As a speech-language pathologist specializing in pediatric feeding treatment, I work mostly with kids, food and creating happier mealtimes for families. I often find the kitchen is the heart of the home, where parents are most relaxed and where we can build relationships with kids with autism, especially if they are hesitant eaters.
To help SLPs and parents embark on their food adventure, I offer five tips to make the kitchen connection for kids with autism.
I once had a client with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), age 10, who had a history of picky eating and feeding difficulties. He also had an affinity for movie production logos, from the iconic roaring lion that represents MGM to the letters and swing-arm white desk lamp that form the Pixar logo. Based on my experience with tackling such feeding difficulties, I sought to merge his interest in logos with exploring new foods.
1. Explore Food away from Meals: Use food for other purposes than eating to increase the child’s exposure to the food in fun, interactive ways. For example, learning to match colors with orange carrots & red bell peppers gets those nutritious foods in your child’s hands and that’s a safe, fun place to start! Here’s a video demonstrating that process.
I recently asked a bunch of pediatric therapists how kids can get the maximum benefits from therapies: speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, ABA therapy, whatever therapy! All of these experts are contributing columnists to PediaStaff, and they didn’t hold back on advice or honesty. Hope you find their words as helpful as I did!
Not all babies take to a bottle right away. Try these tips to turn your feeding problems around.
Try When Your Baby’s a ‘Little’ Hungry
“Ideally, a baby needs to be alert and just hungry enough to be interested, but not so hungry that baby will become frustrated and upset,” says Melanie Potock, MA, a pediatric feeding specialist in Longmont, CO.
Look for hunger cues. Give it a try when your baby is hungry but not starving. A frantic baby and a sense of urgency make it harder.
If your child has a speech disability that includes trouble pronouncing words, speech therapy may help improve language development, communication, and pragmatic language skills.
Speech therapy is an intervention service that focuses on improving a child’s speech and abilities to understand and express language, including nonverbal language. Speech therapists, or speech and language pathologists (SLPs), are the professionals who provide these services. Speech therapy includes two components: 1) coordinating the mouth to produce sounds to form words and sentences (to address articulation, fluency, and voice volume regulation); and 2) understanding and expressing language (to address the use of language through written, pictorial, body, and sign forms, and the use of language through alternative communication systems such as social media, computers, and iPads). In addition, the role of SLPs in treating swallowing disorders has broadened to include all aspects of feeding.
The end of a year is a reflective time for many parents, especially those who have children in any type of therapy. As a pediatric SLP who focuses on feeding, I asked over forty parents for their number one tip that helped their child progress through feeding therapy. I found it interesting that typically what popped into their minds wasn’t an oral motor tool or a specific therapy modality or other tips like “practice, practice, practice!” What struck me was that most parents focused on an emotional component. When we consider the bond between parent and child, that makes perfect sense. I learn so much from the parents of the children I treat and I’m grateful for their wisdom. Here are the Parents’ Ten Tips for Making Progress in Feeding Therapy.
For pediatric feeding therapists, whether working in the home, school/community or hospital/clinic setting, understanding safety precautions for kids with food allergies is essential. Here are five things every SLP should know when treating a child with food allergies.
Feeding disorders affect 25 to 45 percent of typically developing children and up to 80 percent of children with special needs and/or chronic health issues. A “feeding disorder” diagnosis applies to a child who can’t consume a balanced diet of age-appropriate food or liquid to support steady growth and development. When speech-language pathologists and other health care professionals treat a child with a feeding disorder, they work toward improving the child’s ability to eat a variety of foods.
As a pediatric feeding specialist, my job includes helping kids become more adventurous eaters by working with registered dietitians, physicians and other team members to ensure a child learns to comfortably try new foods. One frequent issue in kids with feeding challenges is chronic constipation. Why? Because picky or selective eaters often food jag on fiberless “kid food” like chicken nuggets and mac-n-cheese.