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Sensory sensitivities are common in children with autism; however, children without autism may also have a sensory processing disorder. Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition where the sensory signals from the nervous system are not organized in a typical fashion. Someone with SPD may be over- or under- reactive to sounds, texture, taste, smell, and touch. Although SPD is not officially recognized as a medical condition, sensory processing issues are very real to the people who experience them and their caregivers. Dietary limitations due to SPD become even more complicated with a co-occuring food allergy.
Some children with SPD will have a very limited diet. My children fall into this category. Finding nutritional foods they will eat is a challenge. Although getting nutrients from real food is ideal, I do supplement with gummy vitamins to help balance out the dietary limitations.
One of my children, Sally (a pseudonym) will regularly eat the following foods:
- chicken nuggets
- meat with ranch dressing
- oranges or canned fruit
- Veggie straws
Sally will on occasion eat salad or other raw vegetables with ranch dressing. Fruit snacks would also be on the regular consumption list, but I prefer to limit those due to the limited nutritional value.
Sally also has a milk allergy complicating her diet even further. The milk allergy is what I consider to be a mild allergy. Her reaction to consuming uncooked milk products is limited to hives around her mouth. Although the reaction is mild, keeping an epi-pen is recommended by her doctor. Sally does have to avoid uncooked milk and other foods with milk powder. Baked products containing milk do not seem to result in a reaction. She is also able to eat some cheese (e.g., cooked on a pizza).
We have worked with Sally’s pediatrician on her diet. The milk allergy in combination with her sensory limits have made it difficult to get her to consume enough calories. We have worked with a dietician in coming up with a homemade soy milk replacement that has an adequate number of calories for weight gain.
The new food allergy is to Veggie Straws. Sally develops hives over her entire body while eating them. Even though Veggie Straws probably have little nutritional value, they do have calories and she was eating them. So, I am sad that one of the few foods she will eat is now off of the list.
For more information on how to help your child expand their food repertoire, consider reading, “Just Take a Bite.” This book is on my reading list: