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Make Your Child Eat Their Dinner!


“I am tired of my child not eating dinner”.  The answer is to make your child eat their dinner.  What a fantastic example of conventional behaviour management in regards to eating.

I remember as a child it took me 2 hours to eat an English muffin.  Yep that was 2 hours.  I couldn’t stand the taste, the texture but I was forced to eat it.  I have only just tried one again at 40 and yep still do not like the texture.

We were told that we must finish everything on our plates even if we hated it.  I am sure in many homes this is the case still.  I do not like food being put in the bin either.

However for children who have Sensory Processing Disorder with Defensive modulation, the food area can be extremely challenging.  Her oral area is the worst sensory area.  We did the conventional method of not making her anything different and she chose not eating.  We introduced her new foods.  But nothing worked and believe me it will not work whatever your tried.

For a child who has oral defensiveness, their amygdala part of the brain and is on fight and flight mode 24/7.  Can you imagine what that would be like for her?  Could you imagine being scared of food even if it a carrot when all you are eating was beige foods. For Emma the colour of food can send her running under the table as she is only eating beige foods.  The texture could set her running under the table.  The smell could send her running under the table.

There is a photo of her in Prep on a day the class made jelly for an activity.  All the children were enjoying eating jelly and Emma was hiding under the table.  Even yesterday all of her class had a cinnamon donut in their hand and Emma had the serviette because she did not want to even try it.  It is a really hard world that she lives in.

She is currently seeing an Occupational Therapist who is helping her with an eating program.  This has been a sensational program as the OT also has the same issues and she can explain Emma’s world.  Nevertheless, through this program Emma is eating apples in crumb size.  She is tolerating having something red on her plate.  She is touching food more often.  All of these small steps come to big things.  As my OT explained even at the age of 25, she also has to keep practising with food so that she does not have to start again with the tolerance process.  We take eating for granted and never put ourselves in their shoes.

In a social media group, I read a post about a mum having similar troubles.  The suggestions totally shocked me as there was giving your child tough love, that they manipulate you to get what they want and the list went on.  I am positive your child would want to enjoy their food if they could.  I don’t like making 2-3 different meals each night and I also get frustrated.  But I have to put myself in her shoes.  When she does try something different it is a massive achievement.  Then I had another thought.  Do you make food you do not like every night.  The answer is no.  Yes as parent’s we do from time to time. But we do not do it all the time.  So if we do not eat food we do not like on a daily basis, then why make your child eat the food they do not like?

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Meal times do not need to be a battle because you will only increase the problems.  Meal times is about connecting with your family.

A great way to regulate your child to reduce their defensiveness are get your child to do some gross motor activity.  Then get them to do some oral exercises like an electric tooth brush or some blowing activities before eating to help desensitise their mouth.


Conventional methods of behaviour management of making your child eat their dinner will only work for those children who do not have any problems with their oral sensory systems.  If it is not working then stop doing it and seek professional assistance like an Occupational therapist to help your child.  They do not want to struggle with their eating either.


What is Sensory Overload?

Sensory overload






What is Sensory Overload?

Sensory overload is when our body’s senses (taste, smell, sight, hearing, touch) experience over stimulation from our environment.  For an individual with sensory overload their nervous system is so overwhelmed that it can not process all the information that it is receiving.

What are the causes of sensory overload?

The causes of sensory overload can be numerous. For instance:

  • Hearing: Loud noise or sound from multiple sources, such as several people talking at once or a loud fire alarm.
  • Sight: Bright lights, strobing lights, or environments with lots of movement such as crowds or frequent scene changes on television.
  • Smell and taste: Strong aromas or spicy foods.
  • Touch: Tactile sensations such as being touched by another person or the feel of cloth on skin.

What are the symptoms of sensory overload?

  • Irritability
  • “Shuts down”, or refuses to participate in activities and/or interact with others
  • Avoids touching or being touched
  • Gets overexcited
  • Covers eyes around bright lights
  • Makes poor eye contact
  • Covers ears to close out sounds or voices
  • Complains about noises that do not affect others
  • Having difficulty focusing on an activity
  • Constantly changing activities, never completing a task
  • Irritation caused by shoes, socks, tags, or different textures
  • Over-sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, and/or sounds
  • Has trouble with social interactions
  • Extremely high or extremely low activity levels
  • Muscle tension
  • Fidgeting and restlessness
  • Angry outbursts
  • Sleeplessness/fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

How can you help an individual with sensory overload?

Recognize the onset of overload. Overload can show up in different ways for different people. It may look like a panic attack, getting “hyper,” shutting down, or having a meltdown (which resembles a tantrum, but is not thrown on purpose).

  • During a relaxed time, ask yourself about the signs of sensory overload. What triggers it? What behavior do you (or your loved one) use when you start feeling overwhelmed? If you are a parent or caretaker, you can also ask a child who experiences sensory overload about triggers when he is relaxed.
  • Many autistic people use different “stims,” or repetitive motor mannerisms, when overloaded than at other times (such as rocking when happy and hand-flapping when overloaded). Think about if you have a stim that you only use for self-calming or coping with overload.
  • If you lose normal functioning abilities, such as speaking, this is often a sign of severe overload. Caretakers and parents may especially notice this with young children who are overloaded.


