Mealtime Solutions for Children with Processing Disorders
A hallmark of a brain imbalance is having either an underactive or overactive sensory system which most commonly affects the senses of smell and taste. As such, if you have a child with an extreme sensory issue, you can bet a battle rages at the dining table pretty much three times a day, every day of the year. When it comes to food, sensory processing disorder can affect a child in one of two ways:
- Crave stimulation.
- Love to eat and can’t get enough food.
- Surprise parents by going for foods that are unusually spicy or “Grown Up” dishes.
- May find it difficult to move from one food to the next.
- Overeat because they lack the ability to feel full.
- Are easily overwhelmed.
- Find it difficult to eat in crowded environments.
- Avoid food because of the way it looks or feels.
- Insist on eating the same foods day in and day out.
- Children with food aversions are often categorized as picky eaters. While many parents may
Due to what’s really an imbalance in the sensory system, problem eaters have a difficult time getting the nutrition they need for optimal development. The consequences of the resulting limited diet can lead to major problems including changes in brain functions such as mood, memory, focus, and concentration. That’s why it is essential that children with food aversions or obsessive cravings learn how to eat healthily and diversify their foods. The following mealtime solutions will help improve life around the dinner table for the family and ensure you are meeting the nutritional needs of your special child.
Mealtime Solutions for Problems with Smell and Taste
If your child is hypersensitive to smells or taste, try steering them towards the blandest foods possible like potatoes, rice, grains like millet and quinoa, corn, pasta, steamed vegetables and plain chicken or make ice pos from pureed fruits and vegetables. Freezing helps desensitize the palate, thus allowing a child the opportunity to try more foods. On the other hand, if your child is hypersensitive to tastes and smells, try adding strong spices to food like cinnamon, chiles, curry, turmeric or vanilla to help stimulate the senses.
Mealtime Solutions for Sensitivity to Touch:
For kids with a hyperactive tactile system it may help to use food mittens so your child doesn’t have to touch food at first. You can also try introducing difference textures of food for your child to touch gradually. Do it by feel first, without asking your child to eat the food.
Mealtime Solutions for Auditory Processing Problems:
When there’s too much noise going on, a child with sensitive ears will pay little attention to food. Help increase a child’s attention span and comfort throughout a meal by turning off ambient noise, lowering the lights and turning of the phone ringer. At school, make sure your child has the ability to sit in the lunch area with the least noise and distraction.
Mealtime Solutions for Visual Processing Problems:
For children with visual processing disorder, it’s important to create a minimalist table setting. Limit place setting and flatware to only what’s needed. Allow your child with the sensory issue to the be the first to be seated and keep portions small. Use green linens for a calming effect.
While these strategies are important to help children with restricted diets to eat better, resolving the underlying sensory processing disorder is imperative on a level greater than broadening a limited food repertoire and improving table manners. Read more about what you can do to help your child in my books Disconnected Kids and The Disconnected Kids Nutrition Plan for proven strategies to help end the struggle.