Feeding therapy generally benefits people who have trouble chewing, swallowing, controlling/coordinating food from their mouths to the throat and helps children who are picky eaters or refuse to eat specific foods.
People with feeding and swallowing difficulties or dysphasia might need feeding therapy from a professional occupational or speech-language therapist.
What to expect?
Feeding therapy does not just include teaching a child to eat but a detailed assessment and evaluation of underlying sensory or motor issues is carried out before a treatment plan is designed by a professional occupational therapist. After determining the source of feeding and swallowing difficulties therapists usually develop a therapy plan to make the process of eating easier for children.
How feeding therapy works?
With feeding therapy, therapists work with children to provide them with the skills they need to make eating more enjoyable and nutritious. Feeding therapy usually aims to improve:
- Oral skills
Oral strengthening leads to Improvement in controlling and coordinating chewing, swallowing, sucking, sipping while eating and drinking.
- Food orientation
Feeding therapy assists children in broadening the types and amounts of foods they eat by introducing a balanced and a healthy diet. Therapists aim to increase the range of accepted foods for a child and reduce sensitivity to certain types of food.
- Eating experience
Due to illnesses, allergies, sensory aversion to food or reduced oral skills a child might develop negative feelings toward the whole eating process. A therapist thus introduces strategies aimed at improving the overall meal-time experience for children.
Improving self-feeding skills by using strategies such as introducing special utensils or other equipment to make the eating process easier.
What can I do at home to aid a child’s feeding process?
Following fun feeding therapy related activities might encourage the children to try new foods:
- Different colors and shapes:
Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches, fruits/vegetables, etc. into your child’s favorite shapes.
You can add food coloring to make food look more appealing and exciting for children.
- Fun plates and utensils:
Use colorful and fun plates and utensils during mealtimes. Paper plates shaped as different animals or plates with children's favorite fictional characters.
- Food preparation games:
Involve your children in meal planning, grocery shopping and food preparation. Show them pictures of foods that they can choose from and let them decide the menu for any mealtime. Try gathering ingredients and cooking these meals with the child.
- Food play:
Use food during play time to decrease aversion to certain foods for example make play-dough out of marshmallows or paint with pasta and edible paint.