Reduce visual stimulation. A person experiencing visual overload may need to wear sunglasses indoors, refuse eye contact, turn away from people who are speaking, cover one’s eyes, and bump into people or things.[2] To help with visual stimulation, reduce the items that hang from the ceiling or walls. Keep small items put away in bins or boxes, and organize and label the bins.[3]

  • If lighting is overwhelming, use a lamp instead of fluorescent lighting. You can also use darker bulbs instead of bright bulbs. Use blackout curtains to minimize light.[4]
  • If indoor lights are overwhelming, using sunshades can be helpful.

Lower the noise level. Overstimulation of sound may include not being able to shut off background noises (such as someone having a conversation far away), which can influence concentration. Some noises can be perceived as excruciatingly loud and distracting. To help with noise overstimulation, shut any open doors or windows that may be allowing sound inside. Lower or turn off any music that may be distracting, or go somewhere more quiet.[6] Minimize verbal directions and/or conversations.

  • Having ear plugs, headphones, and white noise may come in handy when noises seem too overwhelming.[7]
  • If you are trying to communicate with someone experiencing audio sensory overload, ask yes or no questions instead of open-ended questions. These are easier to respond to, and can be answered with thumbs up/thumbs down.

Lessen tactile input. Tactile overload, which refers to the sensation of touch, can include being unable to handle to be touched or hugged. Many people with sensory processing issues are hypersensitive to touch, and being touched or thinking they are about to be touched can worsen the overload. Tactile sensitivity can include a sensitivity to clothing (preferring soft fabrics) or to touching certain textures or temperatures. Recognize what textures are pleasing and which ones are not. Make sure that any new clothing is sensory-friendly.[8]

  • If you are a caretaker or friend, listen when someone says touch hurts and/or pulls away. Acknowledge the pain and don’t continue touching the person.
  • When interacting with someone with tactile sensitivity, always alert him when you are about to touch him, and come from the front, never from behind.[9]
  • Refer to an occupational therapist for more sensory integration ideas.

Regulate smells. Some fragrances or stenches may be overwhelming, and unlike sight, you cannot shut your nose to disengage the sense. If smells are overwhelming, consider using unscented shampoos, detergents, and cleaning products.[10]

  • Remove as many unpleasant scents as possible from the environment. You could buy unscented products, or you may enjoy getting crafty and making your own unscented toothpaste, soaps, and detergent.

How to Include A Sensory Diet Into Your Day

I know how hard it is to include a sensory diet into your day.  It is already hard enough dealing with everyday activities.  So I bet you are wondering how do you add a sensory diet in there as well.

But what is a sensory diet?  It is a ‘personalised schedule of sensory activities that give your child the sensory fuel his/her body needs to get into this organised state and stay there.  By providing beneficial sensory input throughout the day, you can create profound, long-lasting changes in your child’s nervous system’ (Biel, L and Peske, N.  Raising a Sensory Smart Child).

My Occupational Therapist after seeing me drag myself into therapy sessions feeling flustered because I seriously could not structure it in my day.  I think I felt completely overwhelmed by the list of activities we should be doing.

The best advice that she gave me was to include it in transition activities.

  • Doing bear walks after getting dressed to breakfast.
  • Frog jumps from breakfast to brushing teeth.
  • We got a decent sized rooms so I could set up a mini trampoline so I could iron (at a decent distance away) whilst getting them to jump/crash.  Plus by leaving it out they could do that whenever they liked it.
  • There are times in the day where I sat down and did activities with them.
  • In the car I gave them non noisy blowing toys.

Just remember, there will be days where everything goes out the window and that is ok.  We can not be perfect all the time.

If you want some easy suggestions on how to include the sensory diet into the day, feel free to email me at

Emma First School Excursion

Emma has her first school excursion to the farm tomorrow.  There has been a lot of preparation for this excursion over the last month.  At the start of the preparation there were a lot of tears and screaming but slowly it has ceased.

But tomorrow is the big day.

The challenges we are faced with are:

  • Parent’s are not allowed to go.  Thank goodness I have a very understanding teacher who has agreed that I meet them there so I can be a support person for Emma.
  • Never been on a bus.  We were going to take her on one over the holidays but we were having a lot of trouble with her in the car.  I can not go on the bus with her because we can not have other parents finding out.  So after a great discussion with her teacher, the teachers aide will sit with her so she doesn’t try and get off the bus.  She will have headphones on for the noise.  She will have her weighted blanket to calm the nervous system and I will get her to inhale some wild orange essential oil to help calm her down.
  • The farm in general.  This will be a challenging part because even at the zoo she spends about an hour climbing up my head in distress from it.  After discussion with her teacher, I want to stand back and just see what Emma does but the first hour could be a challenge and I am hoping that she will calm after that.  But if all goes wrong, I can take her home instead of battling too much with her.
  • They have a pony ride – I am sure she will be more than happy to watch.
  • They have a tractor ride – well I guess we will see how she goes with that.

I can see her having a great day.  But fingers are crossed.

Sensory Processing Disorder

I love a little girl

Windy Days For Children With Sensory Processing Disorder

Windy days for children with sensory processing disorder is such a challenge.  I know Emma hates going out in the wind and if she does there is simply a lot of screaming.

Ways that we have gotten around this is:

  • Hoodies are great if you can tighten them around ears
  • Beanies can be good but not really if it is warm as well
  • Headphones that cover the ears are fantastic because they can dull down the noise and everything
  • I have been trying essential oils and have found that the oils have been calming down the nervous system and they are able to handle the wind better.