As a parent, you want only the best for your child. If your child needs feeding therapy, it’s important to understand the ideas behind it. Feeding therapy seems simple as a concept, but it can also be quite complex, particularly in situations where a child’s feeding problems are quite severe.
If you’re searching for feeding therapy in Los Angeles or any other place, ask your child’s pediatrician or search the internet for local speech-language pathologists (SLPs).
The goal of feeding therapy is to help children develop healthy eating habits and help parents learn how to feed their children on their own. The therapist will offer insights on how to feed children in different settings and situations, as well as other treatments designed to help both the parents and their children. Before you commit your child to a feeding therapy program, here are a few things that you should be aware of.
What is Feeding Therapy?
During a feeding therapy session, the therapist will feed your child throughout the session. The idea sounds simple, but it’s a bit more complex than it seems. It’s up to you as a parent to choose the types of food that they want their child to eat, so it’s important to plan beforehand. Luckily, most feeding therapists are also in touch with nutritionists who can help you select healthy foods for your child to eat.
Feeding therapy focuses on both the child and their parent(s). In each session, the child practices how to eat, while the parent practices feeding them. These sessions are conducted in a way to build trust between parents and children, and at the same time, eliminate possible sources of conflict.
Feeding therapy sessions teach certain relevant skills, such as:
- Oral motor skills for drinking from a bottle drinking from a cup, eating off of a spoon and chewing
- Swallowing strategies that reduce and prevent choking
- Feeding techniques that improve mealtime behavior and eating efficiency
- Selecting the right type of utensils and cups
- Improving each child’s tolerance for textures
- Oral motor stretching for children with weak mouth muscles.
By teaching these skills to parents and children, feeding therapists are able to address a wide variety of feeding issues, including physical ones.
Therapy Plans are Customized for Each Child
The best feeding therapy offers more than just standardized sessions. Effective feeding therapy is customized according to the needs of each individual child; as a result, no two courses of treatment are alike.
For example, if your child’s therapist believes that they need a sensory-based therapeutic solution, then the necessary changes will be incorporated into each session. If that is not possible with the SLP alone, then you and your child may be referred to an occupational therapist. If your child needs motor or body therapy, a physical therapist may be brought in to assist in each feeding session. For severe cases, there are intensive feeding programs in which therapists work closely with parents and their child to identify the best plan to address the child’s problems.
What to Expect During a Session
Before you start looking for a speech therapist, you should know what to expect during a session. Aside from in-house sessions, many therapists offer out-patient feeding solutions to help children improve their ability to eat, swallow and form words.
These therapies include the use of age-appropriate size portions and offering children a wide variety of foods from all the various food groups. For patients who require more intensive treatment, speech pathologists and other therapists may be contacted to assist the patient in other areas. For example, the child may need feeding therapy with motor therapy to improve their oral skills.
Behavioral therapy involves using positive reinforcement and rewards to encourage proper eating. These sessions are conducted a few times a month and may be modified to suit the patient’s needs.
Advice from the Experts
In addition to providing therapy sessions, feeding therapists also develop plans for home practice. They may recommend certain feeding techniques designed to help the child in their development as part of the home therapy program.
In certain cases, sessions may also involve the use of extra items and activities, like books, singing, games, toys and electronic devices. These can reduce your child’s resistance to feeding either by distracting their attention or providing them with an incentive to cooperate with the program.
Therapists know that children are more likely to go along with an activity if it seems like a game. They understand that feeding therapy is not always easy, nor is it always fun, so it helps to make the process a little more enjoyable. Parents are also encouraged to use positive reinforcement at home in order to replicate the same process outside therapy.
Because you spend the most time with your child, your involvement is extremely important for feeding therapy to be effective. You need to be present during feeding therapy since it’s your role to feed your child.
It’s not enough to just get your child to eat; parents must also learn how to feed their child properly. Home feeding practice, as well as monitored feeding sessions, are often required to address certain feeding issues. In these situations, the role of the therapist is to coach parents on how to correctly implement the strategies learned in therapy so that they can feed their children on their own.
Therapists Want to Help You and Your Child
The most important thing to remember about feeding therapy is that the therapist exists as a coach, a helper and an observer. Their goal is to educate, motivate, and support your family every step of the way so that when your child’s feeding problems have been resolved, you and your family can move on to better things.
If you’re looking for feeding therapy in Los Angeles, New York, or any other big city or small town, ask your child’s pediatrician or search the internet for local SLPs. It’s important to get your child the help they need while they’re still young in order to form a solid foundation for a lifestyle of healthy habits.