Introduction to Gustatory
Resistance to food is a well known component of autism – there are many anecdotal stories of children who only eat 3 or 4 very specific food items, and how devastating it can be when a company changes their recipe because even though the parents cannot tell the difference, the child can. The gustatory sense and olfactory sense combined can cause a lot of difficulties when it comes to food.
In addition to taste, the gustatory sense also deals with the texture or feel of food, which can be just as important in sensory processing disorders as the taste itself.
These tend to be the individuals with restrictive diets, the ones from the afore mentioned anecdotes who have diets consisting of a small amount of (usually very bland) food items. Things that indicate a hyper-sensitivity include:
- Refusal to eat many foods.
- Limited diets.
- Frequent gagging on food.
- Never mouths toys.
- Refuses any physical contact with their mouth.
- Difficulty with foods of mixed consistency.
- Refusal to chew.
At the other end of the sensitivity spectrum are individuals for whom all food seems to lack taste or texture, often all food tastes the same. Things that indicate hypo-sensitivity include:
- Mouthing or licking everything; food, objects, the environment, and themselves.
- May eat non-food items, including some unpleasant items such as nappy contents.
- Eats extreme tasting food and drink with powerful flavours – this can be why some eat the afore mentioned non-food items.
- May complain that all food tastes the same, or that nothing tastes good.
This is one area of sensory processing disorder that can be especially distressing for parents. Whilst there are some who maintain that no child would ever starve themselves, there are many reports of autistic children having to be hospitalised to be tube fed to prevent them starving to death. At the other end of the spectrum, hypo-gustatory individuals who do not understand that some items can be harmful could end up causing irreversible damage to themselves or even dying by consuming non-food items.
Disclaimer: The opinions and information provided in this post are my own, and based on personal, educational, and work-based experience. They do not reflect the opinions of any of the authors of the content referenced in this post. I am not affiliated or supported by any organisation, and this is meant to be an educational series of posts. The information posted here is not a substitute for advice and information provided by your own GP, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist or other professional in the field of autism, and should not be taken as such.