Reviewed & Edited by: Becky DiLettuso, MSW, Executive Director
Addressing Feeding Problems in Toddlers through Early Intervention Therapy
Early Intervention Therapy can be very helpful for children with feeding issues. teli’s Occupational Therapists provide some insights for toddlers.
How can I encourage my toddler to accept more solid foods?
Children have comfort foods, just like adults. Has your child been not feeling well and soft applesauce or even just liquids are all they will take? While we understand picky eating, extremely limited diets might need some intervention. New food textures may be difficult for some children to manipulate in their mouths. It can be scary and often overwhelming to a child and result in a natural gag.
Through Early Intervention Occupational Therapy, the children learn how to move their mouth, tongue, lips, and jaw to chew safely. While some gag reactions may be expected, it’s important to identify if there is more going on such as extended coughing, sputtering and frequent respiratory infections. teli therapists can help to identify when a pediatrician may need to prescribe a swallow study to investigate the issue.
Oral facial massage in conjunction with a gradual exploration of food textures outside of the mouth with smelling and touching the foods before introduction can help to improve acceptance. We understand that this process can be a very stressful one for both the parents and the child.
Our Occupational Therapists works to build trust and a connection with each family. This is an important complement to the Early Intervention process and an essential part of decreasing some of the tension.
Occupational therapists can additionally help with selecting the proper high chair or booster seat to support a child while feeding, as well as specific adaptive equipment such as sippy cups, plates and bent utensils to make it easier for the child to learn and accept new solid foods.
Could my child’s feeding problems be something other than mechanical or physical issues?
Another very common feeding issue is a child’s behavior. These challenges may or may not accompany the physical issues. A child may refuse to eat, refuse new foods, resulting in them covering the floor and themselves with the food! Part of a child’s expression of independence may be their control over what they eat. The key is to insure that mealtime does not become a battleground. Specific strategies to address behavioral feeding issues may also affect behavioral issues outside of mealtime.
What resources are available at teli to help my child?
At teli we have a team approach to work with the family and the child to transition your little one into new territory.” The team at teli includes Developmental Specialists, Physical Therapists, Nutritionists and Speech Therapists who work in conjunction with the Occupational Therapists to address specific issues you child may encounter. We have a breadth of experience with feeding issues at teli. Our approach is to give parents the strategies and tools specific to their child’s needs and provide a resource to give them peace of mind.
Some basic feeding strategies to consider:
- Keep meal time to a reasonable time no longer than 20 to 30 minutes.
- Keep meal routines regular including the setting and the time.
- Don’t force feed your child. You will both begin to associate meal time with tension and stress
- Minimize distractions while eating. Turn off the television and make it a time for the family
- Reduce empty calorie consumption. Juices may fill them up to the point they aren’t hungry at meal time