If you have a child with sensory issues or work with children with sensory issues, you are likely very familiar with feeding issues. Children who experience sensory issues or a sensory processing disorder can be highly sensitive to certain foods, due to the flavor, look, smell, or texture of the food. It is important to ensure your child is receiving the nutrients and vitamins that they need, but, as you know, finding foods that they will eat can be challenging. If you are noticing these issues with your child, an occupational therapist, or OT, may be able to provide recommendations and work with your child on these issues.
What is occupational therapy?
Occupational therapy, or OT, works with individuals (from children to elderly adults) to build skills needed to complete daily tasks and work. An occupational therapist can work with children who experience sensory issues or a sensory processing disorder that affects eating and food sensitivity by focusing treatment on oral motor skills and sensory processing.
How Sensory Issues Impact Feeding
Sensory issues may result in food sensitivity and issues with feeding in children. This might look different depending on the child, ranging from avoiding certain foods to being a “problem feeder.” Every child is unique, so no two children will have the same food aversions (most likely), but there are certain foods that are commonly avoided by children with sensory issues.
- Mashed potatoes
- Scrambled eggs
- Onions and garlic
- Spicy peppers
- Sweet foods
- Sour foods
Why these foods?
While some of these foods are seemingly bland, foods that have a squishy texture often pose difficulties for “problem feeders,” or children who experience a sensory processing disorder. Foods that are extremely fragrant, such as garlic, may also cause problems for children with sensory issues. Sweet, sour, salty, or spicy foods may also lead to avoidance behaviors in children with sensory processing disorder or sensory issues.
How Can Occupational Therapy Help?
There can be multiple reasons why a child with sensory issues avoids certain foods, so there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for tackling these problems. An occupational therapist can help parents to devise a treatment plan. Some strategies that might help a child with sensory issues with food include developing their oral motor skills and muscle tone through exercises (e.g. blowing balloons). Working on feeding during snack time, which can be less stressful than sitting down for a full meal, may also be an effective strategy for children.
Do you think your child could benefit from feeding therapy or occupational therapy?
Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about the services we provide for children, including applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.