Stop The Dinner Table Stress: How Occupational Therapy Can Help Reduce Mealtime Drama

Health & Medical Blog

Have you tried everything to get your child to just take a bite of a new food? Are mealtimes stressful because you can't get him or her to eat what the rest of the family is consuming? Welcome to life with a picky eater. 

However, what we sometimes think of as pickiness may actually be a sensory disorder. Sensory processing disorder, or SPD, affects as many as 16 percent of U.S. schoolchildren in some form. An unexpected texture or the feel of a new food can cause your child anxiety and inability to eat, even when he or she may want to.

What is a Sensory Processing Disorder?

Your child may have a tough time trying new foods because he or she can't handle the smell, the texture or even the sound of chewing that food. Over time, the kid learns what types of foods are especially problematic and won't even get close to trying them.

Sometimes sensory processing disorders that can impact a child's ability to eat can show up in other areas. Perhaps they have trouble with oral hygiene because the toothbrush or toothpaste is uncomfortable. Some kids have trouble playing with things that are too loud or stimulating, like an electronic toy that makes noise. Still others have only certain types of clothing they can wear, or they struggle with things like tags, constricting parts or loose strings.

Is it Possible for an SPD to Only Show Up at Meal Time?

When parents look at checklists for sensory processing issues, they may see symptoms that include mood swings, trouble sleeping and issues with performing regular tasks. If your child does not have these issues, you may have ruled out a sensory processing disorder. 

But these types of disorders are not well understood, and it is possible that your child can manage other areas of his or her life and not be able to get past issues with food tastes, smells and textures. Past insistence that he or she eat can also contribute to psychological issues surrounding food. 

What Can You Do If You Suspect an SPD?

If your child goes beyond picky eating and has behaviors like vomiting after tasting a new food or refusing to eat even when denied food for more than one meal, you may be dealing with a sensory issue.

An occupational therapist can assess your child to see if he or she does have the symptoms of an SPD and can help you chart a plan for therapy that can empower your child with tools for managing the problem.

Food therapy is used for kids with autism that produces sensory issues or for kids with SPD. A therapist will take a child through several steps, including:

  • Visual examination
  • Smell
  • Touch with fingers or lips
  • Lick
  • Taste
  • Eat a bite

During this therapy, kids are given tools for mentally working through the sensory issues they experience and learn how to approach any new food item.

If your child is experiencing issues with food that stay the same or even worsen as he or she gets older and is showing signs of distress about being unable to overcome the problem, talk to an occupational therapist about starting the evaluation process for a sensory disorder. For more information, contact Bayonet Point Health & Rehabilitation Center or a similar location.


27 August 2015

pregnancy, labor and delivery - working with a midwife

Are you pregnant or planning to conceive? If so, it is time to begin learning about the medical professionals that will work with you through the nine months of pregnancy and through the labor and delivery. Many women are unaware of the important role that a midwife plays throughout a pregnancy. Knowing what a midwife does and how having a midwife can help you through what can be a difficult time will help you find one that you will feel comfortable with. My site is filled with information about pregnancy, labor and delivery and working with a midwife to help other soon-to-be mothers make the decisions that are best for their situations.