Typically, children with healthy oral sensory processing enjoy trying a variety of foods, such as a vegetable soup and cereal with milk, with a range of textures and tastes and both known and unknown— although of course, they will have their preferences. They also put up with brushing their teeth and visiting the dentist without too much complaint. So too is the case with a child with healthy oral sensory processing who will not feel the need to seek out other oral sensory experiences, such as chewing to regulate their behavior.
In a child who experiences problems with oral processing, though, he may display a heightened sensitivity to oral stimuli. As such, he may shy away from tasks like brushing his teeth or trying new foods. He may even gag or choke when faced with new oral experiences, preferring to restrict themselves to only a few very familiar foods.
In addition, a child with an oral sensory processing disorder might refuse to eat with utensils, because he is put off by the feeling of forks or spoons in his mouth. He will often become very distressed, and exhibit severe emotional reactions to oral stimuli he’s not used to.
On the other hand, some children may have decreased sensitivity to oral sensory input, and may need more stimulation in order to behave. Children in this category may chew on and bite various objects, and sometimes even people. They may make a lot of noise with their mouths too, such as buzzing, humming, and clicking sounds. A child with decreased oral sensory processing may find it difficult to coordinate his chewing and drinking, and his speech may also be affected.
If you’re noticing any of these symptoms in your child and feel your child may be affected by problems with their oral sensory processing, it’s a good idea to speak to a pediatric occupational therapist for more information.