Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

March 2, 2017

Picky Eaters or Problem Feeders? Answers from occupational and speech therapists

Image result for picky eaters

Many moms and dads report that their child is a picky eater. It can be difficult to recognize if this is simply individual preference or an indication of a more significant concern.

Do you know a child described in this way?

  • She will only eat this one thing. (e.g. chicken nuggets, goldfish crackers)
  • My son gets upset at mealtime.
  • Dinner lasts for more than an hour.
  • He gags with any new foods.
  • My toddler stills eats baby food. 

Do you notice these symptoms?

  • Limited weight gain or growth
  • Dehydration and Failure to Thrive
  • Repeated respiratory infections or pneumonia
  • Nutrition concerns

Of course, adequate intake is an important component to health. Difficulties can create not only dietary problems, but also impact family dynamics and routines, social opportunities and wellness. When a medical diagnosis does not account for the difficulties, it may be a feeding or swallowing problem.

  • A feeding disorder includes problems with accepting and eating a healthy variety of foods.
  • A swallowing disorder includes problems with safely sucking, chewing and swallowing.

Feeding problems are characterized by:

  • A restricted range or variety of foods, usually less than 20 items
  • Resistance to adding new foods
  • Refusal of entire categories of food textures, temperatures or appearance
  • Crying when presented with new foods
  • Long feeding/ meal times (more than 30 minutes)
  • Frequent gagging or vomiting
  • Taking a few bites and then refusing more food

Swallowing problems are characterized by:

  • Difficulty breast feeding, drinking or chewing
  • Coughing or gagging during meals
  • Excessive drooling
  • Loss of food/liquid out of the mouth or nose
  • Difficulty chewing food before swallowing
  • Residual food in mouth after swallowing
  • Noisy breathing after swallowing 

Who can help?

Many of the speech therapists and occupational therapists at Child and Family Development have specialty training in both the sensory and motor aspects of a feeding or swallowing problem. We offer comprehensive evaluations and treatment.  Specialty services include:

  • Mealtime trials, one-on-one and groups
  • NeuroDevelopmental Treatment (NDT)‚Ñ¢
  • Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) Approach
  • Vital Stim‚Ñ¢

Read more about speech therapy and occupational therapy services at Child and Family Development. 

Click here for a printable page about picky eating and problem feeding. 



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