Since pediatric feeding issues can be complex, parents who have a child experiencing difficulty in this area should seek assistance from an experienced pediatric feeding therapist right away.
Pediatric Feeding Therapists Treat Children With Eating Disturbances
A feeding therapist is essentially an investigator looking to get to the root of a child’s eating problem.
The first thing the therapist looks for is an underlying medical or dental issue. To determine if one of these issues is causing the child’s limited diet, the therapist works hand-in-hand with the child’s pediatrician. If warranted, the feeding therapist refers out for tests and evaluations. When medical or dental issues are present, these issues are addressed before the therapist’s investigation continues.
Understanding Avoidant/restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
Bulimia and anorexia are eating disorders that occur more frequently within the female population, but ARFID is more prevalent within the male population and has an earlier onset.
Recognizing the Signs of ARFID
Children with ARFID may:
- Neglect to consume an adequate amount of food to supply their body with the protein, vitamins and minerals it needs to thrive.
- Be selective, so they have a very limited diet.
- Need to be fed through a tube.
- Require nutrition supplements.
- Experience a delay in sexual maturity.
- Neglect to meet average growth expectations.
- Gain excess weight, due to the frequent consumption of foods that are not considered healthy. This can lead to obesity.
Potential reasons for an eating disturbance include:
- GERD (aka acid reflux).
- A gastrointestinal problem.
- An oral motor issue.
- A sensory problem.
- An aversion to certain textures, colors or odors.
What To Expect During Your Child’s First Appointment With Our Pediatric Feeding Therapist
During the first appointment, the therapist will ask the parent or guardian about the child’s eating habits. The information the feeding therapist gathers from parents and guardians helps determine if the child has an aversion to specific foods or is experiencing a physical issue while eating and drinking. Once our feeding therapist has the answers to these questions, he or she can create the child an effective, custom-designed ARFID treatment plan.
It is important for the child to know that he or she can trust the therapist. Which is why, for the most part, this initial appointment focuses on the child and the feeding therapist becoming acquainted.
3 Ways Parents Can Help Expand Their Child’s Diet
Allow Their Child To Fully Explore His or Her Food
When a child has an aversion to food, he or she needs to become comfortable with it. Nonetheless, this is a gradual process.
Introducing food through play is a great tactic. Parents can place food (cool, not hot) in front of their child so he or she can smash it, swirl it and squeeze it. This exposure allows the child to become more comfortable and feel safer around these foods.
Offer an Exit Strategy
Teaching the child how to quickly remove food from his or her mouth can help the child feel more comfortable when trying new foods. This exit strategy may include a tongue sweep or just using a finger to remove the food.
Paint With Food
Parents can help their child create a beautiful landscape using smashed peas and mashed potatoes. Of course, any food being used as paint must be cool to the touch. This painting activity is another way to help a child feel safe around food.
If you reside in or near Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota or Bradenton, Florida, and your child is experiencing an eating disturbance, make an appointment with an experienced pediatric feeding therapist at Therapeutic Potentials, Inc. To schedule your child’s appointment, please call 941-758-3140 or complete our online contact form.