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 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.
Eating actually forces a person to use each and every one of their senses simultaneously. Making the act of eating one of the most complicated things we expect ASD and sensory processing disordered kids to do.
The folks at The Sensory Processing Foundation wrote this, ‘Eating begins with our eyes as soon as we look at the foods (visual). We then need to explore the foods and touch it with our hands, body and face in order to transport the foods from the plate into our mouths (tactile). As food comes closer to our face we unconsciously explore how it smells (olfactory). Once food is inside our mouth we experience how it tastes (gustatory) and listen to how it sounds (auditory). In addition, we have to use our ‘hidden’ senses to know how much force is needed to chew (proprioception) and to keep our body upright and balanced while we eat or feed ourselves (vestibular)’. Lordy, I’m tired just reading that. Imagine being challenged by every single step of that long process. Stop reading for a minute and really imagine it. Understand now why this is an issue in your house?
When we consider the neurological complexity of eating for these kids, is it any wonder they limit their food choices and control every aspect of mealtime. It is simply too hard for them. Unfortunately when mealtimes turn into forcing special needs kids to try a new food we actually make the food opposition worse. Then the battle lines are drawn. And like all wars, no one ever really wins and the collateral damage is huge.