sensory processing

sensory processing

Does your child have difficulty sitting still at the table during mealtimes? Do they require the I-pad or TV to be on during meals? Do they gag at the sight and/or smell of food?

If so, they could have challenges with sensory processing and would benefit from an assessment from one of our Lively Eaters Occupational Therapists.

To understand how sensory processing impacts feeding, we first must understand what sensory processing is.

Sensory processing is the way a person processes information from the world around us and from within our own bodies. This information is received through our 7 senses (smell, touch, sight, taste, sound, vestibular-movement and proprioception-through the joints). Everyone responds to information differently and often in our children we see behavioural responses as a result of sensory processing challenges.

Common behaviours we often hear and see around food and mealtimes include, leaving the table during meals, only eating when they have the I-pad or TV, running away from food, using language such as ‘no, yuck, I don’t like that’, gagging at the sight and smell of food and difficulty sitting still at the table. There may well be other underlying issues for these behaviours however sensory processing challenges can not be ruled out.

Everyone is different!

Everyone, including adults, present with their own unique sensory profile and behavioural responses to sensory information. Often there are similarities and differences between our own profiles and our children’s, which can make mealtimes challenging for some families.

Sensory profile presentations broken down in relation to feeding and behavioural responses.

Sensory sensitivity: Sensitive to strong tastes and smells, sensitive to touch from others during mealtimes, challenges with touching foods, visually prefers food to be separate

Sensory avoiding: Often avoiding strong tastes and smells, preferring blander flavours, covering ears around loud noises, requiring dim lighting and minimal noises while at the table and difficulty with touching foods

Sensation seeking: Difficulty sitting still at the table, frequently moving positions in their chair, making loud noises and talking during the meal and preferring spicy, sour and/or crunchy foods

Low registration: Slow to respond to questions, misses cues at the table, easily distracted during the meal and becomes overwhelmed with too many food choices

How we can help to support sensory processing and feeding challenges:

Children with sensory processing challenges often present with a limited range of food choices in their diets alongside mealtimes behaviours.

All food presents with its own sensory properties and these properties change when food is cut, grated and/or cooked. We explore with you how to learn about the sensory properties in food and how the properties of food fit with your child’s sensory profile and food preferences.

Our Occupational Therapists work specifically with children with sensory processing challenges related to feeding and mealtime behaviours. With regular therapy we can work to stretch/adapt your child’s behavioural response to foods that previously were challenging and look to promote positive engagement with both comfortable and new foods.

Rebecca Barnard

Occupational Therapist

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