Feeding Therapy for Problem & Picky Eaters

Speech-Language Pathologists can support children who are having difficulties starting solids, children who eat a limited number of foods or those who avoid certain food groups. 

Is your child a picky eater?

 

Sometimes children who are picky with their foods are not just being difficult or behaving "poorly". These children can sometimes have underlying challenges with their oral motor skills (mouth muscle movements) and sensory systems that leads to them refusing to eat certain foods. 

 

Children can learn to say "no" to challenging foods that their mouth muscles movements (oral motor skills) cannot manage to chew or swallow. Often we find children avoiding foods like hard vegetables and home-cooked meats because these foods are more challenging to chew compared to soft starches like breads and pastas or processed meats like chicken nuggets. As well, sometimes children will refuse to eat when they are overwhelmed and stressed. In these situations, we can modify the environment and gradually increase their comfort level. 

What do we work on?

Oral Motor Skills

mouth muscle movement

  • Tongue movement

  • Lip movement

  • Jaw movement

  • Drinking

  • Swallowing

  • Ability to manage texture

Environment

making eating fun + safe

  • How to set up meal times so that eating is the least stressful it can be

  • How to increase your child's willingness to try new foods

  • Supporting your child's posture and positioning while they eat 

  • How to interact with food instead of constantly "nagging" your child to eat

Referrals

to other professionals

  • Occupational therapists - posture support, sensory profiles

  • Registered Dieticians - nutritional needs

  • Mental Health - trauma-related feeding experiences (choking)

What does therapy look like? 

We will work with you to find a format fits your child's and your family's needs the best. Feeding therapy is most effective in-person, so that we can support your family meals as well as eat together for feeding therapy. However, teletherapy sessions are available if virtual options are preferred in the meantime.  

Play-Based Sessions

Our sessions are play-based (even in feeding therapy!). Eating new foods involves lots of learning. Children have to learn about the new sensory properties of their food (e.g., taste, texture in their mouth, smell, visual appearance) and they have to learn how to manage the food in their mouth. Eating new things is hard! We encourage playing with food because young children learn best in play. 

 

We are experts in following your child's lead in play, but targeting their oral motor skills and increasing their comfort and acceptance of new and less-preferred foods and textures at the same time.  

Parent-Coaching

Sessions will include teaching and showing parents how to modify their family mealtime environment and set up a consistent routine. Often our environments and routines can have influence on how we feel, which in turn can affect our appetite! Also, eating and mealtimes should be an enjoyable experience for everyone! 

 

We will also show you how to practice interacting with new foods with your child and how to react when they say "yuck, ew, gross!". You will learn how to do the same strategies and activities to support your child's ability to manage new and challenging textures and foods. 

We are passionate about parent education and empowerment because parent involvement leads to the greatest improvements. We also want to show you all the great things you are already doing, so that you can be confident in building upon your existing skills! 

Multi-Disciplinary Referrals

Eating requires an integration of different skills and abilities. When children have difficulties eating, it can be a result of challenges in more than one area. As well, children who do not eat an appropriate variety of foods may not be meeting their nutritional requirements to grow and learn. Sometimes feeding difficulties can be the first indicator that a child may need more support in other areas. 

 

Some areas of challenge include:

- Difficulties managing all the different sensory input that comes at mealtimes (e.g., the feeling of the food on their hands, face or mouth, or the smell of the food)

- Difficulties maintaining postural and core support (e.g., if their mental resources are focused on keeping themselves upright, they may not have the ability to focus on eating) 

- Difficulties using their mouth, jaw, tongue to chew or manage solids (e.g., if they have difficulties using their tongue, they may have difficulties moving the food around in their mouth to chew and swallow) 

We will help families navigate the healthcare system to access supports from other professionals if there are other areas significantly contributing to the child's feeding challenges.

Start now! 

SOS Approach to Feeding Therapy

We provide treatment based on the SOS (Sequential-Oral-Sensory) feeding approach. This is a research-based approach that supports children who are problem or picky eaters, children who have difficulty transitioning to solids, eating a variety of foods, or who eat limited volumes by mouth (e.g., children transitioning from tube feeds to oral feeds, children with limited weight gain). 

The SOS approach supports the child's ability to progress in the skills and stages of feeding observed in typically developing children. This is a play-based and evidence-based approach that encourages children to interact with food, learn about food, and eventually try foods in a non-stressful manner that promotes a healthy relationship with eating. 

For more information please visit sosapproachtofeeding.com

Man Carrying Child in Arms
1. Book your free consultation

Come chat with us! Ask your questions and share your concerns. We'll also let you know if you and your child may benefit from more SLP support or if everything is looking good!

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2. Learn & Try some strategies

We have great resources for parent tips and tricks, and also information on speech and language development.