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Episode Notes

There’s a reason Jennifer Cody, a supervisor with All About Kids, brings such meaningful insights to the subject of sensory diets. She has cultivated her knowledge – and gifts as an occupational therapist – over the course of working with hundreds and thousands of kids. It’s not just that she knows her stuff. What’s extraordinary about Jenn is her ability to explain in such an accessible way the ins and outs of sensory issues and treatments. Part II of Zach’s recent conversation with Jenn covers a range of issues that are top of mind – especially for parents struggling to figure out what’s affecting their child and how best to respond. 

Among the topics Zach and Jenn cover:

  • How to implement sensory diets in an increasingly digital world.
  • What to do if you’re in need of a sensory diet but don’t have access to an OT.
  • A deep dive into the different senses and how they are interrelated.
  • A lightning round of Q&A, based on questions Zach found were prominent in various parent forums, including “Will my child outgrow his/her sensory issues?” 

You can hear Pt. I of Zach’s fascinating interview with Jenn Cody here. More information about Jenn and her work is available at this link. Click here to enjoy previous podcast episodes and find out more about All About Kids.

Feel free to email questions or comments to Zach at

  1. How the tidal wave of digital innovation impacts sensory diets.
    1. 3:30 – “It’s a necessary evil. We have to use technology in our daily lives and honestly, thank God. It’s helping a lot of kids in great ways.”
    2. 4:12 –  “If I’m talking about strictly sensory concerns and issues that parents are dealing with, one of the biggest things is the different kinds of sensory input. If you’re relying on just one device, you’re not going to be getting the same kinds of different sensory input you can get in the real world.”
    3. 4:41 –  “There are great things that technology can do in moderation that can help a therapist, a family and a child. But it’s one of those things that we have to think about in moderation.”
  2. Exciting new technologies hold huge promise … and potential inequity.
    1. 7:35 –  “While technology is a vital and necessary part of our lives, you also have to think about the access to those kinds of devices.”
    2. 7:43 –  “Not every family that we work with or every kid is going to have the same access to the newest, latest technology.”
  3. Can Jenn recommend guidelines or signs to watch for in moderating the use of technologies?
    1. 9:06 –  “You really have to look at your own child and see where the problem lies. If you notice that they’re having trouble sleeping, or notice that when you try to take a device away it’s a meltdown and a fight, then to me those are telltale signs that maybe he/she needs a break from technology.”
    2. 9:36 –  “Are they doing educational games and getting some sort of sensory input or are they just mindlessly scrolling or watching videos? That’s also something to consider: What they’re using the devices for.”
  4. Helping families without direct access to support devise their own sensory diet.
    1. 12:35 –  “OTs are specifically and specially trained in task analysis. We take a step back and look at the whole picture, then break it down into a thousand parts. We want to narrow down where the breakdown is occurring.”  
    2. 13:05 –  “Absent (access to an OT) I encourage parents to do the best they can. Take a look and track it … See if you can find any kind of pattern or triggers that is making your child have a difficult time.”
    3. 14:59 –  “You don’t want to try 10 different things at once because then you don’t know which one is working. Ease into it.”
    4. 15:05 – “The easiest, simplest thing – and this goes for all kids, whether you think they have sensory processing concerns or not – is exposure. Don’t just do one thing because that’s what you’re used to and what your child likes. Expose them to as many different sensory stimuli as you can.”
    5. 15:45 – “A child’s job is to play. We want to give them as many opportunities to play with different things and expose them.”
  5. Why the OT’s experience is so valuable on every level.
    1. 18:10: “As therapists we have our bag of tricks. It’s not just a physical bag of tricks but also the mental toolbox that we have based on all our experiences.”
  6. Jenn’s observations about the interplay between sensory diets and medication.
    1. 19:40 – “A lot of times medications that children might have to be on for various reasons might have side effects that show up in sensory differences or sensory struggles and sensitivities.”
    2. 19:57 – “Getting to the root of a concern is sometimes as simple as adjusting a medication or the time they are taking the medication” (although neither Jenn nor any other OT would ever advise an alteration in a prescription without the oversight of a physician).
    3. 20:54 – “Medications for sure can play a part in a child’s sensory processing. 
  7. A closer look at the different senses and how they integrate with sensory diet.
    1. 21:52 – “The common five senses are mostly affected by external stimuli that’s detected by those sensory organs.”
    2. 22:06 – “Other sensory systems are at work within our bodies. Internal stimuli that we have to process are maybe not as well-known but they are the huge ones for OTs a lot of the time.”
