Pediatric Feeding Therapy, Help with Learning to Eat

Teaching a child to eat

We have all experienced “picky eaters” but some of the issues surrounding mealtime go beyond a simple dislike of peas or asparagus. Some children gag when they try to eat, have an aversion to certain smells or textures, have difficulty swallowing, throw tantrums, or simply refuse to eat altogether.

For these children, eating, drinking, and swallowing may be painful and frightening – ultimately affecting their behavioral, physical, and emotional development. And in far too many homes, mealtime has unnecessarily turned into a battle of the wills.

There are many reasons for these mealtime difficulties some emotional and some physiological, for instance, there are disorders that impact the way the nervous system receives information from the senses and converts them into responses. Sometimes those signals get disorganized or simply do not connect causing what looks like inappropriate responses. Other issues that may impact mealtime include autism spectrum disorder, as well as neurological diagnosis impacting motor skills, such as Stroke or Cerebral Palsy.

Pediatric Feeding Disorder (PFD)

“PFD is defined as impaired oral intake that is not age-appropriate.” “Conservative evaluations estimate that PFD affects more than 1 in 37 children under the age of 5 in the United States each year. Other studies show that PFDs are common such that 25% of children are reported to have some form of feeding disorder. This number increases to 80% in developmentally delayed children.

Experts have reported that for infants and children struggling with PFD, every bite of food can be painful, scary, or impossible, potentially impeding nutrition, development, growth, and overall well-being. The consequences of PFD can be severe, including growth failure, susceptibility to chronic illness, and even death.

According to the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, PFD requires comprehensive assessment and treatment of 4 closely related and complementary domains: medical, psychosocial, feeding skill-based systems, and associated nutritional complications. Unfortunately, the diagnosis of PFD has largely been approached unilaterally, with each discipline suggesting its own approach. Such unilateral approaches do not capture the complexity of PFD.

Pediatric Feeding Therapy (PFT)

PFT: Teaching children how to eat or how to eat better.

Typically, PFT is performed by occupational and speech therapists, a physician or nurse, a dietician or nutritionist or a developmental specialist. For instance, a pediatric-specialized Solace therapist can review a child’s eating history, discuss the challenges with both the child and the parents, consider any medical reasons that may be causing a concern and develop a treatment plan to address your child’s feeding problems.[v]

When correctly diagnosed, PFD is manageable. The true concern lies with early identification and intervention. Through collaborative care and the proper support system, PFD can be well regulated and treated.

What To Expect in PFT

During feeding sessions, therapist may target several different feeding skills such as:

  • Oral motor skills for bottle or cup drinking, for eating food from a spoon or chewing.
  • Picking appropriate utensils including bottles, nipples, cups, and spoons.
  • Swallowing strategies to reduce aspiration or choking.
  • Feeding techniques to improve mealtime behavior, acceptance of foods and liquids, and efficiency of eating.
  • Proper positioning for feeding.
  • Improving tolerance of textures.
  • Oral motor stretching or strengthening.

Whether PFD is an occasional issue or ongoing, Solace Home Health Care offers experienced therapists who come to your home and work with your child. Every therapy session and feeding plan is based on your child’s specific needs and no two therapy plans are alike. Removing mealtime stress means a happier and healthier child and parents who look forward to family time.

In-home therapy provides comfort and convenience. There are many benefits to in-home therapy, including:

  • A familiar environment. A familiar environment allows the most optimal conditions for a child to achieve the best results.
  • Convenience. Simply said, in-home therapy saves time, transportation costs, and the hassle of the back-and-forth travel.
  • Continuity of Care. In-home therapy allows the child to receive care from the same clinician. This allows for each session to be led by the clinician who is familiar with a child’s individualized needs, goals, and overall progress.

Please contact us at 303-432-8487 option 1 or referrals@solacehealthcare.com if you are interested in more information or if you would like to schedule therapy for your child.