The Critical Role of Nutrition in Therapy
This guest blog was written by Betsy Hjelmgren, MS, RDN, CSP, LDN, owner and founder of Feed to Succeed.
Essential to every person, especially a growing child, is healthy nutrition. This is especially true for children who require therapy for health issues. As a registered dietitian, not a day goes by that I am not reminded that proper nutrition underlies the health and well being of every child.
I recently worked with an early intervention (EI) patient with developmental delays. When we first met, he wasn’t meeting the expected milestones for his age, such as walking and talking. His parents and therapists complained that he lacked energy whenever they tried to work with him, and yet, when they encouraged him to eat, he was too tired and weak for this seemingly simple task. I recommended a feeding tube for the short term, and in one month, the child gained three pounds and began to walk and talk.
Of course, not every child who would benefit from working with a registered dietitian requires such intensive therapy. Many children, however, do benefit from an adjustment in their diets so that they have the energy and strength to meet milestones in therapy and can improve outcomes.
A child who doesn’t have the proper building blocks in his muscle and nerve endings needs proper nutrition in order to thrive in occupational or physical therapy, for example. Similarly to a garden, where a plant needs soil, nutrition and water to grow, a child needs proper food, nutrition and care to ensure the best outcome in his development.
While all children who don’t receive proper nutrition cannot function to their highest potential, in some cases, it is not obvious that they are lacking nutrition. It’s once a child responds to a new diet that it is obvious how effective nutrition is. For example, a child who is allergic to cow milk may not be getting enough protein to build muscle and may not be growing as tall as she could. Nutrition guidance, education and support can provide a more well-rounded diet.
Following is a screening tool for parents to use in order to determine when a child would benefit from receiving nutrition therapy:
- A child who has not gained weight over 2-3 consecutive months or has not grown in height over 3-6 months
- A child who frequently has a poor appetitive or is extremely picky
- A child who seems thin, tired or pale
- A child who has frequent chronic constipation or vomits
- A child who completely avoids certain food groups
- A child on a modified or restricted diet.
- A child who receives supplemental feedings, such as a feeding tube or Pediasure
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!