Are you concerned that your child is not getting adequate nutrition because they won’t eat their food? Will your toddler only eat chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese, or refuse to eat at all? Are you at your wit’s end because they have tantrums at the table, spitting or throw their food? Feeding therapy can improve your child’s relationship with food and help them to eat a wider variety of nutritional foods.
Understanding Feeding Therapy for Toddlers
Pediatric feeding disorders can be troubling because if your child is not maintaining a healthy weight or has nutritional deficiencies, it can affect their growth and development. It can also be stressful on you as a parent because it makes mealtime frustrating and an unpleasant event three times a day. Some common signs of feeding disorders in children include:
- Refusal to try new foods
- Trouble chewing or swallowing
- Aversion to certain food textures
- Gagging or vomiting
- Tantrums at mealtime
There can be many causes of eating disorders including the following:
- food allergies
- palate defects
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- delayed exposure to different foods
- digestive disorders
- autism spectrum disorders
It is estimated that 80% of individuals with developmental disabilities and upwards of 45% of typically developing children have some type of feeding problem.
Pediatric Feeding Therapy Testing
Feeding therapy evaluations are conducted to determine the scope and severity of your child’s feeding problems. The pediatric feeding therapist may want to see your child while they are eating or attempting to eat, and will use a variety of tests and tools to assess underlying problems. The issue may be with how their mouth works or their sensory perception, it could be behavioral, or it could be a combination of problems. Most children fall into four categories of feeding problems: total food refusal, food selectivity, texture selectivity, and deficits in related skills such as self-feeding or bite regulation.
Once an evaluation is completed, the pediatric feeding therapist will consult with your child’s primary physician, gastrointestinal physician, nutritionist and occupational therapist as necessary. Then you will be provided with a report on the findings and appropriate feeding therapy services will be discussed. Your child’s treatment plan will be based on their individual needs and goals.
Feeding Therapy for Children
Before any pediatric feeding therapy treatment is provided, we will consult with your child’s pediatrician to ensure that it is safe for them to feed orally. Even if it is determined that it is not safe, they could still benefit from feeding therapy to improve their oral abilities and oral exploration. Proper self-feeding is essential to other developmental skills. As they grow and mature, it may become safe for them to eat at a later time, in which case treatment can be adjusted.
Parents must also be prepared to participate in the eating therapy process. We will review with parents how to implement appropriate feeding techniques and routines at home to help improve meal times. It’s important that feeding therapists and parents are working at the same speed toward achieving the same goal. Parents should be willing to spend at least 10-15 minutes per day conducting feeding therapy for your toddler and adhering to a daily meal routine.
While every child is different, typical feeding therapy program goals include:
- Increasing the variety of solid foods accepted
- Increasing the volume of solid foods and/or liquids
- Increasing the variety of liquids accepted
- Increasing the texture of solid foods accepted
- Increasing their self-feeding skills
- Decreasing meal duration
- Decreasing disruptive mealtime behaviors (e.g., crying, screaming, hitting, spitting or throwing food)
With the right feeding therapy and support, mealtimes can be more enjoyable and beneficial for your child. They’ll be eating a wider variety of foods with fewer disruptions. Best of all, they will be meeting their nutritional needs their growing bodies need. Do not let feeding disorders derail your child’s growth and development or make mealtimes unbearable. Call PediaPlex today to learn how feeding therapy for toddlers will help frustrating family dinners become a thing of the past.