Sensory based feeding difficulties
Sensory based feeding difficulties occur when a child has a sensory aversion to certain types of food, usually based on their texture, taste, smell or look of the food. An assessment is required to discover the root cause of the food aversion and to identify what is the particular aversion.
Our speech and language therapists can work with children with sensory based feeding difficulties to help them to accept and build their food repertoire and to identify any other underlying causes.
What are sensory based feeding difficulties?
Sensory based feeding difficulties occur when a child has difficulty accepting and eating foods or drink that have a certain texture, smell, taste and look. Children with sensory based food aversions are often seen as ‘picky eaters’, however it is important to identify the particular difficulty and the underlying cause in order to help the child build on the food they are able to eat in order to gain the right nutrition from their diets.
What causes sensory based feeding difficulties?
Sensory based feeding difficulties may be caused by a number of things. They may be caused by oral motor difficulties or aspiration as the child finds the experience of eating unpleasant causing a taste or texture aversion. Sensory based feeding difficulties may also be caused when a child is transitioning to oral intake from tube feeding. Conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, where rigid thinking, sensory sensitivity and restrictive interests and behaviour may also cause sensory based feeding difficulties.
What problems caused by sensory based feeding difficulties can speech and language therapy help with?
Children with sensory based feeding difficulties may experience many problems with their day-to-day lives that speech and language therapy can help with, including:
- Food refusals and aversions.
- Gagging and vomiting.
- Difficulty progressing onto new textures.
- Poor weight gain.
- Failure to thrive.
- Stress and anxiety surrounding meal times for the child and the family.
- Psychological and physical discomfort.
How can SLT for Kids help a child with sensory based feeding difficulties?
Speech and language therapy has several benefits for a child with sensory based feeding difficulties and their family, including:
- Improve effects of sensory based feeding difficulties.
- Increase amount of food the child accepts.
- Promote weight gain and growth.
- Reduce anxiety around meal times for children and parents.
- Provide parents with emotional support.
- Identify and support the underlying cause.
What would treatment for a child with sensory based feeding difficulties involve?
Speech and language therapists use various treatment and assessments to treat a child with sensory based feeding difficulties, including:
- Assessment of difficulty.
- Identify what the child can eat and base therapy on this.
- Identification of underlying cause or condition.
- Identify any risks to the child’s health and emotional wellbeing.
- Goal setting with child and family.
- Give advice on easy foods to manage.
- Monitor progress of child.
- Introduce and build on new textures, tastes, smells and sights of food slowly to build repertoire of food child can eat.
- Provide training and strategies for parents.
- Referral to another professional if this is appropriate and beneficial for the child with sensory based feeding difficulties.
How do I arrange an assessment for my child with sensory based feeding difficulties?
To arrange a speech and language therapy assessment for sensory based feeding difficulties with one our speech and language therapists please call 0330 088 2298.
Sensory based feeding difficulties occurs when a child has difficulty with certain textures, tastes, sights and smells of food and drink. These difficulties may be caused by previous negative experiences with food or could be caused by an underlying condition affecting the child's sensory sensitivity, such as autism spectrum disorder. Speech and language therapy can help children with sensory based feeding difficulties to increase the type and amount of food they are able to accept and eat as well as managing any underlying risks.
If your child has sensory based feeding difficulties and you think they would benefit from seeing one of our specialist paediatric speech and language therapists, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0330 088 2298.