children are not just picky eaters.
Sensory Solutions is extremely concerned about the increased amount of children with feeding issues, that is why the Sensory Solutions Food School was created! Led by Occupational Therapists, Speech Pathologists and Dieticians, clients begin with gross motor warm up exercises, followed by breathing exercises and progressing to oral motor skills, chewing and eventually eating. Eating is the most complex physical task that human beings engage in. It is the ONLY human task which requires every organ systems, and requires that all of those systems work correctly. One swallow, for example, takes 26 muscles and 6 cranial nerves to coordinate. Plus, eating is the ONLY task a child does which require simultaneous coordination of all 8 of our sensory systems. Learning, Development, Nutrition and the Environment also have to be integrated in order for a child to eat correctly.
Goals of the Food School include decreasing anxiety towards new foods, increasing socialization and peer interactions, increasing jaw and oral motor strength and adding new foods to a child’s restricted diet. It has been found that children with feeding problems progress quicker if paired with other children with similar problems rather than a therapist or parent without feeding difficulties.
More and more children are being referred to therapy
for feeding concerns. This can begin as early as a few
weeks old to teen age years. The earlier the feeding
concerns are treated, the sooner the child will go on
to live a typical life and eat in a typical manner.
Not only will this improve the child’s life, but family
live is improved. A child with a delay in feeding can
impact family life, as it was once known.
Many children are referred during the first year of
life when they are not able to tolerate textures and/or
move on to table foods. They often refuse to eat, gag,
vomit, will not transition from a bottle, eat only certain
colors of food, pocket foods or over-stuff their mouths,
limit themselves to less than 10 consistent foods, refusal
to self-feed and feeding becomes a negative event in
both the child and family’s life.
At the outpatient clinic, many of the children have
a diagnosis of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD),
which often leads to feeding issues in infants and children.
Poor weight gain may be an early sign of feeding difficulty.
There may be resistance to eating including arching,
refusal to sit in a high chair, batting at utensil as
it approaches the child’s mouth or gagging. Feeding
is difficult for everyone involved and mealtimes are
often a source of great stress for the family.
Your child may have sensitivities to temperature and
textures that are not just related to food issues. Our
Occupational and Speech Therapists are trained in the
Oral Sensory or "SOS" approach to feeding.
Determining “why” a child is not eating
is critical to a treatment program. The problems can
be medical, neurological, behavioral, psychological
or sensory based. Medical problems need to first be
ruled out (i.e. Reflux, aspiration)
If in fact the child is having a difficult time processing
sensory information a thorough sensory evaluation is
completed. Based on results a treatment program is established.
Progress with feeding may be minimal until the underlying
delays in sensory processing are corrected. The therapists
at Sensory Solutions, LLC are trained to perform evaluations
and establish a treatment plan that will improve functional
skills including feeding. Once the sensory system is
organized an intense feeding program will begin.
Once the sensory issues subside, it is common to have
oral motor weakness due to lack of chewing and “mouthing”.
Occupational Therapist and Speech Therapists work as
a team to overcome the sensory and oral motor components.
A strong focus is placed on family education using a
behavioral and neuromuscular model. If not treated,
the problems typically worsen with age. The younger
the child can begin treatment, the better.