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There’s been a lot of buzz in recent years about sensory issues and sensory processing disorder, which research shows affect between 5 and 15% of kids. Kids with sensory challenges often have trouble with clothing that feels scratchy, or sounds that are too loud, for example, but they can also show up at mealtimes. Kids may only eat white foods, refuse to eat foods with a certain texture or smell, or gag when they try new foods. Sensory issues and sensory processing disorder are certainly more complex than picky eating, but figuring out what’s going on with your kid can be a challenge. 

In this episode, I sat down with Lara Dato, MS, OTR/L, a pediatric occupational therapist with a specialty certification in feeding, eating, and swallowing—one of approximately fifty professionals in the U.S. with these credentials. Lara is also the author of Raising Adventurous Eaters: Practical Ways to Overcome Picky Eating and Food Sensory Sensitivities.

Lara and I talk about why sensory issues seem to be on the rise, how to tease out what’s really going on with your kid, and how to go about finding the right help. She also explains easy ways to help your child overcome sensory issues, how you can model intuitive eating, and encourage healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. Whether your child has sensory processing disorder, sensory sensitives around food, or is simply a picky eater, this episode will help you get to the bottom of what’s going on and give you the tools you need to help your child.

2:42 Let’s talk about your story!

5:10 Most kids are picky eaters. How do you know your kid’s behavior is more than what’s typical?

6:10 Is there a difference between sensory issues and sensory processing disorder?

10:00 Are more kids being diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and sensory issues, or is it our ability to better identify them?

11:29 For parents who have kids with sensory issues that play out at mealtime, what does their life look like on a daily basis?

14:14 What can happen if these issues aren’t identified? 

15:22 How can parents go about identifying the problem?

19:17 Once parents know that sensory issues are affecting their kids’ eating, what can they do?

25:06 What about kids who have texture issues?

27:36 Why is the intuitive eating approach important now and as kids get older? 

29:46 What are the most effective ways parents can encourage healthy eating habits?  


Lara mentions that 25%  to 45% of kids have difficulty with eating.

Purchase Lara’s book, Raising Adventurous Eaters.

Follow Lara on Instagram and Facebook.


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Author Details
Julie Revelant teaches parents how to raise children who are healthy, adventurous eaters. Through blog posts and videos, her goal is to shift the conversation from short-term, problem picky eating to lifelong, healthy eating and healthy futures. Julie has written for FoxNews.com, FIRST for Women magazine, WhatToExpect.com, EverydayHealth.com, RD.com, TheBump.com, Care.com, and Babble.com.