Hypersensitivity to oral stimulation?
Big words to describe something many of us have…
Do you hate yogurt? Not because of the taste – but because of the way it feels in your mouth?
Do you hate mashed potatoes? not because of the taste – but because of the way they feel in your mouth?
Do you hate chips? Not because of the taste – but because of the way they crunch in your mouth?
Although a scaled down version – this accurately describes hypersensitivity to oral stimulation. It can also be called Oral Defensivenesss…children (or adults) with this may also dislike having their teeth brushed or face washed! My brother once vomited at the table because my mom made him eat peas…she never ‘made’ him eat anything again. This was oral defensiveness – an over reaction to how something felt in his mouth.
Tucker does this too – you cannot say ‘Oh just try it and follow it up with a drink.’ Nope – it’s an automatic reaction. Yes, it’s frustrating – yes, it’s real.
Doesn’t that look DELICIOUS!!!???!!! This is how Tucker eats…we don’t serve ANY cooked vegetables to him. Every once in awhile we can get him to eat corn on the cob – but even that is rare. Raw veggies are his deal. Plenty of cucumbers, tomatoes, kohlrabi, lettuce, carrots, pea pods, peas straight out of the garden, and celery – he’ll even eat green beans ‘raw’ (which happens to be my favorite). I learned long ago to not force him into the cooked vegetables – honestly, I probably learned from sitting beside my brother while he vomited all over the dinner table. That’s something you just don’t forget easily.
So, how do we help folks with autism to deal with this oral defensiveness? First, stop denying it. It’s real. Very, very real. We have to understand that the mouth is truly a part of our body with feelings like our feet or hands. Remember the feeling of stepping on a lego in the middle of the night? To some, that is how it feels to eat a chip. Would you force someone to walk through a pile of legos without shoes? Only if they were your worst enemy…so please stop making your child eat things that literally hurt their mouth.
I’ll give plenty of ideas of how we have helped Tucker through some of his tendencies…but for now, here is the checklist from http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/sensory-processing-disorder-checklist.html:
_x_ picky eater, often with extreme food preferences; i.e., limited repertoire of foods, picky about brands, resistant to trying new foods or restaurants, and may not eat at other people’s houses)
__ may only eat “soft” or pureed foods past 24 months of age
_x_ may gag with textured foods
__ has difficulty with sucking, chewing, and swallowing; may choke or have a fear of choking
_x_ resists/refuses/extremely fearful of going to the dentist or having dental work done
__ may only eat hot or cold foods
__ refuses to lick envelopes, stamps, or stickers because of their taste
_X_ dislikes or complains about toothpaste and mouthwash
_X_dislikes having teeth brushed and/or face washed
_X_ avoids seasoned, spicy, sweet, sour or salty foods; prefers bland food
__ will take their food off the fork or spoon using only their teeth, keeping their lips retracted