight a lot of creatures will visit your door. Be open- minded. The child who is grabbing more than one piece of candy might have poor fine motor skills. The child who takes forever to pick out one piece of candy might have motor planning issues. The child who does not say “trick or treat” or “thank you” might be painfully shy, non-verbal, or selectively mute. If you cannot understand their words, they may struggle with developmental speech.  The child who looks disappointed when he sees your bowl might have an allergy. The child who isn’t wearing a costume at all might have SPD or autism. Be kind, be patient, smile, pretend you understand. It’s everyone’s Halloween.

When reading the above quote, it may seem easy to remain patient and understanding throughout the day of Halloween. However, there are additional steps we can take to help prepare children for the excitement of the day and provide them with an environment that will promote their ability to participate in the holiday activities while remaining aware of their needs and concerns. Here are some tips and strategies to ease the stress of Halloween and assist in creating a fun and interactive day. Do you have any additional tips that have been helpful for your family on Halloween? Please share in the comments below!

Prepare your child for the holiday traditions:

Discuss some of the traditions and activities that surround Halloween. Read a book, watch a video, create a social story, or role-play some of the events they may experience.  Establish and review the rules and boundaries regarding certain activities (i.e. Trick-or-Treating or approaching strangers).

Be flexible when choosing and wearing a costume:

Remember that an outfit does not need to be elaborate to be considered a costume. Be aware of the costume’s qualities including the texture, beading, stiffness, and restrictiveness. Allow your child to try out various costumes and decide which is best for him. Let your child know that he may change his costume as needed, or may participate in Halloween activities without a costume if preferred. Practice wearing the costume at home to become familiar with the fit and to become accustomed to others’ reactions to the outfit.

Map out a pre-planned Trick-or-Treat route:

In the upcoming weeks, travel around your town and be aware of houses that may be too scary or areas that may become very busy during the Trick-or-Treating hours. Prepare a route to follow that avoids large crowds, loud noises, scary decorations, and heavy traffic.  If possible, go to houses or friends or family members.  Prepare your child and remind them that they can pass by houses that may have too many children at the door, people with scary costumes, or frightening decorations.

Practice the sequence of walking to the door, saying “trick-or-treat”, putting the treat in the bag, and saying thank you. Remember that even a short Trick-or-treat session can be fun!

If your child does not want to Trick-or-Treat, choose alternative activities:

Trick-or-treating is not mandatory. Meaningful participation in Halloween activities can include making Halloween crafts, carving a pumpkin, bobbing for apples, watching Halloween themed movies, or even handing out candy at home.  Choose activities that benefit your child’s needs.

Focus on your child’s sensory diet to prepare for the Halloween activities:

Complete heavy work and proprioceptive activities at home prior to engaging in exciting Halloween events. Oral sensory input can also be calming. Provide your child with exercises or activities that will promote regulating his body in preparation for a busy day filled with many stimulating events.

Consider noise-canceling headphones during events that may have loud music, large crowds, or unexpected sounds from decorations.

Allow all children to participate in party games and activities:

Although some children may enjoy getting messy and carving a pumpkin, this activity may cause other children discomfort. Allow children to decorate pumpkins with markers or stickers. Show children that a dark or overwhelming room can be modified by turning on the lights, decreasing music volume, and covering decorations.

Be aware of the various “treats” that your child is given:

Many candies and foods may contain allergens and trigger food sensitivities. Establish rules on making sure an adult checks the “treats” before the child eats them. Be aware of “hidden” ingredients such as soy, milk products, and red-dye.

Monitor your child’s behaviors and reactions throughout these Halloween events:

Throughout these Halloween events, it is important to remain alert and aware of your child’s behaviors and arousal level to help them fully participate in the desired holiday activities.  Some things to consider include limiting the duration and number of people and activities, give your child notice and advanced sequence of the upcoming events, and practice using phrases such as “is it my turn?” and “please don’t touch my costume”.

Know when your child is giving you signs that it is time to disengage from an activity. Recognize the signs of sensory overload including fatigue, crying, easily frustrated, and increased level of arousal or excitement. Provide your child with a quiet and safe environment when activities become too overwhelming.

Preparing your children for Halloween and providing them with a safe and understanding environment will encourage them to participate in the various holiday festivities and enjoy a day filled with fun and exciting events for everyone!

-Siobhan Stellato, MS OTR/L