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Occupational Therapy Solutions: Help your Picky Eater !

Updated: Jun 28, 2020

#occupationaltherapy #occupationaltherapyseremban #julialouisblog #louiscenterseremban #pickyeater

Your child may have a sensory problem called " Oral Hypersensitivity"

Huh!!!!...What is that..?

Lets very briefly look at the problem, so that the solutions make more sense to you...

What is your Oral Hypersensitivity?

Oral has to do with your mouth. It is one of the common 5 senses that we learn in school (see the image below).The oral sense gives our brain information about the texture of the food we eat, whether our food is spicy, sweet or sour and also about the temperature of the food.

Occupational therapy Seremban tips understand senses at louis center

So what is Oral Hyper-Sensitivity ?

Oral Hyper-Sensitivity occurs when our brain is not correctly processing information about the different tastes or textures of food that we put in our mouth.

(otak dia tidak memproses rasa atau tekstur makanan yang dimasukan ke dalam mulut dengan betul)

An example please?

Let's take a look at the picture below first...

( kedua duanya disuapkan dengan bubur yang sama )

Occupational therapy Seremban tips understanding oral sense at louis center
The child on the right with " Oral HYPER-sensitivity " found the porridge so disgusting !! It even caused him to vomit. ( dia tersangat geli dengan bubur yang disuapkan dan ini mengakibatkan dia termuntah )

The child on the left has NO PROBLEMS with her sense of taste. This is why she behave as most children do. Porridge is usually well tolerated by children.
Even if a child does not like porridge, his reaction would not be that extreme. He might simply run away or say yuck when fed.

Why does being Oral Hypersensitive make my child a Picky Eater?

Her brain is processing the information about the porridge as disgusting.

It may be because of the texture of the porridge or even the flavor.

Your child may not be throwing up just because he is fussy. The food may taste too bad for him to tolerate.

(otak dia salah memproses informasi tentang bubur yang disuapkan. Ini membuat dia rasa meluat)

What are the solutions for your child?

GOAL: The goal is to desensitize your child's sense of taste or reduce his hypersensitivity.

You first need to prepare some tools for conducting this activity. See below

What do we need to do with these tools?

We need to gradually introduce various textures to massage, stroke, rub or provide light pressure( depending on your child) to your child’s lips,tongue, cheeks and gums.

What if he won't let me do it?

We need to proceed with VERY gradual and patient..

Few important guidelines

  • First let your child be aware of what you plan to do on him.

  • We need to try our best at making him less anxious

  • If you promise your child that you are only going to stroke his cheek 3 times, you need to keep your word. He need to trust you that it will only be 3 strokes.

These guidelines are very important, if not followed, your child may not want to participate in the therapy at all.

Go slow…observe his face and body movements, if there are signs that he may soon reject the therapy, stop before that happens...You can try again later in the day when he appears to be more relaxed.

Are there any tips and tricks on getting my child to participate?

Use his favourite food that he likes as a bait...

EG: Your child loves something creamy like Nutella or something dry like Twisties ( if you use this, put aside the powdered flavouring and hide the pieces)

Try to deprive your child from eating his favourite food for 2 days.

You need to try to make your child understand that he gets to have it using the special tools you have or after he allows you to massage or stroke his outer mouth (cheeks)

Once he realizes that he gets it only during therapy, he may look forward to the session.

If that is not rewarding enough, promise him a reward if he agrees to cooperate. If he likes riding a bike with his dad, allow that activity only after the session.

Always keep to your promise, it will make things much easier for you

How do we conduct the therapy for the insides of his mouth?

There are many methods, it may depend on how your child react to each one.


PREPERATION: Always have only a little bit of Nutella left in the bottle or only the dust of the Twisties left in the packet.

We want it to appear very precious to him.


Try to tell him that you are going to feed him with the 'nuk massager' (left) or the tooth brush for babies (right). Always start with the most gentle tool ( you can always try it out on yourself first..)

If he does not seem too sure or is hesitant, dip the nuk massager into the Nutella and proceed to feed his sibling or your other half.

Get them to exaggerate on how yummy the taste is. "Yum Yum !! I love this Nutella".

Before your child tries to stick his finger into the Nutella, show him that you have a large lump of Nutella on the Nuk.

Just hold it near enough to his mouth so that he is the one who is making the decision about whether or not to taste it.

He will be more willing to try .....if he is not willing, just say that there is no more Nutella and put the bottle away. Try it again after 3-4 hours... he may decide to give it a go.

Once he gets used to the Nuk going into his mouth you can gently stroke his cheek a couple of times...remember it needs to be gradual..

What's next?

We need to expose your child to a variety of sensations in order to desensitize him. You can you the Z-Vibe (not available locally), it not only has a brush like top, it also vibrates (the image on the left-below)

Many parents have told me that they have achieved similar results using a small & gentle electronic toothbrush..this is easily available and less pricey (see the image on the right)

The Knobby Chewy Tube can be use for reducing the sensitivity by dipping the bumpy stem into your child's favorite food and gently stroke his inner cheek. It is also great for those kids with low facial or oral muscle (for developing speech or improving pronunciation).

We have stock for the Chewy Tube ( ordered from US for our students) however I am not sure whether we have any more Nuk Massagers (from US too).

You can contact 017 634 255 to speak to the therapist directly. If I am not mistaken, it costs around RM 50 - 60.

When in comes to tools that need to be put in your child's mouth, it's best bought from established companies like Nuk and Chewy Tube..where the products are FDA approved and toxic free.

Again take it slow....

As your child becomes less sensitive...

Start massaging and stroking his gums. When doing this activity, remember to change the amount of pressure you use & vary your strokes.

You can massage his face with oil, stroke his cheeks with different textured towels or cloths..etc..focusing on the area above his lip and cheeks.....start with the more gentle ones

What about trying out new food on him?

To make to food less frightening to him, conduct fun art activities using food. While enjoying the activity he might become curious about how it taste.

What kind or art activities?

Below are a few examples......

Occupational Therapy Seremban for autism Louis Center

I hope you find this post useful.....

For more in-depth knowledge you can read a couple of my earlier posts:

The titles of the posts are not as displayed by the buttons below, however the titles below represents the difficulty level.

Occupational Therapist Seremban Autism Louis Centre

Occupational Therapy Seremban Autism Louis Centre

Occupational Therapy in Seremban Louis Centre

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