Unable to Eat Holiday Treats? Food Desensitization Can Help!
When our oral sensory system is working properly, we can eat a varied diet, enjoying juicy fruits and crispy vegetables. When it's malfunctioning, we can struggle to maintain adequate nutrition and avoid disease. I've seen people close to me with sensory processing challenges struggle to even be in spaces with food smells, and one of my friends with these challenges got scurvy! With patience, determination, and a little help from a specialist, it's possible for even the most limited eaters to expand their diet.
Food exploration can go as slowly as needed. It's important not to pressure someone with sensory processing challenges to eat foods they're unable to.
First, think about when you're going to try new foods. Build up spoons beforehand, to have capacity. Also, try reducing extraneous sensory input in the environment. Light covers, earmuffs, ear plugs, white noise, preferred music, or television could be helpful.
If you're leading, start by letting them know what to expect.
Look at and smell the new food. Describe what you see and smell, and what the food feels like to touch.
Watch someone eat the food, and listen to them describe what it's like to eat it. They might even be able to explain how it's similar and different from foods you already know.
It's OK if you're not ready to put the food in your mouth. You can try again later. It may be easier to start by putting a piece of the new food in your mouth. It's OK to spit it out if needed. What was good, and what was challenging about the food? The texture, the smell, the taste?
When working with a speech-language pathologist experienced in food desensitization, we always break down this process into small, tolerable steps. Remember, it can take several times eating a new food before it's ready to be incorporated into a good-day diet! And always be patient- going slowly is better than stopping altogether!
-Tallulah Breslin, MS, CCC/SLP (she/they)
Gender & Identity Affirming Voice Training @Harmonic Speech Therapy