#129 - Is Low Sensory Registration Impacting Your Child's Success? Sensory Diets for Low Registration!

by Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L November 25, 2020 1 Comment

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Is Low Sensory Registration Impacting Your Child's Success? Sensory Diets for Low Registration!

As your podcast DJs, we are answering a listener’s question today - how to create a sensory diet for a child with low registration. First, we dive into what it looks like to have a child with low registration. Then we give you our top 5 activities to complete with your child. Take some notes!


Is Low Sensory Registration Impacting Your Child's Success? Sensory Diets for Low Registration!

In the past, we've discussed how to support children who have higher levels of arousal and help them become more tranquil so that they can complete tasks. But this is an entirely different circumstance, something we haven't touched upon before.

What Is Low Sensory Registration?

Low registration to sensory stimuli is a term that refers to the difficulty individuals have in perceiving and interpreting sensory information accurately. Research has shown that many children with learning disabilities, developmental delays, and medical conditions struggle with low registration to sensory stimuli.

Kids with a heightened threshold to sensory experiences tend to be unresponsive or disinterested. They may appear lethargic, passive, and as if they're in their own world. These kiddos might seem indifferent towards changes around them or within themselves due to their unique neurological system.

What Are Signs Of Low Sensory Registration?

Children and adults who have difficulty registering sensory information may often show signs of diminished muscle power, low stamina levels, or slow motor skills. Oftentimes, these kids require additional sensory input to reach their ideal state of alertness.

However, they will not actively seek it out and are rarely excessively energetic or mischievous; in fact, the most difficult thing about children with low registration is that you can't identify when they aren't registering sensation unless you know exactly what signs to look for. They won't tell you themselves.

Kids with low registration often find it difficult to be enthusiastic about sensory activities due to their lack of physical awareness. This directly affects Praxis, which is the ability to conceptualize an idea or task and then execute it successfully through follow-through. Without a strong foundation in praxis, these children struggle with completing energizing activities efficiently on their own.

Whenever you're providing instructions or talking to the child with lessened attention, remember to give them more time for refocusing their focus on you. Young children are often not as responsive to sensory cues as they should be, because their auditory system doesn't always recognize that someone is speaking to them.

It's important to remember that movement and tactile input aren’t the only senses at play; the child's auditory system must have time to process data from its surroundings. Utilizing visuals such as schedules, pictures, and lists can be a major help to any child; however, it is especially beneficial for those with low registration abilities since they are not taking in the sensory world at the same rate. Through the use of these reminders and prompts, kids will have an easier time regaining their focus on tasks.

Top 5 Activities To Address Low Sensory Registration

Having examined exactly what low sensory to registration is and how we can detect it, let's explore some activities that will be instrumental in creating a well-rounded sensory diet plan geared towards activating their senses.

1. Vestibular Input And Inversion

Create moments that challenge the senses with activities such as swinging, jumping and running on a therapy ball. Keep it fast-paced to promote mindful processing.

Swing five times then abruptly stop them - adding in shakes for additional stimulation between each round of swings. Shake, shake, shake their swing for five counts before having them quickly switch directions to continue the cycle. Simon Says is also an exciting activity to get your kids up and moving! Have them run, stop, turn around, and then jump.

To ensure success, it's imperative to help the child recognize that this type of stimulation is advantageous for their attentiveness. Moreover, with the zones of regulation system, you can educate them on how they usually reside in the blue zone and how this impacts their bodily movements. It’s important to boost them up into the green zone so they are prepared to learn and have fun!

Teaching children that fast-paced activities are beneficial for their bodies, helping them to reach a state of alertness and readiness in the green zone. Even if your child is not yet able to understand or comprehend the various zones, you can use pictures of different activities as visual aids so they can make an independent choice about which activity they want to do. It's important that these alerting activities remain enjoyable and exciting!

2. Alerting Oral Motor Input

Wake up your body with a quick and fun game that requires no special equipment! All you need are items like mint gum, sour candy, straws and m&m’s. It's as easy as sucking an m&m through the straw while transferring it from one bowl to another.

If your children are fans of spicy flavors, then why not add more flavor and spiciness to their diets? We particularly enjoy the Warheads Sour Spray or Two Tarts - the latter being a natural option without food coloring while still providing enough sourness. This spray is quite motivating for them as well since they pucker up when exposed to its tartness; this helps wake them up and heighten their awareness in regards to taste.

Without registration, a child's capacity to consume food in a secure manner may be impaired as they are more likely to take large portions. It is therefore essential to register them properly. To combat this, there are various strategies you can use such as utilizing an flavored spray or providing tactile vibration before meals.

Separating their food into small portions and using mirrors while eating may also help them become more aware during mealtimes. With these helpful tactics in place, children will be able to eat with confidence and comfort!

3. Visual Input

Our favorite way to stimulate the senses is with vibrant, quickly-moving visuals. Like spinning tops! We have a fun game where you twist the tops onto this little device before pushing the button and releasing them into play.

Apart from that, items such as luminous lights or sensory balls with flashing lights inside can also be used for children to activate the light. However, parents should always consult their doctor when utilizing flashlights and bright visual activities if a child has a history of seizures so they can determine whether it is safe to do so.

Incorporating high contrast visuals in activities is incredibly beneficial, especially for children who have difficulty with reading and writing. Utilizing elements such as colourful markers, pens or even a trusty highlighter can help to engage the visual system and make tasks more interesting along the way.

4. Fast-Paced Music and Metronome Activities

Looking for a way to excite your child's auditory system? Search for some upbeat music that will encourage them to get moving. You can even join in on the dancing! It'll be hard for any kid not to have fun when you're having such a good time together. Another helpful tool is utilizing metronomes during activities - it will surely help keep them engaged and interested!

5. Use Different Scents And Smells

Lavender is well-known for its calming effect and can be a great tool to help you wind down before bed. Yet, there are other invigorating scents that stimulate your olfactory system, such as:

  • Citrus: grapefruit, lemon and orange
  • Spicy: cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie space
  • Mint: peppermint, spearmint, and wintergreen

There are a few easy ways to introduce aromatherapy into your children's lives. Jewelry, scrunchies, and bandanas make this process simple! Buy some fabric scrunchie bands and add your preferred essential oil drops or spray them with the mist directly. Your kids can then wear it around their wrists as a bracelet if they like.

How To Create A Sensory Diet With These Activities?

Allow your child to select five activities from the sensory diet and complete them in quick succession. The duration of these exercises should be about 10-15 minutes with repetition throughout the day. Then, it is essential to always pay close attention to your child for any adverse reactions.

Monitor their facial expressions, the color in their cheeks and their eyes- if you notice anything out of the ordinary, take note and ask them how they're feeling or whether a break would be helpful. Don't push too much at once as that can lead to sensory overload; instead, adjust accordingly until things settle down again.

When taking part in any of these activities to help regulate vestibular functioning, it's important to integrate heavy work into them. Proprioceptive activities—including big hugs and stretches - can also be effective as they minimize unpleasant side effects during these exercises. Before you know it, their routine will have been set up!





While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.

Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L
Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L

1 Response


January 23, 2024

This 100 sounds like my 8 yo son! With a sensory diet that suits him, is low registration something he will eventually overcome and “grow out of”, meaning his nervous system will become increasingly sensitive to stimuli bc of the sensory work, or is this something he will need to do always?
Is this work rewiring the brain, or is it a daily sort of “wake up” for the brain? If it does change the brain long term, how long does that usually take to see more registration without prior sensory input in the day. Thanks for your time!

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