Are mealtimes with you child becoming more of a battleground than a bounding experience? Are you concerned about their limited food preferences or feeding difficulties? Feeding therapy by a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) or an Occupational Therapist (OT) could be the answer you've been searching for. In this blog post, we'll explore what feeding therapy entails, what parents can expect during a feeding assessment and treatment session, and some strategies that therapists use to improve oral intake and feeding outcomes.
What is feeding therapy?
Feeding therapy is a specialized area of pediatric therapy that focuses on helping children develop positive relationships with food, overcome feeding difficulties, and ensure they receive the nutrition needed for healthy growth. Speech-language pathologists, with their expertise in communication and swallowing disorders, are uniquely qualified to provide this type of therapy. Occupational therapists also play a crucial role in addressing feeding difficulties by addressing the physical, sensory, and behavioral aspects of feeding. Their comprehensive approach aims to improve a child's feeding skills and make mealtime a more positive and enjoyable experience for both the child and their family.
The Feeding Assessment: What to expect!
The journey typically begins with a comprehensive feeding assessment. Here's what parents can expect during this crucial phase:
Case History- Your SLP and/or OT will gather information about your child's medical history, eating habits, and any previous feeding challenges.
Observation- They will observe your child during mealtime to assess their behavior, oral motor skills, and interaction with food.
Oral-Motor Examination- The clinician will examine your child's mouth, tongue, and oral structures to identify any anatomical or functional issues that may be contributing to feeding difficulties.
Swallowing Evaluation- If swallowing difficulties are suspected, a swallowing evaluation may be conducted to assess the safety and efficiency of the swallowing process.
Sensory Assessment- Sensory sensitivities related to taste, texture, or temperature may also be explored, as these can significantly impact a child's willingness to eat.
Treatment Sessions: What to expect!
Once the assessment is complete, the clinician will develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your child's unique needs. During treatment sessions, parents can expect the following:
Goal Setting- Clear, achievable goals will be established to guide the therapy process. These goals may include expanding food preferences, improving oral motor skills, or reducing mealtime stress.
Positive Mealtime Environment- Creating a relaxed, positive mealtime atmosphere is crucial. SLPs often provide strategies for making mealtimes enjoyable and stress-free.
Gradual Exposure- SLPs use systematic desensitization techniques to gradually introduce new foods and textures to your child, helping them become more comfortable with a variety of foods.
Oral Motor Exercises- Exercises to strengthen and coordinate the muscles used in chewing and swallowing can be an essential part of feeding therapy based upon the child's needs.
Sensory Integration- SLPs and OTs may work with sensory integration techniques to help children tolerate different textures and sensations associated with food.
Behavioral Strategies- Addressing mealtime behavior issues is also important. SLPs and OTs can provide guidance on managing food refusal or challenging behaviors.
Parent Education- Parents play a crucial role in the success of feeding therapy. We provide education and strategies for implementing therapy techniques at home.
Tracking Progress and Celebrating Achievements:
Feeding therapy is a journey, and progress can vary from child to child. Regular communication with your team of therapists will help track your child's achievements and make necessary adjustments to the treatment plan. We love celebrating small victories along the way to keep the momentum going.
Feeding therapy is a holistic approach to addressing feeding difficulties in children. It focuses on fostering a positive relationship with food, improving oral motor skills, and creating enjoyable mealtimes. With the guidance of skilled SLPs, OTs and active parental involvement, children can develop the skills and confidence needed for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. If you have any concerns about your child's feeding, don't hesitate to seek the help of our qualified team to assist you and your family on this journey.