Eat something, please! 

Getting your little ones to eat something, anything., everything, can be such a daunting task. Does your child consume the same foods at all mealtimes?  Do they severely lack items from important food groups including vegetables, fruits, and proteins? Does your child have a diet that is severely limited and insufficient to support growth and development? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may have a problem feeder on your hands. Hang in there, parents. There IS hope! Our feeding therapists are trained to help your child with a wide array of feeding difficulties.

How do you know if your child is just a picky eater or actually a problem feeder? 

Picky eating is actually an appropriate “stage” of development in toddlers and young children. A typically developing picky eater may include the following behaviors: food refusal, difficulty accepting new foods, but tolerates the visual and tactile presence of food items, behavioral feeding problems, tantrums, and slow eating. A picky eater will usually accept between 20 to 30 food items.
A problem or aversive feeder typically does not “outgrow” their severely selective diet. They present with behaviors which Include; however, not limited to: oral hypersensitivity, restrictive food categories, and textures, refuses entire categories of foods (i.e. fruit, vegetables, proteins), repeated food refusal/adverse mealtime behaviors, doesn’t tolerate the presence of new foods and often eats alone. A problem feeding has a restricted diet limited to less than 20 different food items.

How do I know if my child needs services?

There are several to consider – Medical, behavioral, and environmental factors, including sensory difficulties, must be considered when feeding and eating problems occur.
Medical:  An eating history should be taken. The eating history should include gathering the following information: Details of extensive choking, coughing, or gagging when eating; Loss of oxygen (turning blue/purple) while eating; Pattern of liquids or foods that emerge through the child’s nostrils when eating; and Recurrent respiratory difficulties and/or pneumonia.
Environmental: Touch, taste, feel smell, etc.
It is common for children to have a strong preference for one particular texture of foods such as crunchy or smooth. Mashed potatoes must be the same consistency each time for example. When introducing new foods, it is important to consider introducing foods that are of a similar texture or which can be later modified. Some children have a harder time, transitioning from foods they can eat with their fingers to foods that are eaten with utensils. Smells may affect when, where, and how that child might be fed. The smell of foods that are not familiar and comfortable may affect their ability to eat. Visual presentation of food items is another issue to be aware of when identifying contributing factors to eating and feeding are problems.

I believe my child is a problem feeder. Now, what?

Food logs are a great tool for you and your family to use to your child is showing symptoms of problem feeding, Keep track of accepted and non-accepted food items. Identify feeding patterns and behavioral accepts of textures.
Additionally, if you are concerned with the feeding and oral motor development of your child, take your concerns to your pediatrician. Your child’s doctor can provide you with a referral for a comprehensive feeding and oral motor evaluation from an occupational therapist or speech-language pathologist to determine if therapeutic services are necessary.
Check out this questionnaire to help you identify which category your child may fall in.:
References:
Jorri Sanders-Marchi, M.Ed., CCC-SLP
Jorri obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in the area of Communication Science and Disorders from Valdosta State University. She joined the staff of Building Bridges Therapy in 2010 and was promoted to Assistant Clinical Director in October of 2017. Jorri has presented at various conferences and parent seminars on topics including developmentally appropriate norms, oral motor development and feeding difficulties, sensory feeding disorders, and the effects of sensory processing disorders on relationships. Jorri has gained invaluable insight and improved her clinical skills by attending courses related to management and treatment of pediatric feeding disorders, oral motor activities and dysfunction, optimizing breastfeeding safety/outcomes in the presence of feeding and swallowing disorders, as well as a language based approach to treating echolalia. She has extensive experience in the areas of treating language disorders, feeding, apraxia, fluency, articulation, oral motor dysfunction, and receptive/expressive language deficits. Jorri is in the process of completing all requirements to become a certified lactation counselor. Outside of work Jorri enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters and going to restaurants with friends.