      1. The Somatosensory System – Touch receptors, pain tolerance, temperature and proprioception.
        1. 22:40 – “Proprioception is a big, big one for me with a lot of the kids I work with … It’s essentially knowing where your own body is in space. The perception or awareness of your body position, of your body moving. It’s a really important part of being able to regulate yourself.
      2. The Vestibular System – How your body moves in different planes, associated closely with the inner ear.
        1. 24:30 – “It’s the movement, gravity or balance sense. Your internal ability to keep yourself upright and move smoothly.”
        2. 26:14 – “Maybe this is the child who is spinning around in circles constantly because he’s trying to get that input. His body is not processing it … and doesn’t feel that movement.”
      3. Interoception – The awareness and perception of sensations from inside the body.
        1. 27:09 – “You are receiving, assessing and understanding internal bodily signals – Feeling your heart beat faster or slower, knowing when to take a deep breath as opposed to regular breaths, knowing when you’re hungry or full or thirsty.”
        2. 27:52 – “They’re discovering that a lot of interoception has to do with emotions, deciphering and understanding internal emotions.”
    3. What it’s like for a child experiencing all three internal stimuli intermittently or simultaneously.
      1. 30:17 – “Imagine a child who doesn’t have the language or understanding for any of this stuff. Now they’re just trying to live their lives while having issues with these receptors firing in their brains and working together. No wonder they’re acting out.”
      2. 30:58 – “If you’re a kid, that’s where the therapist and parents come into play. They need to be able to understand these concepts and then make it exciting enough for a kid to want to integrate it into their lives.”
  8. Zach has a rapid-fire round of Q &A for Jenn – questions culled from online parent forums.
    1. How can I tell if my child has a sensory problem as opposed to anything else?
      1. 32:44 – “There’s really no foolproof way to know what is causing the breakdown, especially because behavior and sensory processing differences really closely tie together no matter what.”
      2. 33:14 – “At the end of the day, first off, I want a medical professional to see the child to rule out any underlying medical diagnosis. But after that it almost doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it’s affecting their life.”
      3. 33:45 – “There’s really no simple way to know without doing the digging to know what exactly is causing the problem.”
    2. Can my child be both over and under-responsive to the same sensory input?
      1. 34:43 – “There are a couple of different things at play. It’s a fine line of figuring out that perfect amount of the stimuli in question.”
      2. 35:19 – “It’s definitely a give and take. You’ve got to try a bunch of times and see what exactly is the perfect amount. And a part of that is helping to empower that child to recognize when it seems like enough.”
      3. 36:10 – “A child can be over-responsive and under-responsive to different stimuli, too, all the time … Just because your child is under-responsive in one thing doesn’t mean they’re going to be under-responsive across the board.”
    3. Will my child outgrow his/her sensory issue and is there a point when the sensory diet or exercises to be more socially acceptable?
      1. 37:39 – “Your child’s probably not going to outgrow any of these differences. And I don’t mean that to be depressing. The point is to give them the tools to be okay with those differences.”
      2. 37:56 – “Every single one of us has sensory preferences – things that you prefer, that you like or don’t like. And you probably always had those preferences, when you were a kid, through the teen-age years and now as an adult. The point is, as an adult we know how to manage our reactions to the stimuli that we don’t prefer and do it in an appropriate way. So we want to have the children be able to give their bodies what they need.”
      3. 38:35 – “It’s not about curing it and fixing it. It’s about dealing with it in an appropriate manner.”
    4. Can Jenn recommend some of the sensory games kids most enjoy?
      1. 40:00 – “Summer is one of the best seasons for sensory play in general. It can be very messy sometimes – especially if you’re talking about tactile input … In summer you can go in the backyard!”
      2. 40:50 – “There’s so many places you can go in summer – the beach, the park, outdoor concerts, sidewalk chalk. There are so many things that are easy or inexpensive that kids are probably going to want to do anyway.”
      3. 41:30 – “If your child really likes playing with his trucks but avoids touching different textures, then maybe we need that truck to go to the carwash and put shaving cream on them to wash them and then rinse them with water and use brushes … Continued exposure and using things that they already approve of.”
      4. 42:17 – “Parents sometimes are the inhibitors. We don’t want to get dirty. We don’t want our houses to get dirty. But when we’re talking about sensory input, no holds barred. Don’t be scared to get in there with your kid.”
  9. Sensory diets are great for everyone – child or adult – with or without issues!




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