Thursday, April 22, 2010

Week 14 How Sensory Issues Affect Our Communication and Eating

First off, sorry I wasn't able to post last Thursday...I had the flu!!!!

So, last time I was sharing with you about sensory issues and some things to look for and think about.

Today we are going to chat about how sensory issues affect your child's communication skills and how well they eat.

How many of you have a child that is a picky eater, that's right, raise your hand!! I see so many hands out there. OK, I am going to pretend that we are sitting face to face right now and I'm going to ask you some questions about your child's eating habits.

So, how are mealtimes, do they go easily or are they hard? "Oh, they are hard, no one stays in their seats."

Does your child eat what is prepared or do you make a different meal for them? "Oh, sure they eat what we do if we eat mac and cheese or chicken nuggets."

Do you eat together or do you feed the kids first? It's easier to just feed the kids first and then my husband and I can relax later and make a meal that we like.

What are your child's favorite foods? "Chicken nuggets, french fries, pancakes".

Is there anything that your child will not eat? "Parent laughs....well, no veggies, pretty much no fruit, no chewy meat, and they don't like mushy food and nothing green."

As you can see, I would be investigating, looking for clues, as to how your child's mouth is working...yes, their mouth. And here is where it ties into the sensory system. Think of your favorite foods for a minute. Are you a salty, crunchy sort of person? So you like smooth, creamy food? Do you like chewy foods like bagels, or jerky? Remember that taste is one of our senses and it too can be impacted negatively.

Your child might have some low tone in his mouth, he often times has his mouth open and might drool more than others. These kids have trouble with chewy foods (like meats) or bland foods (like applesauce, yogurt, mashed potatoes.) It might be hard for them to learn to suck through a straw, blow bubbles, give a kiss with a pucker and they might look like picky eaters. These kids usually love spicy, intense flavored foods (think salsa and chips) crunchy foods that are easy to chew (think Cheetos). This is because they need that extra intensity to actually find that food in their mouths and make it pleasurable. So you might want to add cinnamon to their applesauce, salsa to their scrambled eggs and dip bland veggies and fruits into yummy dips like salad dressings, or sauces. Sucking on a lemon or pickle is very yummy to these children. You might also want to encourage drinking from straws and actually increasing the thickness of what they are drinking (think milkshakes, smoothies, and yes, applesauce can be pulled through a straw). You might want to change the intensity of the drinks they are V8 juice, or cranberry juice or strong lemonade. With these guys the more flavors (sweet, sour, salty) that you can use helps them eat better and more variety.

Now here is the secret to communication with these tricks. First off, food is always a huge language motivator for requesting, expanding vocabulary, taking turns, etc. But, the more your child is using all the muscles in their mouths, and their tongue is moving all over inside and outside their mouths, the better their sound productions will be as they add words and phrases!! This is so exciting. So in addition to improving your child's eating you are also helping them to speak clearer.

One more suggestion. Buy a cheap electric toothbrush that the head can come off of (so you can put it in the dishwasher.) At times during the day, let your child explore his mouth with the toothbrush and then put flavors on that brush :) Like pixie stick powder, salsa, pudding, dry lemonade powder, pickle creative. These are all fantastic tricks to help your child's mouth become more neutral.

When you are trying these new things, don't force your child. Make this fun. Try one taste, make it a family thing to do together. And with the toothbrush, ideally you want them to be biting on the sides, being able to tolerate it on the roof of their mouths and on their tongues also, but baby steps may be needed because if they have been protective of their oral area this could be very scary and invasive.

Let me know if you need more hints...these are really powerful suggestions.
Have a great week!

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