Pediatric Sensory Based Feeding Difficulties
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 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 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.