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SubType 3: Sensory Discrimination Disorder

Children that suffer from sensory discrimination disorder often have a hard time perceiving information. Discrimination is the brain’s ability to interpret information and disregards irrelevant information. A disorder of discrimination means the brain sometimes jumbles or confused environmental stimuli.

Each of the 8 senses has their own discrimination disorder and a child with this subtype of SPD can have any combination of all 8 discrimination disorders.

Tactile Discrimination Disorder – a child that suffers from this is not able to process things that they touch, they must be able to see it.

Some common signs of tactile discrimination disorder include:

  • unaware of being touched
  • unable to identify objects through touch
  • unable to describe a texture via touching

Gustatory/Oral Discrimination Disorder – usually happens in conjunction with olfactory discrimination

Common signs of oral discrimination disorder include:

  • unable to distinguish taste and texture while eating
  • unable to distinguish temperature of food

Olfactory Discrimination Disorder – usually happens in conjunction with gustatory/oral discrimination

Common signs of olfactory discrimination disorder include:

  • unable to identify the source of odors
  • unable able to identify smells (like something burning)

Auditory Discrimination Disorder – children who suffer from this disorder are sometimes misdiagnosed with ADHD or get in trouble for never listening. When a child suffers from this disorder they have a very hard time separating background noise from the noise of a teacher or parent.

Common signs of auditory discrimination disorder include:

  • unable to determine who is speaking
  • frequently mistakes sounds in language for homophones (for example, cars and cards, Arizona or around the corner)
  • difficulty following verbal instructions
  • talking too loud or too quietly
  • appears to ignore others

Visual Discrimination Disorder – children who suffer from this have a hard time reading emotions and recognizing patterns and letters

Common signs of visual discrimination disorder include:

  • difficulty in distinguishing between colors
  • difficulty in distinguishing between shapes
  • difficulty in identify objects that are slightly hidden
  • poor depth perception
  • difficulty in knowing left from right
  • difficulty distinguishing similar letters like p, q, g, b, and d.
  • lining up numbers in a math problem

Vestibular Discrimination Disorder – children who suffer from this is unaware of where his body is in the space around him

Common signs of vestibular discrimination disorder include:

  • difficulty determining head or body position
  • poor perception of elevation
  • poor posture
  • clumsiness
  • constant falling and being unable to stop self
  • gets disoriented easily

Proprioceptive Discrimination Disorder – children who suffer from this are unable to determine how much for is required to interact with an object

Common signs of proprioceptive discrimination disorder include:

  • unaware of how much force needed to pick or hold an object
  • constantly slamming doors or not closing them tight enough
  • breaks utensils
  • roughhousing to the point of someone getting hurt
  • unable to judge how much force to use throwing a ball

Interoceptive Discrimination Disorder

  • unable to tell when hungry, thirsty, full or quenched
  • unable to tell the difference between hunger and nausea
  • unable to determine the necessity of using the bathroom
  • unaware of being out of breath

Unlike over-responsiveness and under-responsiveness, discrimination disorders are harder to pinpoint and are frequently misdiagnosed due to the behavior problems associated with school. However, there are many ways to help your child, such as signging them up for occupational therapy.

SubType 2: Sensory-Based Motor Disorder

Children with Sensory Based Motor Disorder have a hard time coordinating their brains and the bodies. Normally, the brain receives sensory messages (sensory input) and produces an adaptive response (motor output). When a child suffers from Sensory Based Motor Disorder, they respond incorrectly to the surrounding environment whether it’s by not understanding the space around them or inability to move the body in the right way.

There are two different types of Sensory Based Motor Disorder:

  1. Dyspraxia
  2. Postural Disorder

Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia comes from the two Latin words “praxis” to do and “dys” badly. Children that suffer from this condition have a hard time processing environmental stimuli and following through with a motor action. They will usually have poor motor coordination, timing, planning, organizing, and sequencing. Most kids will prefer sedentary activities and be more imaginative to hide their lack of physical skills as compared to their classmates.

