Preparing the Sensory System for Feeding

By: Andrea De Marino

Children who have picky eating issues generally have a lot of anxiety about the feeding process.  Because of this, getting your child to acquire a calm, comfortable state prior to working on feeding issues is essential.  One way to do this is to prepare your child’s nervous system for the feeding process by providing calming input to the sensory systems prior to feeding.  You can do this by having your child participate in deep pressure or heavy work activities.  Different children will respond differently to various types of sensory input so it is helpful to have an occupational therapist to help guide you to figure out which specific techniques are best for your child.  Some simple techniques you can try at home include pushing a weighted laundry basket or box , having your child roll up like a burrito in a large blanket, or have your child complete any household task that requires pushing or pulling (taking the trash out, pushing a vacuum cleaner, or wiping down windows).   These techniques work by providing pressure into the joints or skin , which is usually calming to the nervous system.  After participating in these activities for 10-20 minutes, have your child sit at a table and see if you notice a difference in his or her anxiety level and ability to attend to feeding activities.  Try different techniques on different days to see which ones work best.  Once your child seems happy and calm, you can start thinking about the foods you want to work on.

Andrea is an occupational therapist who earned her Master’s Degree in Health Sciences from the Medical College of Georgia in 2006. She has worked in a variety of therapy settings across the country including hospitals, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities, schools, and several private pediatric clinics.  Her areas of expertise include autism and sensory processing disorder (SPD).  She is passionate about providing humane, effective treatment based on the most current research and treatment practices.  To find out more about Andrea or occupational therapy, visit her website at