ARE YOU THE PARENT OF A CHILD BETWEEN THE AGES OF 4 and 12?
We have received a request to help find research participants from a group of parents whose children experience issues with eating. They would like to know more about how eating is related to children’s emotional behaviour and sensory sensitivity.
The group have worked in collaboration with Prof Jackie Blissett (Aston University) and Dr Terry Dovey (Brunel University) to design some research and now they need your help!
This questionnaire will ask you about your child’s eating, their emotional behaviour and how sensitive they are to noises and textures and should take you no longer than 15 minutes to complete.
Lots of little ones with sensory differences struggle with new textures. Let’s have a look at how and why can gentle exposure to new tactile experiences through messy play help kids to expand their eating choices??
This Jan 2018 – Evaluation of a pilot sensory play intervention to increase fruit acceptance in preschool children, by Coulthard, Williamson, Palfreyman and Lyttle. Study of 100 children in the UK, found that when combined with food exposure, tactile sensory play with both food and non-food substances increased children’s acceptance of fruit at a later date.
In this Jan 2018 study – Taste the feeling or feel the tasting: Tactile exposure to food texture promotes food acceptance, by Nederkoorn, Theiβen, Tummers and Roefs. 68 Children were randomised into 2 groups, the group of children given tactile (hands only) exposure to food, were then found to be more likely to accept and eat foods with the same texture. Read more here
In June 2017 the study – Play with your food! Sensory play is associated with tasting of fruits and vegetables in preschool children, by Coulthard and Sealy found that “sensory play activities using fruits and vegetables may encourage fruit and vegetable tasting in preschool children more than non-food play or visual exposure alone”.
The ASI Wise lecture team have been at Abbot’s Lea School in Liverpool this weekend with a fantastic group of committed and enthusiastic occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and teachers exploring the use of sensory strategies and Ayres’ Sensory Integration therapy to support children, young people and adults mental and wellbeing health.
Experiential learning opportunities, embedded into the course, help participants to understand their own sensory systems and to experience the challenges that the people they are working with face on a daily basis.
With a mixture of classroom-based and hands-on practical learning, participants explored how to use the spaces and environment available in both school and clinic to support regulation and praxis. The workshop provided an opportunity to hear about the theory and practice of Ayres’ Sensory Integration, it’s application supporting those with autism, ADHD and dyspraxia, with up to date research and evidence supporting practice.
To find out more about our courses and learning here
We are so grateful to Abbot’s Lea School who have allowed us to use such a beautiful spacious venue. The three lovely well-lit rooms allowed us to create a pop-up sensory clinic, where participants had space to move about; extra room to break into groups supporting learning and the sharing of ideas. The school staff and local therapist volunteer support team have been incredibly welcoming and supportive, helping the workshop to run smoothly. As a bonus, the sun has shone all weekend which has allowed us to use the outdoor spaces, we have spotted a few daffodils and blossom trees around the city – it feels like spring is on its way.
Thank you to our volunteer therapists who helped to make the weekend such a success.
Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Speech and Langauge Therapists practicing Ayres SI are frequently asked about eating difficulties; this is a common feature of sensory integration difficulties for many young babies and children.
Sensory and motor based eating issues require a whole child approach, starting with how a child moves and sits. Adequate and stable postural control facilitates a good head position and frees the hands up to help with eating.
Try this little exercise – sit on a low stool or chair, slump forward, with your chin almost on your chest and then try to sip a glass of water and chew and swallow a piece of soft fruit? How easy was it to do?
So how do we know if eating difficulties are more about sensory hyper or hypo-reactivity or poor oral sensory discrimination affecting the child’s motor skills? We have a range of tools in our toolbox. For older children, the SIPT Assessment provides excellent information about oral praxis, tactile reactivity and tactile discrimination, vestibular processing and proprioception. The Sensory Processing Measure can provide information for school-aged children, but also younger toddlers from 2.
Clinical Observations and parent report, as well as hypothesis testing through early intervention allows a therapist to test and confirm an early hypothesis through play with toys and games.
Therapy activities used might include a rice tub, play dough, messy paint play, kinetic sand, water play, shaving foam, play on balls, in tunnels, on swings and over foam rollers and with lots of textured surfaces. Careful observation will all help confirm why sensory differences may be contributing to tricky eating.
Then we also need to consider the child’s level of alertness, are they very tired, under-responsive and sleepy, or whizzing and fizzing – neither of these states is right for a task that needs focus and attention.
Do you feel like eating immediately after you wake up, or while trying to concentrate on a difficult task? Or while learning to walk a tight rope? Clear focus and attention is required for success at the table.
I really love this table from this amazing book, which provides an outline of questions to shape your parent interview and to use to inform your clinical reasoning during unstructured clinical observations.
from Arvedson, JC., Brodsky, L. (2002) – Pediatric Swallowing and Feeding: Assessment and Management
Addressing the underlying sensory or motor issues, whether this is an under -responsive vestibular system, over responsive tactile system, poor oral discrimination or poor proprioception and related motor muscle skills required for chewing does not have to be with food. And often it helps if initially, it is not about food. This is because when families first come for assessment and therapy food may already be an emotive subject. Helping our children to eat is key to helping them survive – and when for whatever reason they struggle with eating, Mum’s and Dad’s can feel sad, scared and even desperate. Growing and developing the postural, motor and sensory especially tactile discrimination skills needed for eating through play is fun and allows everyone to relax and new learning to occur without pressure.
Education about family mealtimes is also important, especially for younger children who may need to watch and observe, to model eating skills and see others trying new foods. For slightly older children, sometimes doing this with friends, at friends houses and even at school, cooking groups can allow a child to take risks, modelling peers. It is however essential that there is never pressure applied!
Other information and resources to support eating can be found here, and we will be posting again on eating and feeding difficulties.