Feeding Therapy

Did you know that there are many steps involved in eating? The mealtime experience is dynamic and complex and involves many skills including self-regulation. 

Sensory integration is a concept that describes the process of receiving and organizing sensory information from our bodies and the environment.  Difficulties related to how a child processes sensory input (smell, taste, temperature, texture, and appearance) can have a serious impact on eating patterns and behaviors.

Our feeding therapists will evaluate how your child chews and swallows food to maintain a healthy, age-appropriate diet, distinguishing between picky eating and more serious disruptions to a child’s feeding patterns that can impede their growth and development. A feeding evaluation will examine your child’s history and present status to determine the best course of treatment based on their physical and behavioral needs.

Is your child a picky eater? Does your child avoid certain foods?

Picky eating is a typical problem among children, and it may be frustrating for parents who want to ensure their child is getting the appropriate nutrients. 

Feeding therapy can be helpful for children with picky eating habits or feeding disorders. Feeding therapy is a type of occupational therapy that is specifically designed to help children learn how to eat and drink independently. It is typically provided by a trained occupational therapist, and it may involve a combination of one-on-one therapy sessions and at-home practice.

Our Feeding Therapy program serves children who display any of the following sensory-based behaviors:

  • Avoids certain foods based on textures or colors
  • Eats less than 15 foods
  • Refuses entire food groups
  • Has behavioral challenges or meltdowns at meals

Our facility is equipped with a kitchen and dining area dedicated to feeding therapy. We also offer parents support for mealtime routines at home to encourage a positive experience with food. 

How do I know if my child needs feeding therapy?

Little to no (or inconsistent) weight gain
Consistent gagging, choking, coughing, or gurgling when/after eating
Excessive emesis (vomiting)
Breast or bottle feeding concerns that have been unable to be solved by a lactation consultant
Inability to tolerate new foods, textures, brands, or a progression of solids
Extreme pickiness
Mealtime battles
G-tube or NG-tube dependence
Overreliance on “baby or toddler foods” (soft meltables, purees, bottles)
Tethered oral tissue concerns such as tongue ties, lip ties, cheek ties

Why could a child have feeding difficulties?

Feeding difficulties can be related to a number of factors, including but not limited to decreased sensory processing skills, decreased oral motor skills, a variety of medical conditions, or a combination.

How does feeding relate to sensory processing?

There are 8 sensory systems that our bodies use in order to process the world around us. 

Feeding and mealtimes require regulation of all 8 systems simultaneously. When 1 or more systems are not regulated, mealtime and feeding difficulties can occur.

What to expect during a mealtime treatment session?

During a mealtime treatment session, the use of sensory-rich activities prior to and during eating will be incorporated to promote mealtime success.  Your child will be encouraged to smell, touch, and play with foods in efforts to develop a readiness to tolerate different types of foods.  Any contact with food is a step in the right direction!  Eating is aimed to be a pleasurable and fun experience, as foods will be progressively introduced into your child’s diet.  Developing new eating skills is a process that will take time and practice in therapy and at home.

Treatment is typically provided on a weekly basis (1-2x/week) based on severity of feeding difficulties. 

Our therapists mainly utilize a play based approach to therapy, often based on the SOS (sequential-oral-sensory) protocol created by Dr. Kay Toomey.

Sessions are focused on positive engagement with foods rather than direct eating. This includes working up through the SOS protocol steps (tolerates, interacts with, smells, touches, tastes, eating).

Sessions often include a sensory motor warm up, messy/non-food play, food play, and non-preferred food exposures. Your therapist will focus on positive engagement and building a trusting relationship with your child throughout the session and provide home program activities for families to work on at home.

If your child is an extremely picky eater or a problem feeder, we can help.

Schedule a free consult call with a feeding therapist or Contact us for more information.