pediatric feeding therapy

Feeding and Swallowing Program

Did you know that eating is one of the most difficult tasks to complete? Even more difficult than walking or talking. It is a vital function for survival and development, but it does not always come naturally to everyone. At The Boston Ability Center, we work with infants, toddlers, school-aged children, and young adults at their pace and comfort level. We create an individualized plan for you and your child and guide our feeding therapy sessions with an interactive and play-based approach.
pediatric feeding therapy group
pediatric feeding therapy, food play

Feeding therapy services at the Boston Ability Center are led by both speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists who combine evidence-based practice and creativity to help children reach functional goals related to:

  • Increasing accepted foods and expanding diets

  • Improving oral motor skills, such as biting, chewing and swallowing

  • Weaning from tube feedings/non-oral feeds

  • Transitioning from breastmilk/formula to foods

  • Transitioning from purees to solid foods

  • Successful participation in family meals and meals outside of the home (i.e. at school, restaurants, etc)

Who might benefit from feeding therapy at Boston Ability Center? Children teens who experience…

  • Picky eating

  • Mealtime avoidance and/or tantrums

  • Feeding difficulties

  • Pocketing food or overstuffing mouth 

  • Food selectivity (i.e  eating only certain brands, avoidance of foods in a specific nutrition group, etc.)

  • Sensory sensitivities (i.e related to food textures, smells, temperatures, tastes, etc.)

  • Food aversions

  • Oral hypersensitivity 

  • Tube feeding, non-oral feeding

  • Oral motor weakness

  • Delays in oral motor skill development

  • Dysphagia

  • Failure to thrive

  • ARFID

  • GERD

  • Aspiration 

  • Tongue thrust

  • Excessive drooling

  • Gagging or vomiting while eating or near food items 

pediatric feeding therapy food play mat man

The occupational therapists and speech therapists on our feeding therapy team have expertise and training in:

  • SOS Approach to Feeding

  • Beckman Oral Motor

  • ARFID: The Anxious Eater - Masterclass with Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP

Inability to consume food properly is a serious issue that millions of children and their parents have to battle daily. In the United States, one in 37 children aged five and younger suffer from a pediatric feeding disorder.

Up to 45% of normally developing children can struggle with feeding and swallowing problems. Kids with medical and behavioral disorders encounter them much more often. By identifying the problem early and implementing pediatric feeding therapy, it's possible to help these children lead everyday lives.

What is Pediatric Feeding Therapy?

In simple terms, pediatric feeding therapy helps children learn or re-learn how to eat properly. Occupational therapists or speech-language pathologists provide this therapy.

During the therapy session, the feeding therapist considers your child's needs and limitations and teaches them how to consume foods and beverages properly.

While helping your child acquire strong eating skills, the feeding specialist will focus on:

  • Developing oral motor skills for drinking from a cup (or bottle) and eating food off a spoon.

  • Working on the swallowing processing to eliminate gagging.

  • Improving the efficiency of eating.

  • Developing a proper position for eating and feeding.

  • Strengthening oral muscles.

 

Pediatric feeding therapy is a comprehensive approach to improving a child's eating skills and behavior. Specialists that are involved in the pediatric feeding program are:

  • Speech-Language Pathologist — evaluates and improves the child's ability to consume foods and beverages.

  • Occupational therapist — evaluates the child's physical condition, including breathing and sensory processing, and teaches them to consume food according to their abilities.

 

Additionally, you may need to work with a nutritionist who assists with meeting your child's nutritional needs. You could also consult a psychologist to run a behavior analysis and check which problems could be interfering with the feeding process.

After each session, therapists give recommendations about feeding plans and techniques that can be practiced with children at home.

Who Benefits from Pediatric Feeding Therapy

Children who have difficulties eating can benefit from pediatric feeding therapy. Below are a few reasons why your child may need professional assistance.

Your Child Lacks Necessary Feeding Skills

Some kids may lack the skills they need to consume food and beverages due to illness, allergies, physical limitations, and many other factors.

Feeding therapists help these kids control chewing, sucking, swallowing, and other actions needed for proper eating. They also work on improving oral muscles and range of motion.

Your Child is on a Limited Diet

Some children with certain illnesses, food allergies, sensory issues, or developmental delays may only eat a limited amount or variety of foods. Feeding therapists can help broaden a child's diet and help them enjoy each meal. This approach allows children to get proper nutrition and improves their quality of life.

Your Child Has Negative Feelings toward Food

Illnesses and food allergies often cause children to start experiencing negative emotions before eating. This can keep them from getting sufficient nutrition or enjoying their meals.

During pediatric feeding therapy sessions, therapists help children regain a positive approach to eating and drinking. They also work with parents to design a specific meal routine (e.g., set up a special table for meals) to create positive associations with the food consumption process.

You are Worried About Your Child's Feeding

If you are worried about how your child is consuming food, you can benefit from pediatric feeding therapy sessions. Both occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists work with parents to help them improve their children's eating experience.

Pediatric Feeding Therapy: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How often does my child need pediatric feeding therapy?

A: Usually, pediatric feeding therapy happens once a week. However, the frequency of therapy sessions depends on the patient. Some children may need it twice a week while others could come every other week or once a month.

Q: How long is an average pediatric therapy session?

A: The average clinic visit lasts between 30 minutes and an hour. The majority of this time is dedicated to teaching children how to eat (if they have problems managing food in their mouths) or how to eat new foods (if their variety of foods is limited).

Q: Does my child need pediatric feeding therapy?

A: If you have feeding concerns, your child may need feeding therapy. The common signs of feeding difficulties include:

  • Gagging on certain food textures

  • Food refusal

  • Food selectivity

  • Difficulty swallowing solid foods

  • Difficulty chewing

  • Irritable while breastfeeding

  • Problems with trying new foods

  • Poor mealtime behavior

  • Long feeding time (over 30 – 40 minutes)

  • Problems with the transition from feeding tubes to oral feeding

 

To check if pediatric feeding therapy can help your child, contact your pediatrician or set up a feeding evaluation with a feeding or speech therapist.

 

Q: What is a pediatric feeding program?

A: A pediatric feeding program at Boston Ability Center is designed to help children with feeding issues lead normal lives. After evaluating children, our therapists can set up an appropriate treatment plan and implement it at a comfortable pace for patients and their parents.

Q: What is intensive feeding therapy?

A: An intensive feeding program is designed for children with moderate-severe or severe feeding disorders who don't respond to traditional treatment methods. The program involves providing therapy five days a week on an outpatient basis. The duration of the program depends on your child's medical assessment and the pediatric feeding clinic you work with.

Q: What are the benefits of a pediatric feeding program?

A: Besides giving your child the necessary skills to consume and enjoy food, the program can help parents get involved with their child's eating process, make the necessary emotional connection, reduce anxiety, and ensure a happy and healthy lifestyle.

Immersive Pediatric Feeding Therapy in Boston, MA

If your child suffers from a pediatric eating disorder or has difficulty consuming food, you may need pediatric feeding therapy. This therapy doesn't just help children learn how to eat and get proper nutrition. It's designed to improve their quality of life.

Would you like to learn more about the leading pediatric feeding program in Boston? Contact us at any convenient time.

COULD MY CHILD BENEFIT FROM

FEEDING THERAPY SERVICES?

Check out the guide below to better understand your child's development and when to seek support!