Common symptoms of dyspraxia include:

  • difficulty handling scissors, eating utensils and other hand held devices
  • difficulting buttoning, zipping and other fine motor activities
  • difficulty dressing themselves
  • illegible handwriting
  • poor hand eye coordination
  • difficulty navigating through a crowd
  • inability to learn complex sequence of movement
  • anxiety walking up or down stairs
  • visual perception issues including crossing the midline (taking left hand and putting it on the right shoulder or reading from left to right)

Postural Disorder

Postural disorder deals with the child’s ability to operate their muscles and move their own bodies successfully. Children usually have difficulty keeping their body on task while moving or keeping their body still at rest.

Common symptoms of postural disorder include:

  • frequently drooling or inability to keep things in the mouth while eating
  • not chewing food thoroughly
  • poor depth perception
  • difficulty focusing eyes
  • terrible aim when reaching for objects
  • poor sports performance
  • difficulty maintaining balance for long periods of time
  • frequently leaning on furniture or wall
  • very clumsy
  • sits in awkward positions
  • low muscle tone
  • difficulty using the rest room

These issues are important to address at an early age because children who suffer from Sensory Based Motor Disorders often feel isolated. It is common for children to not relate with peers because they cannot perform the same physical tasks as others such as climbing the monkey bars.

Here are some activities that you can do to help with Sensory Based Motor Disorder:

  • improve core muscle strength by bending, flexing, stretching and rotating
  • increase activity endurance by walking to school, walking to local stores, going for a bike ride on the weekends, trampoline time before dinner
  • improving balance by standing on one while brushing teeth or other activities where they would be standing
  • increase access to sports that don’t involve hand eye coordination such as swimming, horse riding, martial arts, pilates or even gymnastics
  • improve social participation by signing them up for classes to help develop self-esteem and reduce isolation
  • improve diet – find textures (soft or crunchy) and colors of foods that your child enjoys so you can make sure they are getting the proper nutrition and a balanced diet

SubType 1: Sensory Modulation Disorder

The definition of sensory modulation is the brain’s capability to respond in the correct fashion to the surrounding environmental stimuli and the ability to remain at the correct level of responsiveness. In the most basic form, sensory modulation is how we make sense of the physical world and how we place ourself within that world. We do this by using our 8 senses previously mentioned in earlier blog articles.

Typically, sensory modulation happens automatically, without thinking and without any effort. Our brains take in stimuli, filters out irrelevant stimuli and our muscles perform the correct actions accordingly. But if your child is suffering from Sensory Modulation Disorder, the process isn’t as automatic and requires effort. The perception of the stimuli gets muddled and the child’s corresponding action seems illogical.

Within Sensory Modulation Disorder there are three main types:

  1. Over-responsiveness
  2. Under-responsiveness
  3. Sensory Seeking

Over-Responsiveness

Over-responsiveness is categorized as an exaggerated response of the nervous system to sensory input. One common type of over-responsivity is motion sickness. People who are over-sensitivity to their vestibular sense may develop motion sickness as a response to fast movement. During an over-responsiveness behavior, the nervous system goes into “fight or flight” mode even when there is no real danger present but the brain perceives it as such. They feel as if they are being constantly bombarded with information.

Common symptoms of over-responsiveness behavior include:

  • as infants: fussy, startles easily, delayed motor skills, doesn’t like to be held
  • picky eating habits
  • in regards to clothing: doesn’t like tags or certain fabrics
  • dislikes washing hair, combing hair, brushing teeth
  • overwhelmed in crowds and noisy environments like New York City

Under-Responsiveness

Under-responsiveness is the opposite of over-responsiveness. This is the lack of response to environmental stimuli. Children might be “checked out” or “day dreaming”. Or they are very unfocused on what is happening around them. They also tend to be uncoordinated and may have difficulty with fine motor skills.

Common symptoms of under-responsiveness behavior include:

  • as infants: delayed motor skills development, drooling, lack of response to sight and sounds
  • love spicy and salty foods
  • unkempt and messy
  • distant, daydreaming, checked out
  • overweight
  • high pain tolerance, doesn’t notice cuts or bruises
  • low muscles tone, bad posture
  • clumsiness

Sensory Seeking

The nervous system of a sensory seeking child needs intense and frequent input in order for the sensation to even be processed by the brain.

