This is the seventh installment in our Sensory Spotlight series.
The gustatory system is responsible for the body’s ability to detect the chemicals in food that allow us to differentiate between sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (savory) sensations. While the act of tasting is technically limited to this chemical process, the gustatory and olfactory senses are closely linked and combine to create what we perceive as flavor. Children with gustatory processing issues may have an unusually high or low appetite or very particular food preparation requirements (served at room temperature, chopped into small pieces, etc.).
Gustatory seekers may:
- Frequently chew or suck on inedible objects, such as clothing or toys.
- Favor foods with strong or very specific tastes, such as bitter or spicy.
- Favor foods with specific textures, such as crunchy, chewy, or mushy.
Support seekers by:
- Exposing your child to a wide variety of foods with varying flavors, smells, and textures.
- Encouraging the use of chewing gum or chew necklaces/bracelets.
Gustatory avoiders may:
- Appear to be “picky eaters,” refuse to try new foods, and have a limited diet as a result.
- Avoid foods with strong or very specific tastes, such as bitter or spicy.
- Avoid foods with specific textures, such as crunchy, chewy, or mushy.
Support avoiders by:
- Never forcing your child to eat.
- Using a slow, tiered approach to introducing new foods: 1. Exposure 2. Smelling 3. Licking 4. Tasting.
Gustatory discrimination challenges may cause a child to:
- Have difficulty telling the difference between things that are somewhat sweet, spicy, or bitter vs. things that are way too sweet, spicy, or bitter.