If this describes your child, then it’s important to contact your pediatrician to rule out any food allergies, swallowing dysfunction, or other medical conditions, as these can lead to gagging or vomiting and need to be addressed. If you know that your child is not experiencing any of these challenges, then it’s likely your child struggles with oral hypersensitivity affecting his ability to tolerate different textures and temperatures of foods. Oral sensory aversion can negatively impact a child’s diet. There are many signs of oral hypersensitivity, but one sign that is concerning for many parents is vomiting or gagging with new foods. This often occurs when a child’s sensory system is overloaded, and as a result, his body perceives the new food as noxious.
When your child is a problem feeder due to hypersensitivity, mealtime often causes stress and discomfort for both the parent and child.
Here are 5 tips to reduce stress and help your problem feeder to conquer sensory aversion with new foods.
- Set aside a specific time each day to work on introducing new foods.
Mealtime is stressful as it is, adding new foods in the mix when you have a problem feeder on your hands can not only escalate your frustration, but can overwhelm your child’s sensory system. Setting aside a separate time to work on feeding with your child will help to reduce the demand, establish a calm and safe environment, and provide the structure of a daily routine that will help support your child in being successful.
- Warm-up, provide regulating oral and tactile input prior to beginning.
Your child’s sensory system needs to be in an optimal state of functioning for him to be able to accept novel foods. Providing regulating input prior to beginning feeding time can help to reduce sensitivity and also warm his system up to prepare him. Some regulating oral activities include blowing through a straw or biting on a washcloth. Consider tactile activities as well, such as finger painting, playing with dry rice or beans, or playing with putty or clay.
- Set the stage—Reduce additional sensory stimuli to avoid over-stimulation.
Prepare your child’s environment in order to support his success. This includes turning off the television and the tablet and reducing other visual and auditory distractions. Introducing new foods provides a lot of sensory input. By reducing additional stimuli in the room, a parent can prevent over-stimulation and help a child to more successfully interact with the foods presented.
- It’s ok to play with your food!
When working with a problem feeder with oral hypersensitivity, it’s very important to allow a child to feel safe playing with his food. This means that he will need to learn to interact with new foods, whether this includes eating the food or not. Start slow, with tolerating the food on the plate, working up to touching the food, and eventually bringing the food to his mouth. Children often require several exposures to a new food before they will feel comfortable trying it.
- Praise and encouragement for all improvements, no matter how small.
Remember that the new food that is causing your child discomfort or distress is noxious to his sensory system. Trying and interacting with new foods is hard work, and any progress made deserves praise. Remain positive and provide positive reinforcement for each new interaction your child has with a food.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!