Common symptoms for sensory seeking behavior include:

  • as infants: love movement, roughhousing, happiest in stimulating environments
  • crave salty, spicy, sticky or crunchy food
  • always in motion
  • throws self on the ground
  • runs, skips or jumps rather than walks
  • difficulty sitting still
  • touches everything, puts things in mouth
  • poor attention span

If you feel that your child is suffering from Sub Type 1 of Sensory Processing Disorder: Sensory Modulation Disorder, then you should contact an occupational therapist. In a fun and safe atmosphere, you can work on sensory integration therapy to help them with their difficulties. If these issues are not addressed early on adults with Sensory Modulation Disorder can develop depression, anxiety, mood swings and become reclusive.

The Other Senses: Interoception

Senses are the pathways through which the brain processes information from the surrounding environment, a process commonly referred to as “perceiving.” It’s important to know that each sense is a system of sensory cells that corresponds to a particular region of the brain where signals are received and then interpreted. In humans, there is much sensory apparatus beyond the five senses. Today, we are focusing on Interoception, which is the sense of internal processes occurring in the body, such as hunger, thirst, fullness, nausea, heart rate, breathing, body temperature, arousal, and the need to use the bathroom.

Interoception is also connected to awareness of our own emotions because our bodies react physiologically to various emotions. Certain emotions make our heart rate increase (fear, excitement, sexual arousal), our stomach flutter (nervousness or anxiety), our muscles tighten (anger, stress, the need to mobilize) or relax (comfort, calm, relief). When we lack the capacity to interpret sensory feedback, we become confused about which physical sensation or emotion we are experiencing.

How does interoception work?

All throughout our bodies, in our organs, muscles, skin, bones, and elsewhere, there are small receptors that gather information to report information about the inside of our body to our brains. When our interoception is working properly, our brain helps organizes this information so that we can react appropriately to what we are feeling physically or emotionally.

How does interoception affect your child’s behavior?

Interoception is such a basic sense that it is most often taken for granted, but for children with Interoceptive Discrimination Disorder, a form of sensory processing disorder (SPD), it is very difficult to distinguish internal feelings from external ones. These children may believe that something originating in their own bodies is caused by something in the environment. This can result in difficulties in self-regulation and in inappropriate behavior. If your child doesn’t know that she’s hungry, for example, she may simply feel irritable or frustrated. For obvious reasons, children with interoceptive difficulties often have difficulty getting toilet-trained.

Interoception Has a Major Influence on Self-Regulation

Our interoceptive system lets us know when our internal balance is off so that we can restore its balance by, for example, drinking when we’re thirsty, or putting on a sweater when we’re cold. When our internal signals get crossed, we don’t know which actions to take to make ourselves more comfortable so we may keep eating when we’re actually full, or refuse to sleep when we’re actually tired. For those with interoceptive disorders, not only is self-awareness negatively affected, but the ability to understand the feelings and behavior of others may be disrupted.

Types of Interoceptive Disorders

To make the situation even more challenging, different individuals may respond to mixed interoceptive signals in several ways:

Defensiveness
Some children are hypersensitive to interoceptive input and may do whatever they can to subdue these sensations. They may, for example, avoid strenuous exercise because they experience the resulting increased heart rate as painful or frightening.

Under-responsiveness

Conversely, some children are under-responsive to interoception and therefore neglect to eat when they are hungry or go to the bathroom when they feel the urge to urinate or defecate. They may also be unable to sense the urgency of the present need.
Seeking Interoceptive Input

Sometimes children seek an abnormal level of interoceptive input. They may enjoy the feeling of a racing heart brought on by bursts of activity or enjoy the sensation of hunger or of needing to eliminate. This can lead to inappropriate responses to natural sensations and may be irritating and disturbing to their parents.

