Feeding therapy begins with an evaluation of feeding skills, in which the therapist gathers background information, history of eating difficulties and medical history. The therapist will evaluate a child’s feeding skills and profile, including progression from purees to solids, chewing skills, food preferences, avoidance and refusal behaviors, sensory profile, drinking skills, and variety and volume of food intake. The therapists will collaborate with your family to provide recommendations to make mealtimes successful and positive for everyone.
A child may benefit from feeding therapy if you answer “yes” to one or more of the following questions:
- Does your child eat less than 20 foods consistently, avoid entire food groups or only eat a few foods from each food group?
- Does your child eat small volumes of food or take a long time to eat?
- Does your child refuse foods and engage in avoidance , such as tantruming, throwing food, screaming and leaving the table?
- Does your child gag, vomit, cough or choke while eating/drinking or shortly after?
- Does your child only eat certain textures of food (e.g., purees, crunchy solids, fluids)?
- Is your child transitioning from tube to oral feeding?
- Is your child having difficulty weaning from a bottle to solid foods?
- Are you thinking about or currently breastfeeding and have questions or need support?
Feeding therapy performed by a speech-language pathologist or an occupational therapist can address a variety of issues, including:
- Providing lactation counseling and management support to families who are thinking about breastfeeding or who have questions or problems during breastfeeding/lactation
- Teaching self-feeding skills, including drinking from a cup and using utensils
- Developing chewing skills
- Increasing oral feeding to wean from reliance on gastrostomy and nasogastric tubes
- Improving sensory tolerance to various food textures
- Increasing variety and volume of nutritional intake
- Reducing avoidance behaviors during mealtimes
How does a therapist help a child eat?
Our NESCA feeding therapists create a treatment plan individualized for each child using a combination of approaches, including systematic desensitization and child-led. It is our goal at NESCA to help families use the skills they obtain in therapy while at home and in the community. Our feeding therapists teach self-feeding skills, involve parents/caregivers in therapy sessions, model strategies for use in the home and community, and make recommendations specific to each child’s abilities and goals to promote generalization.
Abigael Gray, MS, CCC-SLP – Speech-Language Pathologist, Feeding Specialist
Abigael Gray has over six years of experience in feeding therapy and has provided evaluations and treatment to infants and children with a wide variety of feeding and swallowing difficulties (dysphagia). She works with families to make mealtimes easier and more enjoyable. Abigael has experience and interest in working with infants transitioning to solid foods, as well as children who are tube fed transitioning to oral eating. She uses a systematic desensitization approach to increase sensory comfort with foods. Abigael is currently completing training to become a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC). This certification allows her to assess the latching and feeding process, provide corrective interventions, counsel mothers and understand and apply knowledge of milk production.
Lauren Zeitler, OTR/L – Occupational Therapist, Feeding Specialist
Lauren Zeitler has over four years of experience in feeding and eating therapy with children ranging in ages from birth to teen years. Formerly working in early intervention, Lauren has knowledge working with a variety of diagnosis’ including GERD, cleft palate, and children who are tube fed. She enjoys helping school aged children – especially teenagers – grow their diet ranges by considering environmental, social, and sensory concerns surrounding their eating experiences. Lauren is educated and certified in the TR-eat (Transdisciplinary Effective Assessment and Treatment) method through the Pediatric Feeding Institute. Taking a transdisciplinary approach, this model integrates sensory and oral motor techniques along with medical and behavioral management for the treatment of complex feeding and eating problems.