Tag Archives: sensory processing disorder

Making Food Fun!

5 Playful Ideas to Try When Presenting a New Food to a Child with a Limited Diet

Heather Celkis, OTR/ Capital Area Speech & Occupational Therapy www.capitalareaspeech.com

Making Food Fun!

Making Food Fun!

Reasons Tolerating New Food is Difficult

There are many reasons a child may have difficulty tolerating new foods. These reasons may include but are not limited to difficulty swallowing, difficulty moving the food efficiently within the mouth (oral motor skills), gastrointestinal issues, swallowing difficulties, poor postural control, respiratory difficulties and poor sensory processing. A child who has a very limited diet should be assessed by his or her pediatrician and referred for further testing by a specialist and/or therapy by a professional such as an occupational therapist or speech therapist.  It is important to rule out medical issues that may impact a child’s ability to eat.

Steps to Introducing New Foods

For many children with difficulty with sensory processing and tolerating novelty, the first step to trying a new food is interacting with it, tolerating it on a plate, smelling and playing with it. Yes! We should be encouraging these kids to play with their food!

The following are a few helpful and playful ideas for introducing new foods:

  1. Place just a few bites of food on the plate. If the child has a whole plateful of novel food they may become overwhelmed and feel that they will be pressured to eat all of the food presented.
  2. Use the food to paint a paper plate with sauce. For example, use a piece of broccoli to brush cheese sauce on a plate. Make patterns with the sauce by using the broccoli as a stamp.
  3. Use some familiar foods with a few pieces of novel food and arrange them to make a picture such as a smiley face. Take turns making the face as silly as you can.
  4. Stack the food like blocks then knock them down. Bread cubes, crackers and carrot slices are great for stacking.
  5. Have a pretend tea party and feed the animals and dolls the novel foods. This is a great way to encourage a child to interact with a new food while not expecting them to eat the new food yet.

Children are more likely to try a new food if they are allowed to explore it at their own pace so be patient and above all have fun!

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

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Here’s a story about “Johnny.” It’s morning! Time to get up and get the kids ready for school. While this can be difficult for many kids, it can be especially difficult for a child with Sensory Processing Disorder. Getting out of bed is the first challenge. Mom gently shakes him, talks to him softly, pulls down the covers. But it is hard for him to get going; he does not want to leave his bed. It takes quite some time, but eventually she rouses him. In the bathroom other roadblocks occur: washing his face, brushing his teeth, getting in the bath. Often the water feels either too hot or too cold, the water splashing against his face really bothers him, and the brush feels uncomfortable. Some days the bathroom can be a bit of a battle. Getting dressed can be challenging too. Clothing with tags or tight seams really irritates him, and socks are the worst! After he is clean and dressed, it’s time for breakfast; but this is hard for Johnny too. He tries, but some foods he just can’t stand the smell of, and others he refuses on sight. Fruit, oatmeal, and eggs are out of the question. He ends up having the same thing he’s had for the last three weeks – a few bites of dry waffle. Mom doesn’t push it, because she doesn’t want him to be upset before heading to school. Eventually they leave the house and it’s off to school. Johnny is calm and happy and ready for school, but mom worries about what the day will bring, because even a slight change in his routine at school can affect his whole day.

Does any part of this sound familiar? Kiddos with Sensory Processing Disorder have difficulty registering or tolerating different kinds of sensory information, such as touch/textures, sounds, smells, light/visual stimuli, movement, and even information from their own bodies telling them where they are in relation to others. Because of these challenges, they may seek and/or avoid different kinds of sensory input. For example, one child may be overly sensitive when it comes to textures, avoiding certain materials and messier activities, while another may constantly touch things, to the point of being inappropriate or irritating to others. Some children become extremely and inconsolably distressed by certain sounds, such as a car horn, vacuum, or even other children playing, while others (or even the same child) may not register typical sounds such as his/her name being called repeatedly. Some children may seek out lots of movement by running or spinning or constantly moving around the room, while others may be afraid to sit on a swing or climb on a play structure. Because they are working overtime trying to manage their sensory needs throughout the day, these children can often become very easily frustrated or sad, as they exhaust their resources for tolerating life’s occurrences much faster than children who do not have these challenges.

If you notice any of these challenges in your little ones, an occupational therapist can work with you and your children to figure out their specific sensory needs, and how to help them integrate these sensations and tolerate experiences more easily.

Take a look at these websites for some great information about SPD:
www.spdfoundation.net/about-sensory-processing-disorder.html
www.sensory-processing-disorder.com
lemonlimeadventures.com/sensory-processing/#_a5y_p=1260983

written by the occupational therapists at Capital Area Speech