Every child follows a unique path in early childhood development, and if a child experiences sensory issues, they experience the world differently than most children. If a child has issues with their sensory processing, they will have either a heightened sensitivity or decreased sensitivity to sensory input. This is very common for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These issues can affect any (or all) of the five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, or hearing. As a result, many children who have sensory issues will also experience food sensitivities.
If a young child has sensory issues, a therapeutic preschool program may help them with sensory integration. While a typical preschool program is designed with children who are typically developing in mind, a therapeutic preschool program provides additional support for key developmental skills. Many therapeutic preschool programs incorporate occupational therapy and feeding therapy into their daily routines (particularly during snack time), which can be extremely beneficial for children with developmental delays or sensory issues.
Every child with sensory issues will experience sensory input in a unique way, so food aversions will look different from child to child in a therapeutic preschool class. In order to accommodate the unique needs of a child with sensory issues, the therapeutic preschool program teachers should communicate with the parents of the child to understand the problematic foods for the child. With this information in mind, the teachers can offer feeding therapy and sensory integration exercises for children during snack time in class.
Some foods that are commonly avoided by children with sensory issues:
- Foods with a “squishy” texture, such as mashed potatoes, oatmeal, or yogurt
- Foods with distinct textures, such as rice or beans
- Spicy foods, such as hot peppers
- Sweet foods, such as cookies or cake
- Sour foods, such as green apples or lemons
Some of the strategies a therapeutic preschool might use:
- Playing with food: Even though we learn that it is bad to play with your food, this is a very helpful strategy for children who experience sensory issues with food. This exposes children to the food and can make it appear a bit more approachable (less scary).
- Make it fun: Cutting fruit or other foods into fun shapes can make problem foods more approachable for children.
- Z-Vibes spoons: If a child has tactile issues with the utensils they are using to eat their meal, a Z-Vibes (therapeutic) spoon might make the feeding process go a bit smoother.
There are many other helpful strategies out there, so it is just a matter of finding a technique that works best for your little one. Many therapeutic preschool program teachers will spend one-on-one time with children during snack to overcome their sensory issues with food through feeding therapy. Communication between parents and teachers are important to ensure success with these strategies, as well.
Do you think a therapeutic preschool program could be a good fit for your child with sensory issues? Contact CST Academy at 773-620-7800 to learn more about our therapeutic preschool program that incorporates ABA therapy, feeding therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy for children in Chicago.