Feeding Therapy

Eating is a complex process involving many elements which need to work  together cohesively. A variety of factors can contribute to a child's difficulty with feeding. Members of our Feeding Team evaluate and provide specialized intervention for children with all types of feeding concerns. Our Team also works closely with parents and caregivers to  ensure success and carryover in the home environment. At The Speech Tree, we  use a hierarchy of steps to allow the child to become desensitized to  different tastes, textures, and temperatures. We build a trusting  relationship with the child and help them learn to enjoy the eating process which positively impacts the social aspect of meal times. 

Our Feeding Therapy Assessment Process is designed to evaluate Four Primary Areas which could be contributing to your child's feeding issues.

Underlying medical conditions: 

It is critical to explore possible underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to problem feeding. Undiagnosed gastrointestinal conditions may be causing GI track inflammation, discomfort, and motility issues.  These internal symptoms are difficult for young children to verbalize to adults and can significantly impact the child’s feeding behavior.  Children may resort to maladaptive behaviors to express their gastrointestinal discomfort. If there is a suspected underlying medical condition, your therapist will refer you to a gastroenterologist for further evaluation.  

Oral Motor

Conducting an oral structural or muscular mechanism examination assesses the coordination, timing, and function of the mouth and related  structures.  This portion of the assessment rules out physiological issues which could be hindering the mechanics of chewing and swallowing  while protecting the airway.  Some examples of contributing factors to  oral motor feeding issues are facial muscle weakness, nervous system  disorders (such as cerebral palsy), cleft lip and/or palate, and  prematurity.  Children with structural or muscular feeding issues may  have the following symptoms:

  • Messy eaters
  • Pocketing food in oral cavity
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty Chewing
  • Couching or gagging during or after swallow
  • Refusal of food or liquid
  • Prolonged feeding time
  • Recurring pneumonia or respiratory infections



Sensory Integration

Parent  report is a critical component of assessing sensory-based feeding  behaviors.  We ask parents to complete a comprehensive food log, which  is a record of all foods and beverages consumed by the child within a  period of time.  Observed trends can be concluded from the child’s  diet, revealing what food-based sensory attributes (taste, texture,  temperature, color, appearance) the child prefers and avoids.  The clinician can also draw conclusions about the child’s general  nutrition to determine if a referred to a nutritionist is needed.  Children with sensory feeding issues demonstrate highly rigid behaviors related to mealtime routines and food choices.  They are at risk of poor nutrition and difficulty maintaining a healthy body mass index.  It is also common for these children to experience anxiety and social isolation related to eating in social situations and settings.

Behavioral Feeding Challenges

Behavioral feeding issues can coexist with any of the previously described feeding issues. For this reason, it is essential to consider all possible factors contributing to your child’s feeding problem. Prior to treating problem behaviors, oral-motor and possible underlying medical condition must be ruled out or addressed. Furthermore, sensory-based and behavioral-based feeding issues will need to be distinguished from each other to determine the best course of treatment. Children with behavioral feeding issues may being exhibiting  some of the following behaviors: refusal to sit at table, refusal to  eat, crying/screaming during meals, throwing foods, or vomiting to get  out of eating. 

 

Contact a Feeding Therapist, if  your child has  ...

  • Poor weight gain or weight loss
  • Eating and breathing coordination issues (repeated episodes of pneumonia or aspiration)
  • Trouble transitioning to puree foods by 10 months
  • Trouble accepting tables foods by 12 months
  • Not weaned off baby foods by 16 months
  • Refused to eat entire food groups
  • Fewer than 20 foods in their diet
  • Pattern of refusing to eat previously preferred foods without adding new foods
  • Refused to eat family meals
  • Extremely rigid feeding behaviors