How to Support Gustatory Avoiders

Gustatory avoiders are highly sensitive to taste and tend to become overwhelmed or distracted by new, strong, or particular flavors. Avoiders often have extreme or upsetting reactions to even very mild stimulation. As a result, they can appear withdrawn or defensive and have trouble fitting in with their peers. They also frequently experience symptoms associated with anxiety disorders and engage in repetitive self-soothing behaviors.

See below for some ways to identify and support gustatory avoiders.

Gustatory Avoiders May:

  • Seem to have an unusually low appetite and/or be underweight.
  • Be “picky eaters” and have very specific food preparation requirements.
  • Avoid foods with specific flavors, such as sweet, bitter, or spicy.
  • Avoid foods with specific textures, such as crunchy, chewy, or mushy.

How to Support Your Olfactory Avoider:

  • Never force your child to eat.
  • Use a slow, tired approach to introducing new foods. LINK TO ARTICLE
  • Keep mealtimes calm and allow preferred foods to be on the menu.
  • Expose your child to new foods by having him/her help with shopping or cooking.

Note: Contact your pediatrician immediately if you think your child is not eating for any reason other than sensory issues.

Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.

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