Ways to Address Interoceptive Disorders

The first thing to do if you suspect your child is dealing with an interoceptive disorder is to consult with a professional psychologist/behavioral therapist. A group of activities known as “a sensory diet” can be very helpful. If integrated in your child’s play on a daily basis, these activities can assist with your child’s attention, arousal and adaptive responses.

The Other Senses: Proprioception

Senses are the pathways through which the brain processes information from the surrounding environment, a process commonly referred to as “perceiving.” It’s important to know that each sense is a system of sensory cells that corresponds to a particular region of the brain where signals are received and then interpreted. In humans, there is much sensory apparatus beyond the five senses. Today, we are focusing on proprioception, which is a fundamental means of sensing the environment. Proprioception lets us know our body’s position in space.

How does proprioception work?

The receptors for proprioception are located in our skin, muscles, and joints and connect to the brain through the nervous system, providing us with information about where our body is in space, even when our eyes are closed or if we are blind. It is believed that newborns already have a sense of proprioception.

Among other things, proprioception lets us know how we fit in with our external environment, whether we are carrying weight, and whether we need to contract our muscles. It is common for people to experience temporary malfunctions of proprioceptive processing during growth spurts, when they are fatigued, during aging, or when they are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. In children, problems with proprioception are often associated with social or behavioral issues, such as Asperger’s Syndrome and other disorders on the autism spectrum, ADHD, and sensory processing disorder, and may also be associated with academic difficulties.

Manifestations of Proprioceptive Difficulties

Children with proprioceptive malfunctions have a hard time understanding their own body boundaries and therefore have problems understanding acceptable limits when interacting with others. The following are possible signs of proprioceptive disorder:

  • Bumping or crashing into things or other people
  • Kicking while sitting or foot stomping when walking
  • Desiring to be wrapped or hugged very tightly, or to be dressed in tight clothing
  • Using too much force to write or erase
  • Playing too roughly with other children or pets
  • Using too much force in carrying or opening, resulting in dropping, spillage or breakage
  • Having difficulty locating body parts, especially with closed eyes
  • Needing to bite or chew very frequently
  • Difficulty climbing stairs, riding a bicycle, standing on one foot (says a foot surgeon)

It is easy to see why children who have proprioceptive difficulties are easily frustrated and may lack self-confidence. They may be teased or belittled for the behaviors they use to compensate, such as toe walking, crashing, running or flapping. One study found that proprioceptive difficulties among children may contribute to decreased motor planning and postural control. This often leads to disruptive behaviors, making completion of everyday tasks and getting along with peers much more challenging.

Ways of Improving Proprioception

If you suspect your child has problems with proprioception, the best thing to do is consult with a professional. Behavioral psychologists and occupational therapists have developed a number of activities that can help such children improve their proprioception. These activities can go a long way in assisting your child in academic and social functioning, thereby helping her develop increased self-esteem.

Some of the activities recommended to improve proprioception in children are:

  • Having them do heavy work
  • Applying deep (not painful) pressure to their bodies
  • Having them move around, whether with chores or play, as much as possible
  • Playing games with them that require locating body parts (e.g. Simon Says, Hokey Pokey)
  • Performing activities that involve imitating body postures (swimming, dancing, tennis)

Be creative about finding ways in which you can help your child be proactive in overcoming his deficiencies while having fun (and sometimes completing a satisfying job in the process). Carrying groceries or laundry, pushing a vacuum cleaner, raking the yard, climbing a tree or jungle gym, shoveling soil or snow, crawling through a playground tunnel — all count as “heavy work.” Wrapping your child playfully in a blanket and applying deep, pleasant pressure, or giving your child a massage, may also be very helpful in building body awareness. It is important to have your child accurately diagnosed by a professional before beginning a program of targeted exercise since you want to make sure that what you’re doing is constructive and not overwhelming.

The Other Senses: Vestibular System

Senses are the pathways through which the brain processes information from the surrounding environment, a process commonly referred to as “perceiving.” It’s important to know that each sense is a system of sensory cells that corresponds to a particular region of the brain where signals are received and then interpreted. In humans, there is much sensory apparatus beyond the five senses. Today, we are focusing on the vestibular system, which is a fundamental means of sensing the environment.

