Eating is a demanding sensory experience. The way food looks, how it smells, if it is smooth or lumpy, too hot or cold all influence if we will enjoy the eating experience. The Food Sensory Awareness (FAS) Therapy program introduces sensory experiences using practical, fun activities. The activities provide a range of sensory exposures to increase foods acceptance and when ready the variety nourishing wholefoods to be enjoyed.

Who is the Food Sensory Awareness Therapy for? 

The FSA Program is suited to children, teenagers and adults with or without a disability. Anyone with sensory sensitivity, sensory avoidance or sensory seeking preferences to food textures will benefit.

Food sensory sensitivities are varied, commonly it will be a refusal to eat a specific colour or texture, e.g. crunchy or mashed foods, meats, or coloured fruits and vegetables.

Other more generalised restrictions are also indicative of sensory issues e.g.:

  • A restricted range y of foods tolerated (less than 20 different foods consumed in a week).
  • They regularly eat a different meal from the rest of the family.
  • Are underweight / under-nourished, or at risk of becoming underweight / under-nourished.
  • Overeating some less than nourishing foods.
  • Get more distressed or anxious at mealtimes.

What is the impact of avoiding sensory inputs? 

People who experience sensory inputs more intensely may consciously or unconsciously avoid sensory experiences. These will include foods that that overwhelm them or cause an unpleasant reaction. Their avoidance extends to restricting their diet, and excludes many essential foods required for health and well being.

With gentle, fun and practical activities, without the pressure of chewing and swallowing the range of ‘safe’ foods is gradually increased.

What is the impact of being sensory seeking?

Sensory seekers are under-sensitive, they are looking for more sensory stimulation. They risk overeating and demand regular stimulation, food is their preference oral stimulation. Kids who sensory seek may also look clumsy, be a little too loud or seem to have behaviour issues.

Additional sensory inputs can help stimulate and or soothe an overloaded system, This helps them to be more organized in their own body and space.

People seeking sensory stimulation from food can appear greedy. They eat fast and don’t have a sense that they have filled their mouth (or tummy). Sensory seekers love the crunch of biscuits and crisps but not necessarily crunchy vegetables as these are more difficult to process. They enjoy the strong salty, sour and sweet tastes but not have the palate for hot and spicy.

The cause of sensory and difficult eating behaviours

There is not a widely accepted cause of sensory and difficult eating behaviours. However it is likely there are many and compounding reasons.

The research indicates most commonly sensory eating behaviours result from a difficulty processing the sensory aspects of eating (texture, taste smell). Or it may have been a traumatic childhood experience, such as choking on food, or overeating; or an unrelated incident that made some foods no longer feel safe to eat. And for some it could be simply a fear of the unknown.

If there is a difficult eater behaviour you are probably not going to improve it just by hiding vegetables in a spaghetti bolognese.

Food Sensory Awareness Therapy introductory program

The Nourish your Ability FSA program commences with a nutrition and eating behaviour review. A review provides bench marks of the current level of food sensory awareness, food anxiety and other influencing health issues. This information provides guidance for an individualised goal orientated approach.

We introduce foods in the therapy consultations using photo references to start conversations, chatting about their different colours and textures, current preferences and dislikes.

In consultations, you will be encouraged to look at real wholefoods, smell them and touch if you choose. We work through different colours, textures, temperatures and smells of wholefoods to increase your awareness and acceptance.

We move slowly for sensory sensitive participants. Encouragement is provided to recognise different textures of foods by grating, slicing and cutting shapes. They decide when or if they are ready to taste.

For the sensory seeking patients, we move quickly to tasting the foods. Some foods will be enjoyed for their crunchy or soft mushy food texture and others for the sensations that taste sweet, sour, bitter.

The pace of the FSA program is individualised to cater to different levels of sensory sensitivity, their ability to engage and established habits.

For more information about how you can access Nourish Your Ability’s Food Sensory Awareness Therapy program, please give me a call 0417 820 292 or book on-line.

NDIS Self-managed and Plan-managed clients with health and well-being goals are welcome.