Fostering a positive relationship with food
Mealtimes are one of the central parts of our day where the connection between family members develops.
When feeding difficulties are present, they can create isolation, frustration, and even dread for everyone involved.
At ABIL-OT, we take the approach that improving your child’s ability to feed will ultimately improve the quality of life for your entire family.
What is feeding therapy?
The term “feeding” refers to the intake of food and liquid for nutrition.
In research by Goday et al., 2019, treatment of feeding disorders addresses 4 areas:
1. Medical - diagnoses such as reflux, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, etc.
2. Psychosocial - stress, anxiety, and negative emotions around mealtimes
3. Feeding skill - the ability to feed including chewing, swallowing, and managing utensils
4. Nutritional complications - allergies, vitamin deficiencies, constipation, etc.
Feeding therapy is the therapeutic approach to treating difficulties related to feeding skills.
Who would benefit from a feeding assessment?
Children who experience feeding difficulties are at increased risk for dehydration, malnutrition, lung infections, weight loss, and an overall negative association with food long-term.
Infants and children who experience any of the following may be good candidates for a feeding therapy evaluation:
Excessive coughing or gagging
Refusing to eat
Difficulty breathing while eating
Crying, discomfort, or distress while eating
Preference for particular textures
Refusal of particular textures
Feeding therapy session
During a session, your child’s therapist will use sensory integration techniques to promote food exposure. The therapist also provides oral motor techniques for safe chewing and swallowing.
Therapists facilitate “food play”: seeing, smelling, touching, and tasting to create a positive association.
Your child’s therapist will always provide close and constant supervision throughout the session.
Important factors in feeding therapy are letting your child take the lead, positive encouragement, and prioritizing an overall positive experience!
Feeding therapy outcomes
A trained therapist will use evidence-based strategies to improve:
Communication and cues
Psychological associations with feeding
Coordination to chew, swallow and breathe
Feeding therapy will also aim to improve the quality of life beyond your child’s home and into the community. This includes social gatherings, school, and public eating establishments.
Did You Know?
Your child can reap all of the benefits of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy as they relate to feeding skills.
Abil-OT focuses on an interdisciplinary approach to maximize the life skills gained by your child while working with our clinicians.
Physical therapy improves head and trunk control, allowing the optimal posture and muscle function needed to breathe, eat and swallow.
Occupational therapy improves the fine and visual motor skills needed to coordinate movements involved in feeding.
Speech therapy promotes safe chewing, swallowing, sucking, and breathing.
Goday, P. S., Huh, S. Y., Silverman, A., Lukens, C. T., Dodrill, P., Cohen, S. S., Delaney, A. L., Feuling, M. B., Noel, R. J., Gisel, E., Kenzer, A., Kessler, D. B., Kraus De Camargo, O., Browne, J., & Phalen, J. A. (2019). Pediatric Feeding Disorder. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition, 68(1), 124–129. https://doi.org/10.1097/mpg.0000000000002188