What is the vestibular system?

The vestibular system, which starts in vestibular organs in the middle and inner ear, is the first sensation a fetus experiences prior to birth. As we move our heads, the fluid in these organs shifts, giving us feedback about where we are in space. Depending on the efficiency of our vestibular system, we may experience a feeling of balance and gravitational security or a sense of being off balance and in danger of falling. The vestibular system makes our body aware of when we need to make adjustments to maintain balance.

Signs of a Healthy Vestibular System

When our vestibular sense is fully functional, we are secure and organized enough in our bodies to be able to attend and respond to all of the other senses we encounter daily.  A child with a well-developed vestibular sense feels confident and safe during movement activities, even if his feet are off the ground.  She is able to start and stop movement activities calmly and with control.  He is comfortable with climbing, swinging, somersaulting, and jumping –- knowing that his body will adapt and that he will be able to maintain his balance and keep himself from falling or getting hurt.

Signs of Vestibular Disorder

Surprisingly, when a child’s vestibular system is not functioning properly, she may be either under- responsive or overly sensitive to movement. For this reason, many of the symptoms of a vestibular problem may seem contradictory. These symptoms include:

  • Unwillingness to participate in activities that require feet leaving the ground
  • Frequent motion sickness or dizziness
  • Clumsiness or frequent falling
  • Moving with extreme caution
  • Excessive spinning with no reported dizziness
  • Impulsive, risk-taking behavior
  • Preferring sedentary activities
  • Rocking, twirling or frequent head tilting
  • Preferring slouching or lying down to sitting

While one child with a vestibular disorder may fear or dislike any activity in which his feet leave the ground — swinging, sliding, bicycle riding, jumping, or climbing — another child with the disorder may constantly seek these same activities. Also, vestibular dysfunction may cause problems with motor and visual coordination.

Positive Methods to Address Symptoms of Vestibular Disorder

If you suspect your child has vestibular issues, it is best to check with a professional before trying to help. Psychologists and occupational therapists often recommend some of the following activities to improve the situation:

  • Somersaults and cartwheels
  • Jumping rope or jumping on a trampoline
  • Bicycle riding
  • Swimming
  • Gymnastics
  • Lying on the stomach
  • Climbing on the jungle gym
  • Balancing on a curb or balance beam
  • Doing cartwheels or somersaults
  • Playing games like Twister

Directing your child to engage in such play may help her vestibular system to improve greatly. It is essential, however, to work under the guidance of someone with professional training so that you don’t urge your child to overdo activities that may cause physical or emotional discomfort or harm.

The Sense of Smell: Olfaction

Senses are the brain’s capability to process information from the surrounding environment, commonly referred to as “perceiving.” It’s important to know that each sense is a system of sensory cells that corresponds to a particular region of the brain where signals are received and then interpreted. In humans, there are a variety of senses. Today, we are focusing on the sense of smell, otherwise known as “Olfaction,” and how it’s affected by Sensory Processing Disorder.

Smell, much like taste, is a “chemical” sense. While we perceive smell to be a very simple process, there are so many chemical and physical things going on in your body to make it happen. There are over 300 olfactory receptors working in tandem with specific molecular features and receptors to make up what we perceive as the smell of an incoming molecule.

Olfactory receptors often die and regenerate on a relatively regular basis, which is different than other neuron receptors. The sensory receptors that pick up chemicals, called chemoreceptors, get “tired” after a certain amount of time, which is why many times you will be in a smelly room and will forget that the room smells after a while. Once your chemoreceptors are given a chance to recover, they will usually be back to normal.

For example, many studies suggest that over 80% of what we perceive as taste is actually due to how the food smells. As we touched on before, taste and smell go hand in hand when it comes to children becoming picky eaters. Finding out foods that smell good to your child is a good start, as what they smell will ultimately be what they taste when they eat. Making food that smells good is like giving your food to a culinary plastic surgeon: it will be infinitely more appealing if there is a good smell along with it.

