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The Role of Sensory Processing in Picky Eating and Feeding Therapy

Hey there, incredible caregivers! Today, we're delving into the fascinating world of sensory processing and its impact on picky eating. As a pediatric occupational therapist, I'm thrilled to share insights on how sensory processing influences a child's eating habits and how feeding therapy can make a difference. Get ready to discover the keys to unlock a world of flavors and textures! Let's dive in!

Understanding Sensory Processing and Picky Eating:

Sensory processing refers to how our brains interpret and respond to sensory information from our environment. We are constantly bombarded with information. When we are able to effectively pay attention to the important information, and filter the others, that’s called sensory integration. When it comes to picky eating, sensory processing plays a significant role. Here's a glimpse into how different sensory factors can impact a child's eating habits:

1. Tastes:

Some children may be more sensitive to certain tastes and flavors, leading to food aversions. Others may seek intense flavors and exhibit a preference for specific tastes.

2. Textures:

Texture aversions are common among picky eaters and do including sensitivities for tactile (on your hands and body), and oral (inside your mouth). Some children may avoid certain textures, such as mushy or crunchy foods, due to heightened sensory sensitivity. Others may actively seek out specific textures for sensory stimulation.

3. Smell:

A heightened sense of smell can influence a child's food preferences. Certain aromas may trigger aversions or make certain foods unappealing, impacting their willingness to try new foods.

4. Visual:

Being sensitive to the way a certain food looks impacts feeding. If a food looks completely different than a child is used to, or if a food looks wet when we eat mostly dry foods, it can make a child feel uncomfortable.

The Role of Feeding Therapy:

Feeding therapy, led by pediatric occupational therapists, is a targeted approach to address picky eating and sensory challenges related to mealtimes. By understanding your child's sensory processing patterns, we can design interventions that help them overcome feeding difficulties and expand their food repertoire. Feeding therapy focuses on:

Occupational therapists use sensory integration techniques to help children become more comfortable with various tastes, textures, and smells. Through gradual exposure and sensory play, we create a positive environment that encourages exploration and reduces sensory aversions.Feeding therapy done by an occupational therapist can also target oral-motor skills, such as tongue coordination and chewing abilities. By engaging in specific exercises and activities we help children develop the necessary skills to manage a variety of food textures and promote safe and efficient eating.

Sensory processing plays a significant role in picky eating, but with the right strategies and support, mealtimes can become a joyful experience for both you and your child. Let's unlock a world of flavors and textures together!

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