How Feeding Therapy is Used to Help Picky Eaters and Treat Other Feeding Disorders
Children who are picky eaters or have other types of feeding disorders can benefit from feeding therapy. Claire Erickson is a Speech and Language Pathologist at Mariposa Therapy Services who specializes in helping picky eaters.
Claire says parents often seek help for children who were previously good eaters and will now only eat limited types of food. These parents are concerned that their picky eaters aren’t getting enough nutrients from a diet of chips, crackers, French fries, chicken nuggets, etc.
Children can also have other feeding problems such as mouth stuffing food, difficulty staying at the table while eating, needing a TV, iPad, or other technology to eat and requiring bribes (desserts, toys, etc.) to eat or try new foods.
Speech-Language Pathologists who specialize in feeding disorders help to make food fun to make kids feel comfortable trying new foods and expanding their food repertoire. The primary component of therapy is playing and interacting with food by making things out of food such as “Foodimals” (animals made out of food), faces made of food and trying foods together.
A hierarchy is used to help children tolerate new foods. The Speech-Language Pathologist introduces foods through each sense (looking, smelling, touching, tasting) until the child feels comfortable enough to eat.
Other techniques that are used include increasing positive food talk (“Maybe later” “I’m still learning”) and decreasing negative behavior around food like throwing, pushing away, running away, or screaming.
Feeding therapists also consult on breast/bottle feeding transition to table foods and can help infants with suck, swallow, and breathing coordination during nursing or bottle feeding.
Some advice Claire gives to parents who might be concerned about their child’s feeding:
- Offer a protein, vegetable/fruit and grain at every meal
- Establish family mealtimes
- Limit distractions such as TV and electronics at the table
- Avoid offering bribes such as desserts and toys
- Avoid “no-thank you” bites and use positive food talk such as, ”I am still learning.”
- Encourage children to interact with food and others at the table without having to eat
- Limit grazing. Children who graze eat 30% less
- Mealtimes should last no longer than 30 minutes
Claire Erickson MS CCC-SLP is a speech and language pathologist who specializes in pediatric feeding disorders at Mariposa Therapy Services. Contact us today to request an appointment.