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What is a feeding disorder?

What is a feeding disorder?

It seems so obvious-  if a child is hungry he will eat.  For some children with a history of prematurutiy, medical complications, autism spectrum disorders or other development disorders, eating is a skill that does not develop as expected.

For some families the simple act of eating is a huge challenge for their children, thus a huge challenge for the entire family. 

For example, some children reflux early on can contribute to feeding issues.  Some babies with reflux resist bottle or breast feeding because eating becomes associated with the uncomfortable reflux feelings.  For some parents the day to day routine revolves around trying to get their child to eat.

Suggestions from well-meaning family and friends can be frustrating when a parent is struggling with a child who has a feeding disorder.  A child who cannot eat typically won’t “grow out of it” and isn’t failing to eat because she or he is being “naughty”. 

With professional help feeding disorders can be treated.  Often this involves an occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, psychologist, medical provider and nutrition specialist. 

Many factors can contribute to a child’s inability to consume enough food to meet nutritional needs and grow normally.  Treating a feeding disorder requires dealing with many medical and behavioral issues at the same time.  It is critical that families are involved in feeding disorder intervention. 

Behavioral modification is used to change feeding behaviors.  Positive reinforcement is used to encourage changes in feeding behavior. 

Therapists working with children use creative strategies such as rewarding new behaviors with singing, toys or watching a bit of a favorite show. 

As children are working on their feeding skills every day, multiples times a day at home therapist help kids work on skills needed for eating and drinking.  As a child gains more skills their team increases the amount of food, the type of food and adds more food textures to the child’s diet. 


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