A child with sensory processing disorder will have a hard time categorizing foods and other scents into their respective smells. This, just like taste, will often lead to your child being a picky eater, or will make them more likely to avoid situations in which they think they will be exposed to smells that are too much for them to handle.

Children with SPD, or similar diagnosis on the autism spectrum, often smell many objects or complain about things that they think smell bad. This is just like any other sensory overload that your child is experiencing, only they are able to explain to you how it is affecting them. While it is hard for us to perceive how a child is affected by not perceiving how objects are moving, we all know what it feels like to smell something that makes you uncomfortable.

Because we understand where our children are coming from when it comes to olfactory perception, it is important to know our child’s reactions. If they have similar facial patterns or verbal reactions to a certain object or food, it is a good idea to keep them at a distance until they are able to handle being around the object. It is important to remember that while the sense of smell might not seem as important as touch or vision, it can still be incredibly uncomfortable for your child if they are placed in the wrong situation. Always do your best to put them in a situation to succeed, whether that is introducing them to new smells to get them used to new sensations, or placing them in a neutral-smelling environment when you need them to perform a task.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here for you!

What Is Touch Pressure?

Parents of children with SPD are often looking for ways to improve the lives of their children in every way possible. While it is a very hard concept considering that SPD research is minimal at best, we believe that there are certain methods of therapy that will allow parents to rest assured that they are helping their children as much as possible.

One version of assistance that we see many therapists suggest is “Deep Touch Pressure.” Deep touch pressure is a mode of therapy (or intervention) that has a focus on improving your child’s sensory modulation by reducing their responses to distracting stimuli. As you probably know by now, sensory modulation is a term used to describe the characteristics of a person who over-responds, under-responds, or fluctuates their responses to sensory inputs in a way that is disproportional to the input.

Sensory modulation affects everything from children who struggle to focus on tasks, sit down on a chair, or stay in the same place for a significant amount of time. This lack of focus is not simply your child having a “short attention span”, but it could be your child responding to the stimuli around them instead of staying focused on the task at hand. For example, it might be hard for them to sit down and stay still if they hear all of their peers sitting down, scooting their chairs, whispering, etc.

Children with SPD get distracted by many things, because their bodies respond to stimuli differently than most. As we have touched upon in previous articles, the best way to address this is to help your children form good habits, not to chastise the bad ones.

With that in mind, deep touch therapy focuses on diverting your child’s attention away from the stimuli around them and directing it to the task at hand. One method of deep touch therapy is a “pressure vest,” which can be worn all day. While it might not seem like much, the pressure from the vest will reduce purposeless hyperactivity, self-stimulatory behaviors, and increase balance and stability.

Since children with SPD often have different reactions and perceptions to sensory inputs, having something like pressure vest, a weighted blanked, or a weighted lap pad can neutralize everything that is going on around them and get them to focus on the task at hand. It is not a panacea for all of their struggles, but it certainly helps when it comes to getting them to focus on one thing at a time.

As always, we encourage you to talk to a medical professional before making important decisions like whether you want to engage in deep touch therapy for your child. You need to weigh every option for your loved one, because it is not just your well-being at hand. If you have any questions about where you should go if deep touch therapy doesn’t work, please don’t worry. There are many methods, and every child is different. Stay tuned, we will be back with more soon!

What Is Heavy Work And How Does It Help With SPD?

Proprioceptive input, or “heavy work“, happens when we perform tasks that involve heavy resistance for the muscles and joints. It is absolutely essential for assimilating and processing both movement and touch information.

Heavy work is generally broken down into three types: whole body, oral, and hands. Whole body heavy work includes pushing and pulling (doors, shopping carts, etc), walking, and playing. Oral heavy work includes sucking, chewing, talking, and other similar actions. Hand heavy work includes activities like gripping, squeezing, or fidgeting.

Now that we have the definition of heavy work out of the way, it is important to consider how heavy work helps children (and adults) with SPD. As you already know, SPD is a disorder in which the affected have trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.

