February 1, 2024

Does Your Child Need Feeding Therapy?

There are a variety of reasons why a child may need feeding therapy. To many of us, it would seem like eating should be a basic instinct. However, eating is one of the most complex activities we do, especially for the developing, young child.

There are a variety of reasons why a child may need feeding therapy. To many of us, it would seem like eating should be a basic instinct. However, eating is one of the most complex activities we do, especially for the developing, young child. Eating involves several processes in the body, including sensory, oral-motor, muscular, neurological, digestive, and behavioral systems. Feeding problems can arise involving any one of these systems, and often more than one of these is implicated.

The following are reasons why a child may have a feeding problem:

  • Sensory processing issue
  • Food allergies or severe reflux
  • Autism
  • Developmental delays
  • Complex post-op recovery course
  • Transition from feeding tube to oral nutrition

Feeding therapy is usually done with one or more clinicians. Depending on the type of feeding problem, therapy may involve a speech language pathologist, an occupational therapist, a registered dietitian, a social worker or behavior therapist, and/or a physician.

Each discipline’s feeding treatment approach consists of the following:

  • Speech Language Pathologists help children with feeding problems that arise because of chewing or swallowing problems. This includes infants who need help with coordinating suck-swallow-breathe skills. They also can provide therapy for kids with cranio-facial abnormalities that impact feeding, such as cleft lip or palate.
  • Occupational Therapists help children with sensory, gross, and fine motor skills as they relate to feeding. In terms of sensory-related feeding issues, occupational therapists use techniques that help kids overcome aversions or change their perception of sensory inputs from foods. They also help children develop the fine and gross motor strength needed to successfully eat to the best of their potential. In some cases, they recommend special utensils, seating, plates, etc.
  • Registered Dietitians develop a nutrition plan that promotes growth and meets nutrient needs as a child progresses through feeding therapy. They also work closely with parents to develop a nutrition plan for home, which includes education on an appropriate feeding regimen and/or mealtime structure and environment. Finally, the dietitian can address any dietary needs related to allergies, digestive issues, or other diagnoses.
  • Social Workers can help families with feeding problems stemming from behavioral issues. They can work with the child and parents on new communication strategies and techniques that shape ideal behaviors around mealtimes to promote successful eating. Social workers can also provide therapy for kids or parents who experience anxiety or other difficult feelings related to the eating experience.

Feeding therapy is recommended based on the results of a feeding evaluation. At North Shore Pediatric Therapy, we have a unique, multidisciplinary approach to evaluate various contributing factors to a feeding issue. From there, a treatment strategy is developed and coordinated with the family and appropriate therapists. The therapy usually takes place in a setting that mimics a typical home environment. The child engages in activities involving preferred and non-preferred foods, and acquires skills and strategies to become a better eater.

Download our Guide for Families

We know that choosing a local ABA facility can be a hard decision. We’ve created an informational guide to help you understand more about the questions you should be asking while meeting with different providers.

Although we talk about our services here, our highest goal is for you to feel comfortable and knowledgeable about picking a provider that is the best fit for your needs. You are making a decision that will impact the entire trajectory of your child’s life!
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The cover of the NSPT Guide for Families, which helps families to figure out the questions to ask when picking an ABA provider.

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Success looks different for every child... But we bet we have a story that matches your child's needs. Like James, who started with us as non-verbal and lacking the ability to initiate and maintain social interactions. Today, he can speak complete sentences, clearly state his needs, and navigate social interactions with his friends!

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