A Feeding Therapist’s Guide to Cups, Bowls, and Utensils – Part 1

By | NESCA Notes 2021

By Lauren Zeitler, MSOT, OTR/L
NESCA Occupational Therapist; Feeding Specialist

As an important area of development, feeding and eating time is a special opportunity for children to not only grow, but also interact with their environment. This includes transitioning from breast and bottle feeding to cups, bowls, and utensils. With so many options available on the market, it can be hard to decide what to buy. If you are unsure where to start, this blog will introduce different tools to help promote a more independent eater in your child.

In this week’s OT Tuesday blog, we provide suggestions on utensils and bowls for new eaters, toddlers, and more. In our Part 2 of the blog, we will focus on different styles of cups for all stages of child drinkers.

Recommended Utensils throughout Developmental Ages and Stages

Vital Baby Soft Tip ‘n’ Grip Feeding Spoons

Designed with a flexible, spatula-like tip, this spoon is great for scooping food out of the bowl – and off a little one’s cheek! Great for first-time feeders, this spoon holds the perfect amount of food and fits comfortably in their mouths. It is easy to wash and BPA- free.

Soft Tip Infant Spoon by Munchkin

When introducing solids to a baby, it is important to have a smaller spoon belly to fit comfortably in their mouth. The soft tips and rounded shapes of this spoon are gentle on their gums as they adjust to utensil eating. This spoon also has a long, ergonomic handle which makes it easy for caregivers to hold.

Nuby Fun Feeding Spoons & Forks

Lightweight and easy to grasp, this set of cutlery provides a traditional spoon as well as a spork (fork and spoon combination). Compared to other brands, the belly of this spoon appears deeper and has more success holding foods, such as soup. This set is recommended for children ages 12 months and up, encouraging independent eating.

NUK First Essentials Kiddy Cutlery

Made with rubber handles and stainless steel tips, this set is made to fit right in a toddler’s hands. Dishwasher-safe and BPA-free, it comes in a variety of colors and is best for children ages 18 months and up. This is a great starter set to later introduce children to adult utensils.

Nuby 9 Piece Mealtime Travel Set Spoon

Made for developed self-feeders, this set makes eating out a little easier. Pop this travel set into lunch boxes, purses, etc. This is BPA-free and dishwasher-safe.


Recommended Bowls and Plates throughout Developmental Ages and Stages

Baby B Suction Baby Bowls

BPA-free, this bowl set suctions to the table to firmly stay in place and decrease floor clean-up time. With built in handles, this bowl is easier for babies to grasp while learning to scoop and self-feed. It also comes with snap-on lids to quickly throw the leftovers in the refrigerator!

MUNCHKIN Stay Put Suction Bowls

Dishwasher- and microwave-safe, this bowl suctions to the table with a modern look. This bowl works well with new feeders, because the suction remains in place while children are learning to use a spoon.

EZPZ Happy Bowl

Built with a 12 ounce bowl, this product serves as an all in one style device. Great for toddlers and preschoolers, it suctions to the table to reduce throwing and has a placemat surrounding the bowl. It is easy to wash both in the sink and dishwasher.

EZPZ Happy Mat with sections

Made with the same great suction material, this mat provides sections to place different food items. This tool can be used this with eaters who do not like their foods to touch. It is also a fun way to teach about food groups and portion control.

Re-Play Divided Plates for Toddlers

Designed to easily stack in the cabinet or drawer, these plates are deep and durable. Each plate has three sections: two 3oz. sections and one 8 oz. section ready for a well balanced meal. Ready to graduate to an older plate, this option is recommended for children who do not need the throw-proof suction. This plate is dishwasher- and microwave-safe.

If you have any concerns about your child’s feeding or questions about feeding or occupational therapy, please complete our online intake form, or email NESCA’s Director of Clinical Services Julie Robinson at jrobinson@nesca-newton.com.


Elliott, C. & Clawson, E. (2018). Mealtime Miseries: Management of Complex Feeding Disorders. All workshop materials © Pediatric Feeding Institute, Inc

The product information in this blog is provided for educational purposes only. NESCA, nor Lauren Zeitler, accepts any incentives or payments from the manufacturers. The recommendations made come only from the professional experiences of NESCA’s occupational and feeding therapists and the personal experiences of clients.


About the Author

Lauren Zeitler is a licensed Occupational Therapist in Massachusetts, specializing in pediatric occupational and feeding therapy. Ms. Zeitler joined NESCA full-time in the fall of 2020 to offer occupational therapy assessment and treatment for children of all ages, as well as to work in conjunction with Abigael Gray, MS, CCC-SLP, on the feeding team.







Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.


Key Facts about Early Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By Renée Marchant, Psy.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist

Early diagnosis is a catalyst for propelling children on positive trajectories. If a family and child identify and focus on areas of growth earlier rather than later, there is more time and more possibility of change and improvement. This tenant is particularly critical for diagnosing ASD in toddlerhood and early childhood.

Here are critical facts about the diagnosis of ASD in early childhood and the positive impact of early diagnosis on youngsters as they age into adulthood.

