Have you ever wondered if your child’s selective eating habits are just a phase or something more? There is actually a difference between general picky eating and sensory feeding challenges, and understanding that difference is the first step toward improving your child’s nutritional intake. Keep reading to learn more about picky eating and how feeding therapy can help your child overcome their mealtime struggles.

What Is the Difference Between Picky Eating and Sensory Feeding Challenges?

Picky eating and sensory feeding challenges are easy to confuse for one another because they have very similar signs. However, picky eating is generally related to personal preference and can be a normal part of childhood. On the other hand, sensory feeding challenges are rooted in the child’s ability to process sensory input like texture or taste.

If you ask a picky eater to try a new food, they may refuse, say it’s “gross,” or take a small bite before spitting it out. But if you ask a child with sensory feeding challenges to try a new food, it can actually cause them distress, physical illness, or other unpleasant symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Sensory Feeding Challenges

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of sensory feeding challenges include:

  • Limited food preferences based on textures or colors
  • Refusal to eat certain food groups
  • Strong aversions to specific smells or tastes
  • Difficulty transitioning between food textures
  • Meltdowns, tantrums, or anxiety attacks at mealtime
  • Coughing or gagging when they try to swallow
  • Poor nutritional intake
  • Poor weight gain

How Can Sensory Feeding Challenges Impact My Child’s Development?

Sensory feeding challenges can significantly impact a child’s development. The most obvious way this happens is when your child has such a limited diet that they don’t get the nutrients their body needs to grow healthy and strong. Beyond that, sensory feeding challenges can make it difficult for your child to enjoy social situations involving food like going to restaurants or birthday parties. It can even be difficult for them to participate in school or daycare due to the distress they feel at mealtimes or snack time.

Free Developmental Screening

If you’re concerned about your child’s development, you can take advantage of our free online developmental screening. This tool is a convenient way for parents to know with certainty if your child is achieving their developmental milestones or if they need extra support to achieve their brightest future.

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