As a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) there are several specialties you may acquire if you choose. Pediatric feeding therapy happens to be one of mine, along with assistive technology. And while many occupational therapists treat feeding problems, there are also many SLP’s who work with this.
“Picky eating”, “feeding problem”, “feeding disorder”, whatever label you want to give it, is on the rise so I feel obligated to share some information on this topic. Approximately half (if not more) of my private practice has been and continues to be made up of pediatric feeding therapy. My specialty of pediatric feeding is a result of countless hours of additional studying from many amazing leaders in this area. My success in this field is from a combination of techniques learned and practiced from a variety of experts, but mostly from the SOS Approach to Feeding with Kay Toomey.
It seems really odd to most as to why a child just does not eat. And then to make things even more unusual, why is it that they will eat one food on one day, and then won’t eat again? Or perhaps you have experienced the opposite of this. This would be when children who will eat but it needs to be the exact same food day and night everyday and they sometimes even get upset if it isn’t offered to them on daily basis. So there is no doubt that this is frustrating and can become a giant inconvenience. Most families in this situation are not able to attend some social gatherings due to food aversions and/or possibly cannot enjoy a meal out because their child will not eat anything on a restaurant menu.
So before we jump into what do we do about it, I really need to share (or shut down) some common myths to feeding.
Myth 1- Eating is instinctive.
False- Eating is only instinctive for the 1st month of life, then reflexive until 6 months. Eating after this is completely learned behavior.
Myth 2- If a child is hungry they will eat. They will not starve themselves.
False- 4-6% of the pediatric population who have feeding problems, they will “starve” themselves (usually inadvertently however). For the majority of these children, feeding does not work and/or it hurts, and no amount of hunger is going to overcome that fact.
Myth 3- If a child won’t eat, there is EITHER a behavioral OR an organic problem.
False- Various research studies (Kay Toomey and Associates) indicates that between 65-95% of all children with feeding problems have a combination of behavioral AND organic problems. If you have a physical problem with eating, you are going to quickly learn that eating doesn’t work, it hurts, and you will develop a set of behaviors to avoid the task. If you start with a purely behavioral/environment reason for not eating, your compromised nutritional status will quickly begin to cause organic problems. They generally coexist.
(“SOS Approach to Feeding by Kay Toomey & Associates”)
While pediatric feeding is one of my passions as a Speech-Language Pathologist, I do not and cannot do it all alone. It is crucial that it is approached and worked on as a team approach. I am fortunate to have an amazing team that includes an Occupational Therapist, Phd. Psychologist, and many medical doctors.
Since this is an important area of my practice I will be posting more articles on the topic of pediatric feeding in the future. I encourage your feedback. Please feel free to write to me if you have further questions or would like more information regarding pediatric feeding at firstname.lastname@example.org.