  1. Most children with ASD are not diagnosed until approximately 4 years-old, yet ASD can be reliably identified by the age of 2. There is also expanding research on early identification of infants who may be at risk for ASD. Early detection is possible.
  2. Genes play an important role in ASD. A child’s odds of having an ASD diagnosis increases if he/she has a sibling or parent with ASD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), intellectual disability, schizophreniadepression, bipolar disorder or anxiety. Family medical history is an important factor for families considering a diagnostic evaluation.
  3. Co-occurring disorders (such as anxiety and depression) are more likely in individuals with ASD than the general population. Identifying emotion regulation issues in early childhood is thus essential.
  4. Neuroplasticity matters. Because ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, early treatment improves neuroplastic brain functioning and subsequent behavior. As a child develops, his/her brain becomes less plastic.
  5. Interventions geared at a child’s “first relationships” with their caregivers may exert a strong positive effect on the developmental trajectories of toddlers at high-risk of ASD and also have a positive impact on a child’s social skills with peers as they age.
  6. Research indicates that parent-child interactions in early childhood predict long-term gains in language skills into adulthood for individuals with diagnoses of ASD. Acquiring communicative, pragmatic and useful language by kindergarten has also been identified as a strong predictor of adaptive or functional “real life” skills, which are needed to navigate the environment in adolescence and adulthood.
  7. Social skills instruction in a child’s early years increases competency with peers in school. This social competency is associated with greater adaptive independence in children with ASD.
  8. Working with a “diagnostic navigator” early in your child’s life improves outcomes. Research clearly indicates that social support is vital to relieve stress associated with caregiving for a child with ASD and that a positive parent–professional relationship is helpful in alleviating family stress.

If you suspect your child has or is at higher risk for ASD and you are looking for a “diagnostic navigator” for your child, consider an evaluation with NESCA.  While early diagnosis of ASD can make a positive impact on a child’s trajectory, obtaining the accurate diagnosis and recommendations for interventions at any age is critical.



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Dawson G, Jones EJ, Merkle K, Venema K, Lowy R, Faja S, Kamara D, Murias M, Greenson J, Winter J, Smith M, Rogers SJ, Webb SJ. Early behavioral intervention is associated with normalized brain activity in young children with autism. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012 Nov;51(11):1150-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2012.08.018. PMID: 23101741; PMCID: PMC3607427.

Jokiranta-Olkoniemi E, Cheslack-Postava K, Sucksdorff D, Suominen A, Gyllenberg D, Chudal R, Leivonen S, Gissler M, Brown AS, Sourander A. Risk of Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Among Siblings of Probands With Autism Spectrum Disorders. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016 Jun 1;73(6):622-9. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.0495. PMID: 27145529.

Kasari C, Siller M, Huynh LN, Shih W, Swanson M, Hellemann GS, Sugar CA. Randomized controlled trial of parental responsiveness intervention for toddlers at high risk for autism. Infant Behav Dev. 2014 Nov;37(4):711-21. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2014.08.007. Epub 2014 Sep 26. PMID: 25260191; PMCID: PMC4355997.

Mayo, J., Chlebowski, C., Fein, D.A. et al. Age of First Words Predicts Cognitive Ability and Adaptive Skills in Children with ASD. J Autism Dev Disord 43, 253–264 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-012-1558-0.

Siller, M., Swanson, M., Gerber, A., Hutman, T., & Sigman, M. (2014). A parent-mediated intervention that targets responsive parental behaviors increases attachment behaviors in children with ASD: results from a randomized clinical trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(7), 1720-1732.

Xie S, Karlsson H, Dalman C, Widman L, Rai D, Gardner RM, Magnusson C, Schendel DE, Newschaffer CJ, Lee BK. Family History of Mental and Neurological Disorders and Risk of Autism. JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Mar 1;2(3):e190154. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.0154. PMID: 30821823; PMCID: PMC6484646.


About the Author:

Dr. Renée Marchant provides neuropsychological and psychological (projective) assessments for youth who present with a variety of complex, inter-related needs, with a particular emphasis on identifying co-occurring neurodevelopmental and psychiatric challenges. She specializes in the evaluation of developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorder and social-emotional difficulties stemming from mood, anxiety, attachment and trauma-related diagnoses. She often assesses children who have “unique learning styles” that can underlie deficits in problem-solving, emotion regulation, social skills and self-esteem.

Dr. Marchant’s assessments prioritize the “whole picture,” particularly how systemic factors, such as culture, family life, school climate and broader systems impact diagnoses and treatment needs. She frequently observes children at school and participates in IEP meetings.

Dr. Marchant brings a wealth of clinical experience to her evaluations. In addition to her expertise in assessment, she has extensive experience providing evidence-based therapy to children in individual (TF-CBT, insight-oriented), group (DBT) and family (solution-focused, structural) modalities. Her school, home and treatment recommendations integrate practice-informed interventions that are tailored to the child’s unique needs.

Dr. Marchant received her B.A. from Boston College with a major in Clinical Psychology and her Psy.D. from William James College in Massachusetts. She completed her internship at the University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute and her postdoctoral fellowship at Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, where she deepened her expertise in providing therapy and conducting assessments for children with neurodevelopmental disorders as well as youth who present with high-risk behaviors (e.g. psychosis, self-injury, aggression, suicidal ideation).

Dr. Marchant provides workshops and consultations to parents, school personnel and treatment professionals on ways to cultivate resilience and self-efficacy in the face of adversity, trauma, interpersonal violence and bullying. She is an expert on the interpretation of the Rorschach Inkblot Test and provides teaching and supervision on the usefulness of projective/performance-based measures in assessment. Dr. Marchant is also a member of the American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) and continues to conduct research on the effectiveness of family therapy for high-risk, hospitalized patients.


To book an evaluation with Dr. Marchant or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form.


Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.