Thursday, September 6, 2012

Therapy Thursday: SPD Smell & Taste

Each week I post about some type of therapy we use, who recommended it, and the reason we are using it.  Remember, I am not a licensed therapist and I am sharing our experiences. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments. We would love to hear from you! 

For the last month, I have been highlighting the different senses that Sensory Processing Disorder affects, a checklist of symptoms and some activities we do to help.  We started with proprioception, which is the internal sense of knowing where your body parts are without looking a them.  Then we went on to the tactile system, which is how our brain receives information coming from the receptors on our skin about touch, pain and temperature.  Next was the vestibular systemwhich coordinates movement and balance through receptors in the inner ear and in relation to Earth's gravity.  Then we looked at the visual sense and how it is much more complex than just viewing an image.  Last we visited the auditory sense which is much more complex than just hearing sounds.  And finally, to wrap it up, we are sharing about the olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste) senses.

Sensory Processing Disorder: Olfactory and Gustatory

Olfactory is our sense of smell and gustatory is our sense of taste.  I have combined these into one post because they definitely work in tandem.  The best analogy of this is how when you have a stuffy nose it is difficult to taste food.  Our olfactory system carries odors directly to the portion of our brain which is involved with memory, emotion, behavior, and pleasure.  Do certain smells bring back specific memories for you, good or bad?  To this day I still cannot make corned beef hash because when I was pregnant with our daughter (19 years ago) the smell of it made me nauseous.  

There are four basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter.  However, food texture and temperature can also affect our children with sensory processing disorder.  One of our children used to go around licking everything, even at the age of 5.  He also stuffs his mouth when he eats and is our child who loves spicy foods (peppers, salsa, guacamole).  Then we have another child who doesn't eat very many different foods and in fact we supplement his diet with nutritional drinks.  He was also born with a cleft lip/palate, has mild cerebral palsy, and has difficulty with oral motor tasks (speech & drooling).      

Here is the olfactory and oral input portion of the complete sensory processing disorder checklist found on

Signs Of Olfactory Dysfunction (Smells):

1. Hypersensitivity To Smells (Over-Responsive):

__ reacts negatively to, or dislikes smells which do not usually bother, or get noticed, by other people
__ tells other people (or talks about) how bad or funny they smell
__ refuses to eat certain foods because of their smell
__ offended and/or nauseated by bathroom odors or personal hygiene smells
__ bothered/irritated by smell of perfume or cologne
__ bothered by household or cooking smells
__ may refuse to play at someone's house because of the way it smells
__ decides whether he/she likes someone or some place by the way it smells

2. Hyposensitivity To Smells (Under-Responsive):

__ has difficulty discriminating unpleasant odors
__ may drink or eat things that are poisonous because they do not notice the noxious smell
__ unable to identify smells from scratch 'n sniff stickers
__ does not notice odors that others usually complain about
__ fails to notice or ignores unpleasant odors
__ makes excessive use of smelling when introduced to objects, people, or places
__ uses smell to interact with objects

Signs Of Oral Input Dysfunction:

1. Hypersensitivity To Oral Input (Oral Defensiveness):

__ picky eater, often with extreme food preferences; i.e., limited repertoire of foods, picky about brands, resistive to trying new foods or restaurants, and may not eat at other people's houses)
__ may only eat "soft" or pureed foods past 24 months of age
__ may gag with textured foods
__ has difficulty with sucking, chewing, and swallowing; may choke or have a fear of choking
__ resists/refuses/extremely fearful of going to the dentist or having dental work done
__ may only eat hot or cold foods
__ refuses to lick envelopes, stamps, or stickers because of their taste
__ dislikes or complains about toothpaste and mouthwash
__ avoids seasoned, spicy, sweet, sour or salty foods; prefers bland foods

2. Hyposensitivity To Oral Input (Under-Registers)

__ may lick, taste, or chew on inedible objects
__ prefers foods with intense flavor; i.e., excessively spicy, sweet, sour, or salty
__ excessive drooling past the teething stage
__ frequently chews on hair, shirt, or fingers
__ constantly putting objects in mouth past the toddler years
__ acts as if all foods taste the same
__ can never get enough condiments or seasonings on his/her food
__ loves vibrating toothbrushes and even trips to the dentist

Some ideas that were recommended to us by our children's occupational therapists are adding additional flavors to food to awaken the taste buds, offering different/new foods with one meal of the day, promote activities that allow chewing (sugar free gum, licorice, chewy tube, or straw), sucking (milkshake, smoothie, eating yogurt/applesauce with a straw, using a straw to pick up small pieces of paper during table activities), or blowing (whistle, balloon, or musical instrument).  We have used a wet washcloth to rub around the cheeks, chin, jaw & eventually the tongue and inside of cheeks as tolerated.

Our therapist also recommended KT tape used around the outside of the mouth to bring awareness to the area.  It is amazing the difference it makes with drooling!


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