Is your child a picky eater? Or perhaps he or she doesn’t have a normal appetite? Is your child below the normal weight for his or her age? These may be symptoms of a feeding disorder. Speech and Occupational Therapy of North Texas has speech pathologists and occupational therapists in the Frisco Clinic with specialized training in evaluation and treatment of feeding disorders. We would be happy to answer any questions you might have regarding your child’s feeding habits.
Common characteristics of feeding disorders for infants and children:
- Arching or stiffening of the body during feeding
- Irritability or lack o f alertness during feeding
- Refusing food or liquid
- Failure to accept different textures of food (e.g. only pureed foods or crunchy foods)
- Long feeding time (e.g. more than 30 minutes
- Difficulty chewing
- Difficulty breast feeding
- Coughing and gagging during meals
- Excessive drooling or food/liquid coming out of the mouth or nose
- Difficulty coordinating breathing with eating and drinking
- Gurgle, house or breathy voice quality
- Frequent spitting or vomiting
- Recurring pneumonia or respiratory infections
- Less than normal weight gain or growth
Though it is important to work with a feeding specialist if your child has a diagnosed feeding, disorder here are some tips that may facilitate a positive feeding experience.
- Help the child understand hunger cues or the sensation of hunger and associate this with the act of eating through the use of concrete language and a predictable chain of events. (You know your child is hungry – so you model “I am hungry”, then get a small snack and go to the table to eat it. Then ask the child, “Are you hungry?” “Would you like a snack?”) Avoid excessive snacking throughout the day, particularly near mealtimes, since this impedes the ability to feel a hunger sensation as well as the association of eating with meal time/table time.
- Find the foods the child is comfortable eating and gradually associate those with foods in the same flavor and texture family to expand the food repertoire.(A child likes apple sauce, so use pears in the food processor – or if a child likes cheerios, add another similar shaped cereal)
- Young children often respond more positively when started with finger feeding so they can receive sensory input about the texture of the bite of food before placing it in their mouth. Sometimes the baby steps of touching, playing with, smelling and licking before actually chewing are important steps for accepting new foods.
- Sometimes the initial goal has to be simply sitting in a chair at the table, in which case positive reinforcement strategies would be the way to start. (You can do other activities at the table, using tangible reinforcers or praise for finishing a task). After several successful sessions, add a desired snack at the end of this time.