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Sensory based feeding issues Stacy Thompson, Ph.D.

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1 Sensory based feeding issues Stacy Thompson, Ph.D.

2 What is a sensory based issue? Some children cannot compensate for their environment. Because of this limitation they interact/react differently within their environment Four types of sensory processing described in sensory integration theory (Dunn, 1997, 2001, 2007)

3 Dunn’s Model of Sensory Processing (1997)

4 High Threshold – Requires a great deal of input to respond Low Threshold – Notice sensory input easily and more in environment

5 Low Registration High neurological threshold Passive behavioral response Needs a great deal of stimulation in order to respond Responds minimally to foods unless highly textured or flavored Trouble reacting to low intensity or rapidly occurring stimuli

6 Strategies for Children with Low Registration Provide opportunities to notice & respond to sensory cues – Finger paint with textured paint – Play with food – Rub lotion – Add strong smells to activities Add scent or sand to play dough – Add vanilla/cinnamon to foods (pancakes, yougurt)

7 Sensitivity to Stimuli – Low neurological threshold – Passive behavioral response – Easily distractible by things around them like movements, sounds, smells – Notice food textures, temperatures, & spices more rapidly – High level of awareness

8 Strategies for Children with Sensitivity to Stimuli To focus on feeding, requires a feeding environment that is: – quiet, – low light, – free of distractions for feeding environment Give ample warning when change is coming or changes in schedule

9 Sensory Avoiding Low sensory threshold Active behavioral response Expends a great deal of energy to avoid stimulation Find ways to limit sensory input – Leave room if others are moving or talking Create rituals for daily routines which may be strategy for predictable sensory patterns

10 Strategies for Children with Sensory Avoiding Provide support to keep engaged in activities provide picture schedule and/or transition object for mealtime, Work on strategies when faced with new sensory challenges Introduce new foods / drinks slowly, one at a time with time to accommodate

11 Sensory Seeking High neurological threshold Active behavioral response Seeks out stimulation to meet neurological needs Very active, continuously engaging Excitable Motivated to move, by a desire to touch, taste, smell, see and hear everything around them

12 Strategies for Children with Sensory Seeking Physical activity before eating Keep fidget toy nearby, Add texture to preferred foods such as berries to yogurt/pancakes Burn scented candles Have music playing

13 Sensory-based feeding issues continued Examples of food items to address sensory needs – Oatmeal with raisins – Pancakes with toppings – Saltines / Flavored crackers – Vegetables with dipping sauces – Bite size chunks of fruits

14 Try varied positions – in chair, standing at counter, on a beanbag during meals or snacks Sensory input to cheeks and jaw prior to meal or snack Varying temperature of foods and liquids Weighted utensils Straw for drinking Heavy lifting prior to having to sit for meals (see Thompson, Bruns & Rains, 2009 for additional ideas)

15 Case study Marcee is the two-year-old daughter of Tom and Tina. She enjoys playing with blocks and looking at books. Her favorite activities are playing outside and spending time with her mom while she cleans the house. Marcee attends a child care center, Kreative Kids, for approximately five hours a day while Tina is at her part-time job. Marcee is always excited to see her friends and teacher, Jenna. Jenna and the other child care staff are concerned about the disruptions that Marcee was causing at snack and mealtimes. She approached Tina with concerns about Marcee’s eating habits right after her second birthday. Jenna reported that Marcee would not remain at the table with the other children at snack time and refused to eat anything at the child care center. Marcee would throw food items and push cups and utensils to the floor. The other children began to imitate her behaviors and mealtimes were becoming difficult for the children and the staff. Jenna recommended that Tom and Tina take Marcee for a feeding evaluation at the community hospital.

16 Tina and Tom report that Marcee is a picky eater and only eats brown foods, such as oatmeal, wheat crackers, chicken strips, bread, tater tots, French fries, and, sometimes, Cheerios ®. If those foods are not available, Marcee refuses to eat. Marcee does drink milk from a cup but will not drink any type of juice. Tina first introduced a cup with a spout when Marcee was ten months old. She refused to use it. She preferred her older brother’s wide mouth cup but spilled at least half of the liquid each time she used it. This continues to occur with at least two to three spills every day. According to Tina, the only way she can get Marcee to eat is to leave preferred foods on a child-sized table and let Marcee eat throughout the day. Both Tom and Tina follow Marcee around the house trying to get her to eat. She will not sit in her booster seat at the table. Marcee’s mother and father take turns sitting at the dinner table with Marcee’s siblings during mealtime. Marcee’s older brothers do not exhibit any feeding problems. Tina is concerned about Marcee’s nutrition and the toll her eating habits have taken on the family. Tina feels that Marcee’s eating has taken over her time and focus.

17 Selected Resources Dunn, W. (1997). The impact of sensory processing abilities on the daily lives of young children and their families: A conceptual model. Infants and Young Children, 9(4), Dunn, W. (2001). The sensations of everyday life: Empirical, theoretical, and pragmatic considerations. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55(6), Kranowitz, C. S. (2006). The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder. New York: Perigee Trade. Miller, L. J. (2006). Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder. Putnam Adult.


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