Sensory issues-- how to help? - Mothering Forums

 
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#1 of 7 Old 05-07-2008, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think my 6 yo has some sensory and anxiety issues . . .not sure if or how they are related.

The biggest sensory issue I see is with eating. Many foods make her gag. She is thin, thin . . .she doesn't look too healthy (her coloring does not always look very good). She can like something one day-- really enjoy it-- and not the next. She will say it tastes gross and she can't eat it. At first I thought it was just good ol' picky eating, but then I finally realized that the gagging is beyond that, right? I have cut up her food very small, encouraged her to take small bites, served her small portion sizes so she does not get overwhelmed (this is a recent thing, as I read somewhere that it can help), but her diet is EXTREMELY limited.

Her appetite (when offered desserts) is amazing. I remember on New Years, we offered her a meal and she walked away from it, saying she wasn't hungry (code for she doesn't like it). Since it was a special occasion, we gave her dessert. . .somehow she got a huge piece of pie. And she ate every.last.bite. I was shocked-- even I couldn't finish my piece.

The other sensory issue she has is very minor-- she is extremely particular about her socks. Sometimes she'll spend 5 minutes putting them on in the morning to get them just right, and of course they can only be certain socks. She doesn't have too many of the type she likes, so I got her more . . .but I guess Gymboree changed their sock length so the same size, same style doesn't fit the way DD likes. DH does not show this behavior in front of DD, but he also has a thing about socks.

The other issue, maybe related to sensory and anxiety is that she usually needs to be fidgeting in some way. She used to chew on her sleeves and hands. I got her the chewlery but she didn't like it. Now she's past that, but she eats her hair. She's been coming home from school with her hair soaked and smelly from the spit. (We now put it in a ponytail.) I ordered some Bach's Rescue Remedy for kids so maybe that will help.

Anyway, do any of these things seem way beyond the norm, in the sense that we need outside help? We've asked the doctor about her weight and they are not very concerned (suggested using Pediasure, which we have).

Thanks so much!

ETA I think I'm going to get the book suggested on another thread, but I'm open to others, too:

Freeing Your Child from Anxiety

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#2 of 7 Old 05-07-2008, 02:43 PM
 
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She could have sensory issues, she could be a "supertaster" (having more taste buds than the average person). But it does sound like she has oral defensiveness.

My now 6 year old has had issues with any protein source - chicken, beef - or any dishes that are mixed with sauces. I never really determined if it was the taste or the texture, but she would act like she couldn't swallow it down. Until she did by accident. But to this day, she dawdles the most on meat, and chews it a million times before she eats it, but at least she does.

She had a very limited diet for a while. But, I have boosted the nutritional value of what she did eat.

I included homemade smoothies on a regular basis - and put whey protein powder and wheat germ in them, along with flax seed oil, and frozen blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and yogurt. Blend them together, and she would eat that.

I put whey protein powder, wheat germ, and oats (cut finely with a food chopper) into pancake mix.

I bought Barilla Plus pasta (it is made of chickpeas and other goodies, but it has the texture of regular pasta - it's not bland like whole wheat pastas).

Gradually, I built up her tolerance to eating meat. It took about a year of eating 1 bite of chicken before she could actually move up to actually eating five whole bites. And then I moved on to beef.

Going out to eat for the longest time before then always meant I had to bring a pb and j sandwich along, because she usually refused to eat. Over time, having her include plain meat into her repertoire has helped alleviate my extra work. Most restaurants/and people's homes can accommodate pulling out a bit of meat from their dishes so she can eat them.

I think there might be some ideas in the Out of Sync Child Has Fun you can do for oral sensory issues that you may not have to pay a professional for. Basically things that "desensitize the mouth" prior to eating helps.

The key is most people have some sensory issues, it's just how much it actually interferes with your life that determines if you should get help. It turns out in my 4.5 year olds case, her sensory issues cause her to be mute in school. Consequently, it's severe enough to warrant outside intervention.

HTH.

Oh, btw, I have the book on my couch. I'll take a look at what it says about oral aversions....

Okay, I've checked.

Gagging and choking could have do to with poor oral motor skills, and occupational evaluation/therapy would be helpful in identifying exactly what is going on and how to resolve it.

I wouldn't rely on the doctor alone and find someone else if he's not listening to you if you've told him about the gagging issues.

Mama of 3 girls: 7.5 , 6 , and 4.5
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#3 of 7 Old 05-07-2008, 02:47 PM
 
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Quote:
The biggest sensory issue I see is with eating. Many foods make her gag. She is thin, thin . . .she doesn't look too healthy (her coloring does not always look very good). She can like something one day-- really enjoy it-- and not the next. She will say it tastes gross and she can't eat it. At first I thought it was just good ol' picky eating, but then I finally realized that the gagging is beyond that, right? I have cut up her food very small, encouraged her to take small bites, served her small portion sizes so she does not get overwhelmed (this is a recent thing, as I read somewhere that it can help), but her diet is EXTREMELY limited.

