#17 - Sensory 404: HOW to Help Your Child Overcome Sensory Challenges

Mar 26, 2023
#17 - Sensory 404: HOW to Help Your Child Overcome Sensory Challenges

Welcome back to the Food Explorers podcast! Today’s episode is our last podcast of sensory month. Don’t worry we will still be talking about sensory in the future, but we focused heavily in March on what sensory processing is, how it affects eating, and in today’s episode, how you can start to overcome sensory issues.


I think there is a lot of confusion when it comes to sensory processing. It’s not really well explained to parents, and the process of how to handle sensory concerns isn’t well explained either.

Now, a HUGE question when it comes to sensory processing is….”will my child outgrow this?”


I’m going to give you my personal opinion here. I do not believe that sensory processing difficulties are really something that we just out grow. Rather, as we encounter something that was challenging for our sensory system, we learn how to process and get used to it.

For example, many parents will tell me that their child once had trouble at the beach and getting dirty, but their child “outgrew” it. What I really believe happens is that as children go to the beach over and over, play in the playground, or play in the sandbox, their brain progressively becomes more comfortable around that texture and gets acclimated to it. 

However, we often see those touch or other sensory challenge show up AGAIN as kids age but in a different way. So for example, a lot of those same children who had trouble getting getting, have food and texture sensitivities down the road.


We often say that neurodivergent child’s brain are wired differently. They have a different threshold for sensory stimulation.

Let’s go back to our sensory thermometer. As we spoke about earlier this month, I like to say that our body’s sensory thermometer measures our temperature for sensory input.

So children with sensory challenges  - specifically aversions or sensory sensitivities often have a lower threshold for sensory input. Meaning their body gets TOO HOT at a lower temperature.

While I may be able to tolerates a lot of touch and textures to my hand - eventually, I would probably get upset or annoyed if I Was coevered hear to toe. But a child with sensory sensitivities might react and meltdown much sooner. Their sensory thermometer is measuring TOO HOT, at a might lower temperature.

So, often, even though a child might have appeared to grow out of a sensory quirk - like getting dirty, or sand, we’ll see this same thermometer phenomenon happen in the future.


Now, I don’t think there’s much research to back me up here. Again, this is my personal opinion. But the Star Institute has published something similar on their website. According them: "Unfortunately, the answer – like the condition itself – is complex. We simply do not have evidence that children can “outgrow” SPD if it is left untreated. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary. Research has shown a strong correlation between SPD symptoms in childhood and adulthood (Rosenthal, M.Z., 2013)." 


I’ll link that in the show notes if you want to read the whole article. BUT on the other hand, children who GREW OUT of sensory challenges and are no longer struggling don’t NEED to seek out help, which is why I might be biased one way. Essentially, like most research - we need more before we can definitely say one way or the other.

OK HOW do we overcome sensory challenges.


  1. I’m going to knock this one out first, you can work with an occupational therapist on Sensory integration therapy.  True sensory integration therapy is done by an occupational therapist who is certified in Sensory Integration. There is a very specific protocol they follow. BUT to be completely open and honest with you, most occupational therapists are not sensory integration certified, me included, because it is VERY costly, and most clinics aren’t set up to follow or pay for this specific process, especially if they are insurance-based, which Ill mentioned more in a bit.

    Most occupational therapists fall somewhere in the middle. They have not completed the sensory certification, but they’ve learned on their own, taken courses, and have become very competent in sensory processing. They will work with your child on encountering sensory challenges and gradually becoming more comfortable with it, to help them better participate in their home, school, and community. They’ll work to try and recreate challenging situations you encounter at home, and problem solve and practice them with you. Please be aware that most insurance plans do not reimburse sensory integration therapy, therefore in outpatient clinics, it is often used as “preparatory activity” to put the body in the just right space prior to completing a functional task like dressing, handwriting, etc. It stinks, but currently it is still not accepted as a main form of therapy.

    As you guys know, in my own personal business I do not offer  therapy services. My programs are meant to supplement or precede therapy so that you as the parent has a greater knowledge and understanding of what’s going on. That way, you can better carry it over at home and have better outcomes.

    However, I do very much believe that if your child has sensory challenges, you would probably benefit from an evaluation and therapy if recommended. The sensory system is very tough and there’s many techniques that just can’t be done with out the supervision of an occupational therapist - so that’s something to think about.

  2. The second way to overcome sensory challenges is to practice those situations at home, in a low pressure way. Let’s go back to the sand example. If your child has having a hard time with the feeling of sand on their hands and toes, you’re not just going to throw them full in to a pile of sand. Instead, we work on small, gentle exposures to sand and form positive experiences with it. The brain is an amazing and very smart thing. It remembers our previous experience, and uses these to inform us of how to act in the future. So every positive experience is stored and every negative experience if stored. We want to help your child have more and more positive experiences, so their brain starts to realize, OK, this sand isn’t so bad, it’s not threatening to me, I can handle this.

So what this might look like:

  • First you would start with something like kinetic sand, and you playing with it in front of them
  • Then you give them a shovel, so they don’t need to used their hands
  • Then maybe they drive a toy through the sand, and a little bit of that sand touches them
  • Then you hide something partially in the sand and they need to pull it out
  • And so on. You build up until it’s not a challenging experience for them anymore. 


3. Modifications - Sometimes, instead of working on getting used to a particular sensory input, we work on modifying or changing the experience to better support their sensory system.

So for example - if you are trying to work on vegetables, and your child likes crunchy foods, we could try something like vegetable chips, since that is something their sensory system might better tolerate.

With modification, we change the environment, to help them better participate. This can be particularly helpful with your child’s sensory thermometer. We all can only take in so much sensory information before we hit a sensory overload, and children with sensory challenges often have lower thresholds before that pop.

So things like lower lights, lower sound, etc, can help leave room in their sensory thermometer for fun experiences and learning. So you’ll often see this at “sensory friendly” events in the community - they try to minimize excessive sensory information, so your child can focus on enjoying the event.


So with all of these techniques, It is ESSENTIAL that YOU AS THE PARENT get to know your child’s sensory system at a DEEP level. 


You need to know how much sensation each of your child’s senses can tolerate, how they process it, their stress cues, and how they typically respond to that information. The sensory system is different each day because our body is different each day. And your child will need different supports depending on how their body feels in the moment. 


You need to understand what each sense is, how they affect each other, and how they affect the task you’re asking your child to do - for example, eating. 


This enables you to be prepared an empowered to help your child every single day. 


And that’s exactly what I teach you in my Making Sense of Eating program.


We go through all 8 senses, how they work, and where things go wrong. But I don’t just leave it there, this isn’t a one fits all course. The point of this program is actually to help you understand your personal child and their personal sensory system. So I give ALOT of examples and talk about situations you might encounter. 


But by the end my goal is for you to have built your own little physical and mental toolbox you can use to support your child not only at the table, but thruoghout the day as well. 

REMINDER - YOU ONLY HAVE TWO DAYS LEFT TO SAVE on the Making Sense of Eating program.


If you missed the announcement this week, I actually decreased the price of the program, because I know how hard it is right now with everything going on. So if you sign up in the next two days, you’ll save $200 on your course-  that’s 40% off. You’ll get the entire program for only $299 and you can start making progress and Making sense of eating today. 


So don’t wait and miss it - sign up now at www.drsamgoldman.com/makingsenseofeating


I can’t wait to see you inside! 






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