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Is it Picky Eating or Sensory Eating Disorder?

Plenty of kids go through a picky eating stage, often during preschool and early elementary. This is normal, but pickiness that persists for years or affects your child’s health is not. If your child seems unusually picky or if her health is suffering because she will not eat, she may have sensory eating disorder (SED). Here are some ways to determine if your child has SED and what to do about it.

Signs of SED

  • Other sensory problems. You might notice other issues before eating problems. For example, maybe your child was hard to soothe as a baby. He or she may object to certain clothing or is sensitive to temperature. He or she may overreact to loud noises or stimulating colors. This indicates that the brain has trouble processing information through the senses, which often includes eating.
  • Eating fewer than 10 foods. Keep a food diary about your child for around three days, and count the number of foods you see him or her eating. If it is fewer than 10, you may have an issue with SED.
  • Sensitivity to specific textures. Your child may gag on certain foods or avoid foods with certain textures or smells. Triggers vary according to child, but many kids with SED gravitate toward bland or white foods, such as cereal, bread, or cheese pizza.

What to Do

Doctors recommend meeting kids where they are and letting them try new foods at their own pace as much as possible. Passing food family-style at dinner may help. Getting your child involved in food preparation might help, too.