Having a child with who is a picky eater or has difficulty eating is a great concern for parents. Often parents are not only worried about the health of their child, but mealtime also becomes a stressful battle of wills.
Picky eating is a fairly common occurrence among all children at one time or another. However, children with unusual eating habits that extend beyond fussiness, and prolonged food anxiety beyond just a few days or weeks can be a sign that your child may need help. Children who require help with acquiring new foods may be extremely selective about what food they will eat, or they may even refuse food altogether. Being presented with foods that they are unwilling to try can cause strong a strong physical and emotional response including gagging and vomiting, panic attacks and even violent outbursts.
There are a variety of reasons that children become picky eaters. A child may have associated food with pain due to food allergies, reflux, gastro-intestinal issues, intubation, or choking on difficult to chew foods, and then as a result developed anxiety around food. Children on the autism spectrum have difficulty with sensory processing for new foods, and often develop anxiety around mealtime or new foods. No matter the cause, the impact can be huge, both on the child and the entire family. Power struggles, stressful mealtimes and feelings of guilt on the par
Feeding therapy focuses on identifying and resolving as many of the child’s issues with food as possible. Some children with may have difficulties communicating about things like food, hunger and what they like and dislike, while others simply don’t know how to eat and need the support of therapists to show them how to bite, chew properly, swallow and more.
Some of the elements of feeding therapy that can support your child in developing better eating habits include:
- Appetite manipulation which involves presenting foods when the child is hungry to increase the likelihood of acceptance
- How to make choices about how much and what to eat
- Involvement in preparing the food that they will eat
- Positive reinforcement
- Simultaneous presentation of foods that they do and don’t like, which has been shown to increase acceptance of previously rejected foods
- Social modelling
Our team of therapists have more than 44 years of combined experience in helping children and their families with speech and eating disorders. If you are concerned about your child and would like to consult with us, please do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give us a call.