Feeding is a big part of everyone’s lives because we all have to eat to live. Mealtime can be a positive experience and gives a child a chance to spend time together with family and friends. When a child is not eating well, it can cause anxiety for many parents as well as the child. Luckily, occupational therapy can help decrease these problems.
Feeding is made up of both motor and sensory components. A child has to have the oral motor skills to chew their food, move it around in their mouth to swallow it and be able to grasp utensils to take appropriate-sized bites. Feeding is also a very sensory experience. Foods are full of color, texture, taste and smell. If a texture or smell causes an adverse reaction, this can often turn children off to certain foods. Children may present as a picky eaters, which can be typical within the first few years of life. However, if this is not resolved or gets worse, there is usually an underlying issue. As a rule of thumb: “If it doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t”.
Pediatric occupational therapists that are trained in treating feeding disorders, will perform a comprehensive evaluation to find the underlying cause of feeding aversion and establish a unique treatment plan that fits both the child and the family. If you feel your child is picky or has feeding difficulties, you should seek out an evaluation. After performing an evaluation, treatment may consist of oral motor activities that incorporate food and play, trying new foods and much more. Feeding therapy is not a “one size fits all” treatment and often has to be adapted with each child. In the end, most children want to be successful and given the right tools and time, they are able to overcome motor and sensory challenges associated with eating. This will create a more healthy and pleasant mealtime experience.