Nutrition for Kids With Sensory Disorders

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A sensory disorder --also known as sensory integration dysfunction or sensory integration disorder-- is a neurological disorder that affects the way your brain processes signals sent to your senses. Sensory disorders can affect one or more of the senses. For example, some people have trouble processing sounds, while others have visual problems.

Foods that Balance Energy

Children with sensory disorders might have levels of energy that are unusually high or unusually low, according to the Exceptional Family Resource Center organization. Some fatigue easily and might have trouble paying attention because their brain is tired and foggy. One way to combat this is to provide them with a steady source of carbohydrates, which helps fuel the body and balances out blood sugar levels. To avoid extreme ups and downs of energy, it’s best to avoid “fast” carbs, which the body absorbs quickly. This means staying away from sugars and white flours, and instead concentrating on whole grains and carbs that aren’t highly processed. Carbs that are high in fiber, such as fruits and vegetables, are also good choices to provide steady energy.


Although sensory integration disorder can be a stand-alone disorder, it is also commonly found in people who suffer from other problems, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety disorders. A 2011 study published in the “BMC Gastroenterology” journal looked at the correlation between autism and gastrointestinal problems and found that autistic children are more likely to suffer severe and frequent gastrointestinal problems than children who are not autistic. The study also points out that gastrointestinal problems might worsen symptoms of autism. According to the researchers conducting the study, probiotics significantly improve the digestion process and lower the severity of symptoms of autism. Probiotics are available from your pharmacy as a dietary supplement or you can look for probiotic-fortified yogurt and other dairy products.

Foods for the Nervous System

Children with sensory integration disorder need to eat plenty of foods that support the nervous system, according to licensed nutritionist Kelly Dorfman, MS in an article for the Developmental Delay Resources website. Vitamin E, essential fatty acids and the B vitamins are all important. Magnesium is also essential, as this mineral helps transmit electrical information in the brain. Foods rich in magnesium include mustard greens, broccoli, pumpkin seeds and summer squash. The B vitamins can be found in whole grains, while nuts and seeds are rich sources of vitamin E. For essential fatty acids, make sure your child’s diet includes fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel.

Different Kind of Diet

Occupational therapist Anna Jean Ayres, who coined the term sensory integration dysfunction, suggests parents put their children in a “sensory diet.” This means giving the child with sensory disorder just enough information and activities that it challenges him without overwhelming his senses. A sensory diet has nothing to do with food. Instead, the term refers to “fueling the senses” with good-quality stimuli and information.