Heavy work helps children with SPD get to a “normal” sensory level in many ways. It is important to recognize that there are two main attributes of SPD: receiving and responding to information that the brain sends it. Heavy work gets their bodies and senses used to certain movements, cadences, and levels of exertion so they are able to perform at a better level in the future.

Experts in NYC like to think of heavy work as a training regimen for your children, or a way to gauge how their body responds to different forces. Children with SPD generally have issues responding to the environment around them in the correct way, whether it is closing doors too hard or not chewing food hard enough. By getting them used to activities every day, you will train their bodies to be used to the levels of stress they will encounter daily.

For example, it might be frustrating that your child always breaks the tip of their pencil when they write. Instead of giving them a keyboard to type, it is better to give them different hand heavy works to develop their skills. Once their hands are accustomed to how to respond to all different type of products (pens, markers, etc.), then they will have an easier time with pencils.

This concept applies to children with SPD, as their entire concept of their sensory perception needs to be constantly worked on. Simple tasks like pushing shopping carts or playing with a fidget spinner can help them learn how to interact with their environment properly and without doing any harm to themselves.

Heavy work is the “teach a man to fish” of the SPD world. By letting children do heavy work during the day, you are letting them get more and more accustomed to the world around them and how they perceive it. Instead of coddling them and protecting them from their environment, it is of the utmost importance that you teach them how to do as much as they can.

If you would like to learn more about heavy work, please check out the video below. As always, we encourage you to reach out to us if you have any questions about SPD or how you would introduce a heavy work regimen to your child.

The Sense Of Taste: Gustation

Senses are the brain’s capability to process information from the surrounding environment, commonly referred to as “perceiving.” It’s important to know that each sense is a system of sensory cells that corresponds to a particular region of the brain where signals are received and then interpreted. In humans, there are a variety of senses. Today, we are focusing on the sense of taste, otherwise known as “Gustation,” and how it’s affected by Sensory Processing Disorder.

Taste is the most basic sense refers to the detection of the chemicals that make up food. Taste is sometimes confused with flavor (flavor is actually your taste and your sense of smell working in conjunction with each other to form a perception). Taste is received through sensory organs such as the tongue, the papillae, taste buds, and the receptor cells.

When a food enters the mouth, during the digestion process, saliva is released and starts to break down the food moving the food into the tiny pores and grooves on the tongue where the receptor cells are located. The cells then determine whether the food fits into one of five tastes: sweet, salt, sour, bitter and umami.

When your child suffers from sensory processing disorder they will have a hard time categorizing foods into their respective tastes. This might cause them to be extremely picky eaters. But there’s a difference between a picky eater and the potential to suffering from nutritional deficiencies due to limited food choices.  Also, there are some who have the opposite problem and crave oral sensory input.

Here are some indicators that your child might have taste sensitivity or enjoy oral sensory input:

  • considered a very picky eater – gag at certain foods, only eat certain brands, become anxious when trying new foods
  • will only eat food at room temperature
  • often finds food too hot or too cold or prefers food too hot or too cold
  • may enjoy extremely bland food or extremely spicy food
  • frequent drooling
  • licks, chews or bites inedible objects

According to Kay Toomey, Ph.D., psychologist and clinical director of SOS Feeding Solutions, current research shows from birth to 8 years, 20% of all kids struggle with food. But taste sensitivity occurs when your child lets eating disrupt their daily life.

There are however some strategies to help make meal time easier for everyone involved.

  • strict routines such as eating at the same time, location, and using the same utensils to help create comfort before meal time
  • parents and siblings should behave as role models
  • respond with praise when they have good behavior especially when they say “no thank you” to a bite
  • food should be served that is easy to manage – cut into cubes or small strips
  • have them help out during meal time such  as preparation, setting the table, and cleaning up
  • have kids play with the food to help get used to the textures
  • incorporate crunchy, chewy, or sticky snacks throughout the day for those who like to chew

An occupational therapist or a dietrician can help you present foods in news ways and make sure that your child is getting everything that they need.