EATING WITH SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER….WHY IT CAN BE SO HARD.

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Picky eating is frustrating for families. It turns mealtimes into a battle of wills, oppositions and tears.  In typical children, picky eating can be a phase, a developmental chapter that with some supportive encouragement can go away. And before you know it, HALLELUJAH!  All family members are sitting at the same table eating the same meal.  And parents collectively breathe a deep sigh of relief as their children scarf down asparagus and butter chicken.

But what if your child has Autism or sensory processing disorder…..and all the mental health challenges that come along with it? What if their sensory processing disorder and anxiety issues are so great that they physically gag at the sight of food? What SED-in-childrenif kitchen smells send them running into a self-isolating panic attack? What if their OCD means they will only eat certain things at certain meals…foods that have to be prepared the same way EVERY DAY? What if their Oppositional Defiance Disorder makes new food introductions feel impossible for parents? What if they have no issues eating, but all they will try is processed, full of sugar and beige? Clearly, these issues are more than a phase that they will just eventually get over.
So why do these kiddies have such a hard time around food?  Well, the answer is their wacky sensory processing.  In typical kids, their senses work together like well-oiled machines.  But when you have a sensory processing disorder nothing comes into your brain or body in an easy way.  It is a challenging way to live…..when your world is ‘Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight’ (Which is a must-read book by Sharon Heller).  I would also add their worlds are – too lumpy, too bumpy, too stinky, too icky.  Picky eating in this case should be called icky eating….they are revolted, physically and mentally by the thoughts of new foods.

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