Her appetite (when offered desserts) is amazing. I remember on New Years, we offered her a meal and she walked away from it, saying she wasn't hungry (code for she doesn't like it). Since it was a special occasion, we gave her dessert. . .somehow she got a huge piece of pie. And she ate every.last.bite. I was shocked-- even I couldn't finish my piece.
At least you are aware of her issues and you are trying to help her! My mother was not very flexible about my eating issues (similar to your daughters - gagging and unable to swallow, naseated by food smells etc). As a result eating became even more negative and anxiety-causing for me. I had failure to thrive, stunted my growth and am having trouble surpassing a BMI of 16 now that I am an adult.

Now, I went my whole life not eating adequately and being too thin, and I am okay! I have no other serious health problems other than being underweight. But it was not an ideal situation.

My advice to you is to just let her eat as much as she wants of foods she likes. If she has a big appetite for sweet things, make your own baked good etc and try to use the healthiest ingredients/add healthy supplements (cottage cheese in choc chip pancakes, added protein powders, etc), and just let her eat sweet things.

Eating enough calories is more important in the end than eating healthy foods, YKWIM? Whatever helps her gain weight and grow.
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#4 of 7 Old 05-07-2008, 03:03 PM
 
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Originally Posted by rhubarbarin View Post

Eating enough calories is more important in the end than eating healthy foods, YKWIM? Whatever helps her gain weight and grow.
I think you can do both - get enough calories in a healthy way too. You don't want to pack the child up with pastries because overcompensating too much isn't the way to go either.

I mentioned a few ideas about healthy additions/substitutions for foods. Here's another idea - you can easily skip the choc chips in the pancakes and use fruit on top - I've blended fresh or frozen blueberries and raspberries and added a little sugar to sweeten it) and put them on top of the pancakes with protein powder and wheat germ and oats on mixed in.

Mama of 3 girls: 7.5 , 6 , and 4.5
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#5 of 7 Old 05-07-2008, 03:21 PM
 
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Two books to look at:

Just Take a Bite! is about kids with eating issues/aversions

Sensational Kids gives a lot of good advice about how to deal with some of the issues.

If you're extremely concerned about her eating, or if your home based methods aren't working, you might seek out an OT who does feeding therapy. A good friend of mine did that with her dd (a bit of other OT for clothing issues, but the main one was that the child was down to about 2 foods she'd eat), and the OT was great and was able to help her daughter tolerate more foods and be more open to trying them.

For our ds, at least, if his sensory issues are under control, then his anxiety is under control too.

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#6 of 7 Old 05-07-2008, 03:27 PM
 
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It's probably mostly a texture and/or temperature thing. If it's not exactly the same as last time (too thick or too thin), then it won't be eaten. She is old enough that you can try to talk w/ her and find out what about it she likes/doesn't like. Try to work off what she will eat, and go from there. See if she will try some new things, because as you can tell her, she might like these new things.

Will she eat smoothies? There's a lot you can do to pack calories, good fats, and protein in a smoothie. You can add some protein/vitamin powders to even a milkshake. Will she take yogurt, either smooth, creamy, or in a drink?

Have you ever had her evaluated by a professional (therapist or doctor)? It might be worthwhile to make sure there is no medical reason she is gagging. She may have some oral motor issues if she didn't eat much when she was younger. She may also not fully understand her hunger signals. She may need some help with these physical issues. She may also need to learn that eating is pleasurable, and that will take time and lots of good experiences.

My DS is 29 months old, and he had oral defensiveness from day 1. He gagged at most foods starting from when I tried to feed him. He had only a couple things he would eat up to about 23 months old. He got to a point where he wouldn't even try anything new. He also had oral motor issues from not having chewed anything before. The good news is that we've had some success with a speech therapist whose specialty is feeding. He really likes her, and she's gotten him to try a number of things. I'm amazed. Now I'm trying to work off the things that he will eat now. He still gags on occasion, but he's come so far! My DS also likes to chew on things. I think there's a connection there. He has definitely done less chewing on things now that he's chewing more on food.

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#7 of 7 Old 05-08-2008, 12:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Miss Information: Thank you for those ideas. I have no yet identified exactly what the issue is with her, whether it be texture, taste, etc. She has gone through phases (sometimes will eat turkey, sometimes hates it) so it is hard to know. I like your fruit idea, but DD won't go for it at all, sadly. She won't eat yogurt if it has even a bit of fruit in it. She'll eat apples and raisins (yay!) but that's it.

rhubarbarin: Thank you for sharing your story. I am changing my mindset of healthy food vs. calories thanks to you . . .you are right, I really need to be worried about the calories more than anything else. I'll start finding ways of getting the good stuff in with things that are palatable to her.

LynnS6: Great book suggestions . . .I will try those!

KimPM: I will work on the smoothies. I tried a few times in the past and she didn't go for them, but I can keep experimenting. She does eat yogurt so that is a plus. I think DD has had this for a long time, too . . .she was never "into" solids. She ate the same when she was under a year as she does now. She'd try some solids, like them, and then stop eating them. Eventually she stopped trying new things. Since she was my 1st, I thought it was due to BFing, but it didn't change once she weaned at 26 months. My other children are completely different in terms of eating.

Thanks again, everyone. Your experience and info has been so helpful!

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