Dianne Lazer, Owner

The Green Monsters to the Rescue

It’s not easy dealing with a picky eater.
You know the ones that only eat
breads, crackers and chips or what others
refer to as the “white diet” and refuse
to eat healthy foods like fruits, vegetables
and meats. Some gag or vomit every
time they smell, touch or see a food
they don’t like. Parents report they are
making two and three different meals so
their children will eat. Or parents give
in and let them eat pancakes or bagels
and juice for dinner so “at least they are
eating something!”
Sensory integration (SI) issues are often
thought to be the cause of why children
get caught in this never ending cycle.
According to A. Jean Ayres, Ph. D., the
person who first researched and coined the phrase, sensory integration
is the ability to take in information through our senses (touch,
movement, smell, taste, vision, and hearing), to put it together with
prior information (memories and knowledge stored in the brain),
and to make a meaningful response. When SI issues are notable
enough, children are sometimes diagnosed with a sensory processing
disorder. Sensory processing disorder and sensory integration are
used interchangeably.
The child who presents with sensory integration issues may have
difficulty with taking in and sorting information through their senses
especially when eating. Eating involves sorting and reading enormous
amounts of sensory data from taste to texture to temperature to
color. To control the overwhelming sensations, children with sensory
issues are often picky and controlling around food. They might
prefer crunchy, salty snacks over mixed textured or harder to chew
healthy foods like fruits, vegetables or meats. Chips and crackers give
more feedback when put in the mouth and are ultimately easier to
eat. In other words, they can hear and feel the crunch while eating
them and their saliva can easily melt down these foods so the child
does not have to chew and manipulate the food very much in order
to swallow it.
These foods also “taste” better because they are highly processed with
salt and/or sugar. Less work makes it easier for the child to handle.
They can be picked up and manipulated easily as well. However,
The Green Monsters to the Rescue!
By Dianne Lazer, MA, CCC-SLP/COM
Dianne Lazer
Speech-Language Pathologist/
Certified Orofacial Myologist
these highly processed foods are addicting and relying on food with
poor nutritional value may prevent the sensory system from maturing.
According to Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND and author of Cure Your
Child With Food, 2013, highly processed foods are nutrient deficient
and may lower zinc and vitamin B levels changing the child’s sense of
taste and smell. Children may not look “malnourished” because they
are gaining weight but the calories they are eating aren’t providing the
nutrients they need for optimal development. The lack of nutrients in
their diet could cause permanent damage to their neurological system
and, therefore, are a possible cause of the sensory integration and regulation
difficulties they present. She recommends a two-step nutrition
therapy approach that can help alleviate the child’s feeding difficulties:
1. Take away what’s bothering the patient
2. Close the gap of nutritional deficiency
When working with children with sensory integration difficulties, we
must first look at what may be bothering the child’s GI track. If this is
a very young infant or toddler, the culprit is most usually dairy foods
since they are mostly what the child is eating. Common symptoms of
dairy protein intolerance include ear infections, constipation, eczema,
and/or chronic congestion. Taking away what’s irritating them, can
take pressure off the already overloaded sensory system and improve
its functioning.
Closing the gap of nutritional deficiency is the next step. Ms.
Dorfman often recommends probiotics, fish oils and therapeutic
multivitamins/minerals. The probiotics help improve digestive
functions. Therapeutic multiple vitamins and minerals can help
improve appetite and immune function and fish oil contains fat
necessary for operating the nervous system. Since sensory processing
difficulties stem from immaturity in neurological development, the
right kind of fat is critical.
Once the child has the nutritional support in place, a specific feeding
program is designed to improve variety, texture and volume of solid
foods. That’s where the Green Monster Book Series plays a valuable
role. These books are specifically designed to teach the parent and the
child why it’s important to eat a healthy diet in a child friendly way
complete with pictures to color and magic wands to make the Green
Monsters come alive and tell their story! Soon, the children learn the
Green Monsters are really their friends and become more willing to
start the process of trying new foods and changing the way they think
about food in the long term.