Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Gail Bass


Child; Eating; Eating Disorders -- therapy


Eating and drinking are basic to our health and survival; it is also an integral part of our social life. For parents, feeding their children is a vital part of how they care for and nurture them. It is difficult for both the parents and the child when eating becomes a stressful experience. Children with sensory processing dysfunction often approach mealtimes with apprehension and discomfort. The willingness or inability to eat may be a sensory-processing based problem, which often exhibits as a behavioral problem such as, the child refusing to eat, to try new foods, or to touch different foods.

The problem addressed in this scholarly project focused on sensory-based eating disorders incorporating a holistic approach to assessment and treatment. This project attempted to narrow the problem of sensory-based eating disorders, to children who eat a very limited diet and are extremely reluctant to eat new foods.

The methodology included a review of the professional literature including: sensory processing disorders, autism, selective eaters, parent-child interactions and environmental influences. The topic of food aversion or eating disorders is broad and there are many causes for an eating disorder such as, medical, motor, sensory, behavioral and environmental factors. This author used the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process and the Ecological Model of Occupation as the outline for this project.

Based on the review of literature it was determined that eating disorders for children without medical or motor concerns are labeled as failure to thrive and the main factor contributing to this eating disorder is the infant-mother relationship; the treatment is based on behavioral intervention strategies. These children often have a sensory processing disorder which can create a hyposensitivity or hypersensitivity to tactile input affecting their oral motor skills and consequently eating. Children with food aversions need a treatment approach that considers all of the factors and treatment possibilities.

Following the review of the literature, a Mealtime Guide for the Young Child with a Sensory-based Eating Disorder was developed for parents/caregivers and occupational therapists to use in their assessment and treatment of children with a sensory-based eating disorder. It was the intent of this project to provide guidelines that include a sensory approach, as well as guidelines for expanding the variety of foods in a child's diet, environmental considerations, parent-child interactions, positioning, feeding supplies and basic nutritional considerations. These guidelines are to be used by an occupational therapist in collaboration with the parents in order to provide a client-centered approach to the treatment of children with a sensory-based eating disorder.