It occurred to us one day not too long ago, that parents are turning to the internet when they need help with something. This can include searching for help on getting pregnant, cooking delicious low-fat meals, training pets to stop barking, and many other things.
Then it hit us! People may be searching for help when their child won’t eat! We have been posting success stories from our clinical practice regularly in our “What Works Wednesday” posts. Several of those posts include success stories from our behavioral feeding therapy. For example:
- We had the little girl who only ate Sonic grilled cheese sandwiches (we recently had a little boy that only ate Sonic grilled cheese too! Maybe they should meet up!)
- We described a little boy who would only eat bacon and rice waffles.
- We introduced you to our hardest clinical case, a little girl who would only eat peanut butter, pretzels, and jalapeno chips.
- We helped an adolescent boy who had suffered from 9+ years of picky eating.
- We shared the success of our first intensive case.
Clearly, behavioral feeding therapy works!
For those of you who stumbled across our site because your child won’t eat and you need help, you’ve come to the right place! Help is available for you and your child. You just need to know how to find it. In order to find help, you need to know what you are looking for. For starters, why is your child having difficulty with feeding?
- Was he born prematurely and everything has been hard?
- Does your child have gastrointestinal issues (e.g., having trouble with bowel movements or having too many)?
- Does your child have a feeding tube or did he have one in the past?
- Does she have an identified disability that may be contributing to the problem (e.g., Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy)?
- Has your child ever been treated for reflux?
- Does you child have a structural problem such as a cleft lip or swallowing difficulty?
- Is your child allergic to certain foods?
- Does your child have preferences for certain brands, colors (or lack thereof), or textures?
- Is your child on the white diet (chicken, french fries, and chips)?
If you are here looking for help, chances are, your child needs an assessment. Any good feeding program will complete an assessment prior to starting therapy. The assessment should be multi-pronged in that underlying medical issues should be diagnosed, potential mechanical problems (e.g., swallowing or chewing) should be pinpointed, and any nutritional deficiencies should be identified. In addition to those areas, a good behavioral assessment is also warranted. While your child could have developed a feeding problem because of an underlying medical or mechanical issue, he or she may have learned to control mealtimes.
Is Feeding Therapy Warranted?
If you learn from the assessments that your child is medically, mechanically, and nutritionally OK, you may not need a treatment program. We generally say that if a child is eating 30 or more foods, that the problem is minor and can most likely be addressed with due diligence. We will post some helpful steps that you can do to help if you believe that your child’s case is minor.
If your child has limited himself to fewer than 30 total foods, or she has limited herself to only one type of texture (e.g., puree only or liquid only or crunchy only), if your child engages in inappropriate mealtime behavior such as aggression, self-injury, or disruption, or if your child is really behind on the height and/or weight chart compared to other children in the same culture, a feeding program may be needed.
Once a comprehensive assessment has been completed, and it has been determined that feeding therapy is necessary, it will be important to develop a treatment plan. Depending on the results of the assessment, your child may need regular and on-going therapy to learn to chew. She may need medication to treat inflammation in the GI tract. He may need to go on a special diet due to a food allergy. The results of the assessment(s) will drive the treatment.
Parent, Family, and School Involvement
A good feeding program will work collaboratively with the parents, other family members, and school personnel as needed. Feeding does not occur in a bubble but in many environments. Thus, everyone who interacts with your child during mealtimes should be involved in the therapy program.
Data Driven Program with Results
Finally, any quality program will have data documenting the effectiveness of their treatment. This may be limited to the success of your own child but it may also include success rates of graduates of their program. Do not be too shy to ask for this information. Embarking on a journey of feeding therapy is stressful, time-consuming, and expensive in many cases.
Of course, we would love it if you come to us for help. We offer a variety of feeding services including direct therapy with you and your child in the comfort of your home. Please check out our website for additional information about our services. You may also email us for information. Info at applied behavioral strategies dot com.
We wish you luck in helping your child eat. We know first-hand how stressful it can be.