Written by Grace Fronczak, OTD, OTR/L and Caroline Nguyen, CCC-SLP
Eating and participating in mealtime is an activity of daily living in which we engage multiple times a day. Some children have difficulty eating or even interacting with food for a variety of reasons. When feeding is stressful, it can hinder development and upset everyone at the table! Feeding therapy is an option that can help your family make mealtime a pleasant experience and the dinner table a safe, fun space for your child to learn about food.
What is Feeding Therapy?
Feeding Therapy is therapy that involves helping your child successfully interact with food in a positive manner. It can mean helping your child transition from the bottle to breast to a cup, move on from purees to table food, helping your infant latch on to the bottle or breast, or try a larger variety of foods.
Does my child need Feeding Therapy?
Consult with your doctor to determine if feeding therapy would be a good fit for your family. Feeding therapy may be indicated If the doctor expresses concerns that your child is gaining too much or not enough weight for their height and age, if your child has a restricted diet range, or if your child exhibits excessive negative behaviors related to feeding. While it is typical for children to show food preferences and refusals to assert independence, children should be accepting at least one meal a day that consists of a protein, grain, and fruit/vegetable and eating a few items from each of those food categories. If your child avoids whole categories of foods; has “melt-downs” regularly regarding mealtime/eating; and if you are regularly preparing a separate meal for your child, feeding therapy is warranted. Below are some other examples of when it may be helpful to add a feeding therapist to your child’s healthcare team:
- Your child has a medical condition or special need which makes self-feeding difficult
- Your child demands a separate meal, or your child eats alone because they can’t tolerate a family meal
- Your child repeatedly gags or vomits at the sight, smell, touch, or taste of table food
- Your child only eats with distractions such as a tablet or TV
- Your child avoids whole categories of foods or entire textures
- You have to alter your schedule and plans (avoiding going to restaurants, social outings, or limited vacations) because you are afraid that there will not be food available for your child to eat
How can Spot On Therapy Group help?
At Spot On Therapy Group, feeding therapy can be provided by an Occupational Therapist or Speech Language Pathologist or both, depending on your child’s particular needs. A Feeding Therapist offers a unique, holistic perspective when evaluating your child’s feeding skills.
The therapist might provide suggestions and support in the following areas:
- proper positioning at the table,
- oral motor skill development (skills to suck, lick, bite, chew and/or swallow),
- mealtime routines, and
- sensory strategies (being able to look at, touch, taste or smell different food).
Your feeding therapist will make an individualized plan of care for your child to help reach mealtime goals. Feeding therapy may involve additional activities that support feeding but may not necessarily involve food. For example, your child first may need to work on visual attention or fine motor skills if they have trouble scooping with a spoon.
How can we get started with feeding therapy?
Parents can submit a New Client Inquiry through our website: www.spotontherapygroup.com to schedule a feeding evaluation. A thorough evaluation consists of a parent interview, watching the child eat, and establishing a baseline of ‘safe’ foods using a food inventory checklist or daily food log. Feeding therapy sessions usually last around 45-60 minutes once or twice a week.