November 11, 2014

Our Journey with Feeding Therapy

My son has trouble with foods.  Since he was an infant, eating has been hard for him.  He nursed, but not really well.  He ate baby foods, but not a wide variety of them.  By the time he was eating table foods, it was a 'typical' toddler diet of chicken nuggets and some fries if we went out.  I was told it was a phase, and would get better.  I kept offering him other foods, and went through phases of 'making' him know, where you say eat one bite of each thing before you leave the table.  This does NOT work if they have sensory issues!  He would cry and carry one for an hour sometimes, and usually went to bed hungry.  If he did try the foods, he often gagged.  It didn't take long for me to realize that something wasn't right.

Of course, I blamed my parenting skills first.  I should have 'made' him eat more variety when he was smaller.  I should have...what??  Pried his mouth open and shoved it in?  Started the power struggle over food at breakfast instead of letting him have pop-tarts or cereal?  No.  Making him anxious first thing in the morning or right before bed was not and is not the answer.  Yes, people probably do blame me for his eating habits, and think a good spanking will cure him.  It won't.
Yogurt has always been a winner
I heard about sensory processing disorder (SPD)  about 3 years ago now, not long after we started homeschooling.  It explained his sensitivity to noises, lights, foods and textures!  I was confident that if I learned enough about it, I could 'fix' him.  Well... I can't, but I am still learning and have found that outside help is needed.  He will simply try things for others that he won't at home.  Sigh.

What he eats at gatherings - nothing...or bread
In my previous post, I mentioned his start in therapy, where he attended Minds in Motion.  This had an academic focus - rewire their brains and they can learn more and focus better.  Its a good plan, but not quite enough.  The year following, in 2013, he had 20 visits with a pediatric
OT locally.  She introduced feeding therapy to us, but it wasn't a big focus.  I think 3 sessions included food - once with a smoothie, and twice with trying a variety of foods in little dixie cups.  We learned the steps to learning to like a new food.  With some foods, he can skip to the final step, but others require a combination of the other steps on various days.

1.  Smell it and look at it.
2.  Sniff and lick.
3.  Bite and spit it out.
4.  Bite, chew and spit it out.
5.  Chew and swallow.
6.  Repeat up to 7/15/20 times (depending on your OT/ nobody knows, really) and then
7.  He will like the food!  (maybe)

He knows the steps, and will sometimes try something now without me asking.  That's actually been the best strategy - never offer him anything new.  If he is interested, he will ask.   This eliminates anxiety for both of us.

Drinking: still his favorite restaurant activity
Now, how is the current feeding program working?  Much the same as with the previous OT, although Esther is consistent about doing the therapy each Thursday.  Instead of little cups, she prepares a paper plate with a variety of foods to try for him, and one for herself.  She lets him take the lead, choosing which food to try first.  He first tries to describe the food - crunchy, salty, etc. - then he can choose another.  After he has tried everything once, he goes back around again and finishes them up.  Even if he doesn't want to chew and swallow a particular food, he has to touch it and put it in his mouth, then spit it into the trash.  So far, he has tried everything, even though much of it does go in the trash.  So far, no current new favorite foods have surfaced, but no fits either.  I think when his 20 visits are over (per insurance rules), I should be able to recreate this process at home.  Once a week seems doable!


  1. I feel for you, my six year old diagnosed with ASD when he was 2.5 years old was a yogurt eater and smoothie drinker too. We did both OT feeding programs and ABA based feeding programs for a couple of years, etc. and at least he will eat mac and cheese, PB&J, and chicken nuggets (most of the time). I have accepted the fact that he won't eat any food I actually cook and that's just fine.

    It's hard thinking it's one of your basic functions as a mom to feed your child and yet your child won't allow you to do that. I wish you luck in your journey.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement and understanding. Mine will do peanut butter straight or on the right bread, but jelly is a goal with therapy. No Mac and cheese either, but he will do plain spaghetti noodles (no sauce!) good luck with your child!

  2. The whole food thing is so hard, and with food allergies thrown in, it complicates it exponentially! My son eats 3-5 foods, and that's it. One is required--Oatmeal with flax and probiotic powder to get his sole source of omega 3's, calcium and probiotics. It was hard, hard work to get him to eat that but once it because his routine, there hasn't been struggle and his behavior is 99% better!

    1. Amen to that. He isn't diagnosed with allergies but I have suspicions about wheat and dairy, as he has stomach aches fairly often. That oatmeal sounds awesome! I like mine with chia seeds and cinnamon :)

    2. I would like chia more than flax... I have to make it all look like "one" to him, since he typical doesn't like add-ins. I do want to try the chia option for my other kids though--great idea! We often use chia seeds as an egg replacer.


I love to hear from you! Feel free to link to your own blog or Pinterest page- I'll check it out!