Searching for sensory-based feeding products that encourage a child with autism to try new foods can be overwhelming for a parent or feeding therapist. Luckily, silicone is one of the best sensory materials out there, and using dishware made from silicone can be a game changer at mealtime! In Part 1 of our blog series, we discussed how silicone is noiseless and odorless (perfect for kiddos with sensory processing challenges). In Part 2 of our series we explore three more ways silicone may help children with autism overcome selective eating.
Silicone + Vision: Most of us want a meal to look visually appealing, especially when we are hungry. Kids want that too, and their idea of an alluring meal is something that is visually fun! In feeding therapy, I use my food art feeding technique, which quickly changes a monotonous mealtime to a fun eating adventure. Here is how you can too.
- Purchase the original silicone plate + placemat, the Happy Mat, in your child’s favorite color. The visually engaging happy face is easy to decorate with food, allowing you to create adorable cartoons, animals and goofy faces!
- If you run out of ideas, check out the book Making Mealtime ezpz for food art inspiration.
Silicone + Touch: Many children are drawn to the tactile sensation of silicone. It feels calming, soft, cool and flexible. This is one of the reasons why kids love to eat out of silicone! They can take a sensory break and touch the plate at mealtime (which can prevent meltdowns). Here are a few more ideas on how silicone helps children with tactile sensitivities.
- If your child refuses to eat off paper plates, it might be due to the paper getting moist; kiddos with sensory issues generally do not like that feeling. Paper plates can also make food soggy, which is another sensory challenge resulting in food refusal.
- Some children I work with have a hypo-reaction to touch, which means that they may not feel potentially harmful input such as a burning or cutting sensation on a broken glass dish. Many feeding therapists use silicone plates because they are shatterproof in the event a child with autism bangs or throws a plate during a tantrum.
Silicone + Taste: If you have a kiddo that constantly tells you “I don’t like it” when they taste a new food, it may be that they have difficulties processing gustatory (taste) information. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) tend to have hyper or hypo sensitivities when it comes to their sensory system registering flavor and texture. I have had hundreds (yes hundreds!) of parents with children diagnosed with ASD tell me that their children can taste plastic and metal. A lot of these kiddos refuse to eat out of dishware with those properties, and they prefer to eat out of glass or silicone. Here are some common characteristics of children with sensory taste sensitivities.
- Observe your child and see if they are drawn to bland food tastes or, alternatively, crave spice and heat.
- Ask your child if they can taste plastic or metal when eating.
- Try using silicone to see if it increases your child’s food intake or food variety.
Sensory-based feeding challenges are difficult and disruptive for both the child and the entire family. But, the good news is, having sensory-friendly mealtime products can help! What sensory aspects of silicone is your child’s favorite? Share your pics and comments with the hashtags #ezpzfun #autism.
Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz