To start, let’s talk about oral sensory processing. The sensory receptors located inside of our mouths process information regarding texture, temperature, and taste. Oral sensory processing also includes our ability to chew various resistant foods (a crunchy carrot versus a soft muffin), ability to control saliva, and our ability to coordinate our tongue movements during chewing, drinking, swallowing, and speech production. Children with atypical oral processing may respond in a heightened way to oral input; this is called oral hypersensitivity (or oral aversion or defensiveness). These children may be considered “picky” or “selective” eaters, choke or gag easily, resist utensils, and/or resist tooth brushing or the dentist. Children may also require additional input to the sensory receptors to help them organize and register a response; this is called oral hyposensitivity (or decreased sensitivity to oral input). These children may make noise for noise’s sake and have difficulty with volume control. These children may chew, lick, and/or mouth non-food items (pencils, clothing, toys, fingers, etc.) or even bite others. These children may overstuff their mouths with food or pocket food in their cheeks. These children may seek out spicy or flavorful foods.
How to Help?
• Eat crunchy or chewy foods (granola, nuts, raw vegetables, apples, crushed ice, dry pasta noodles, rice cakes, pretzel rods, jerky, fruit leathers, dried fruit, bagels, and/or gummy candy, etc.)
• Drink purees through a straw (yogurt, pudding, jello, applesauce, thick milkshakes or smoothies, etc.)
• Offer cold foods, strong flavorful foods, spicy foods, and/or sour foods (carbonated beverages, frozen fruits, and vegetables, frozen yogurt, tamales, salsa, queso, hot sauce, sour candies, add lemon to water, etc.)
• Chew Gum
• Use vibration (vibrating toothbrush)
• Use mouth toys (harmonica, kazoo, whistles, blowing bubbles, blow-up balloons, straw blowing games, etc.)
• Nonfood chewing tools: Chewy tubes, Chewigem, and/or Ark Chewlery