What are sensory-based feeding difficulties?
Patients who present as picky eaters or only accept limited varieties of foods or liquids may have sensory-based feeding difficulties. These children may have difficulty with gaining weight Some causes of sensory based feeding difficulties include, history of cardiac issues, gastroesophageal issues (e.g., gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) ), children on the autism spectrum, and children who have previously been force fed. Some examples may include: a child who becomes upset with non-preferred food placed near them, refusal, choking/gagging with foods and/or retreating from eating space.
How are sensory-based feeding difficulties in children diagnosed?
Sensory-based feeding difficulties are typically diagnosed during a clinical swallow evaluation. During the evaluation, the speech-language pathologist (SLP) attempts to recreate a typical meal time and observes child-parent interaction and child’s reaction to preferred versus non-preferred foods.
How are sensory-based feeding difficulties in children treated?
Children with sensory-based feeding difficulties typically receive feeding therapy with an SLP or occupational therapist focusing on a sensory-based feeding hierarchy to introduce new textures and flavors. The steps include tolerating, interacting, touching, smelling, tasting, chewing, and swallowing non-preferred foods. As the child accepts and builds their sensory food repertoire this provides a greater opportunity for adequate nutrition and hydration.