Happy Learners - Managing Sensory Needs - Taste

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Sensory Needs

Taste (Gustaoception) and Oral Stimulation

Strategies to support children with sensory needs involving taste

Hyposensitivity

Children who are hyposensitive to taste have a much higher threshold before they taste foods. They are often under-stimulated inside the mouth generally. This often leads to sensory seeking behaviour involving placing things in their mouths. Strategies that can support them include:

Support these children's sensory seeking behaviour by providing safe things that they can put in their mouths like mouth fidgets and chew toys
Older children can benefit from chewing gum to reduce other chewing behaviour e.g. chewing end of pens.
Add crunchy foods to meals such as croutons in soups and salads, raw vegetables like carrot and cucumber sticks
Add spices to bland foods
Manage excessive salt use by not using it during cooking and letting child add a small amount of salt to the food on their plate.

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Hypersensitivity

Children who are hypersensitive to taste have a much lower threshold before they taste foods. They are often over-stimulated inside the mouth generally. This often leads to refusal behaviour as the child avoids unpleasant tastes and oral sensations. Strategies that can support them include:

Young children who may be reluctant to try different foods because of taste and texture can be supported by encouraging food play, finger painting and model making with foods and using fingers to explore textures
Some children may benefit from talking about food, sorting, classifying them by taste, colour or texture
Strong pleasant smells that the child likes may help mask tastes - try scented candles
Encourage very young children to to put things in their mouth. Older children can do rhymes and tongue twisters. Both help to increase tolerance of oral stimulation
Take child food shopping and encourage them to choose something new
Encourage child to help plan a week of favourite food and one new thing to be tried
Choose a dentist who understands and will support your child's sensory needs. Take distractions such as favourite toys, use games like I-spy to focus child's attention from mouth.
Try flavour free toothpaste and finger toothbrushes

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You may also be interested in the following pages:

Managing Sensory Needs - Hearing

Managing Sensory Needs - Movement

Managing Sensory Needs - Sight

Managing Sensory Needs - Smell

Managing Sensory Needs - Touch

Sensory Diet

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Sources:

Cheng, M., & Boggett-Carsjens, J. (2005). Consider Sensory Processing Disorders in the Explosive Child: Case Report and Review. The Canadian Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Review, 14(2), 44–48.
Laurie, C. (2013) Sensory Strategies London: The National Autistic Society