Feeding Therapy by AZ+A & Zier Institute
We Can Help!
Mealtimes are a time for learning and love. Sharing a meal can be a way for a family to spend time together before the start of a busy day or to reconnect after school and work. Calm and happy mealtimes provide space for parents to nourish their child’s body and the child-parent relationship. When a child is viewed as refusing to eat new foods or is not eating as much as parents and caregivers believe they “should,” they are often labeled as “picky eaters.” Fortunately, some children outgrow eating issues, while others need help overcoming these challenges.
Mealtimes may feel challenging and stressful for families when a child struggles to enjoy eating. Children and their parents might avoid family mealtimes or stop eating altogether. Feeding therapy can be a lifeline/essential support for parents who recognize their child is struggling and want to restore mealtime peace at the dinner table. Through working with a feeding therapist, parents will learn why their child is struggling to enjoy eating and how they can help. Parents and feeding therapists partner together to restore the joy of shared mealtimes.
There are lots of reasons why a child may struggle to eat. Some children have had early developmental experiences that make eating challenging. Other children may have sensory systems that cause them to be sensitive to the textures, smells and flavors of foods. Specific medical conditions, discoordination/coordination difficulties, food allergies, social pressure and anxiety can all contribute to a child’s feeding struggles.
Many parents struggle with anxiety or guilt when their child is not growing or eating well. A feeding therapist will work with parents to provide guidance and a supportive emotional environment. Feeding therapy can help restore a child’s relationship with food and mealtimes.
Welcome Karen Dilfer, MS, OTR/L!
We’re excited to welcome feeding therapist Karen Dilfer, MS, OTR/L, to our team of pediatric experts. Karen brings extensive experience creating successful treatment plans for picky eaters to AZ+A. Her expertise helps children enjoy food and reduce mealtime battles. Karen mentored with Marsha Dunn Klein, MEd, OTR/L, creator of the “Get Permission” approach to mealtimes and an expert in pediatric feeding.
Click here to learn more in this recent article on Karen and her experience in the Chicago Tribune.
Contact us today to learn how we can help your unique challenges!
1. Email us at email@example.com
2. Call us at 773-755-7791
We are looking forward to hearing from you!
Feeding Therapy can include:
- Assistance with ongoing management of feeding tubes, the introduction of oral eating during a tube transition, tube wean
- Support for children with food allergies
- Guidance for peaceful mealtimes with anxious eaters
- Support for children and adolescents with a diagnosis of ARFID
- Support to help children with sensory feeding challenges
1. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Call us at 773-755-7791
Eating is complicated! Eating involves our body’s organ systems, muscles, and sensory systems. Mealtimes are also highly social experiences that include relationships with others, peer dynamics, communication, and social expectations. ‘Picky eating and/or ‘Refusal to eat’ is often how kids’ feeding issues are described; however, it can result from many different factors, not behavior problems.
AZ+A’s food therapy helps many children overcome these challenges. We work on-site with children and can help parents, caregivers and educators with strategies for ongoing support.
If you answer YES to any of the following statements, the child might benefit from food feeding therapy:
- The child doesn’t appear to enjoy eating
- The child has difficulty trying new foods
- The child has trouble sitting at the table
- The child eats fewer than 20 different foods
- Mealtimes feel consistently and intensely stressful
- The child has difficulty eating in a variety of settings (i.e., home, school, restaurant)
- The child prefers certain brands of food and needs food prepared in a specific way.
- Children may cry or meltdown when a portion of new food is placed on their plate or the plate of another person at the table
- Children will not eat foods that are hard to chew, e.g., meat, raw fruits, raw vegetables
- The child may choke, gag or cough during mealtimes
Feeding from a Developmental Lens
Follow the Leader
Feeding therapy is led by the child and they are never forced to eat. By observing the child’s behavior regarding food, we create a plan that suits them rather than one tailored to meet any preconceived ideas about what they “should be” eating.
Broadening the Horizon
Anxious or picky eaters may repetitively request and only eat a small assortment of foods, often prepared in a very specific way – down to the cup or plate it is served upon. Our goal is to understand the appeal of these foods and expand their food choices based on this knowledge.
How Much is Enough?
Nutrition is a primary concern for parents of picky eaters. Can a specific brand of Mac n’ Cheese, chicken nuggets, or crackers provide the nutrition they need to grow and thrive? We help calm parents’ expectations while motivating children with new foods they may enjoy.
Read the Food Cues
Children will tell us what they like and do not like through their behaviors, expressions, or outright defiance. With eating challenges, parents, caregivers, and therapists need to learn the specific cues of each child and react positively to avoid deeper food afflictions.
Celebrate with Food
Part of childhood is enjoying birthday parties, family celebrations, and social time with friends. Parents of picky eaters understand that any occasion involving food requires extra planning and an extra helping of stress. Eating therapy works to eliminate or reduce the anxieties associated with food.
Hungry for Help
Eating therapy is a collaboration between the child, parents, therapist, and doctors. Helping children eat a healthy diet at any age or circumstance is complicated. Our occupational therapists are part of the care team to find the right solution for your unique child.
Get Started Today
Our feeding program that promotes a child-led and trust-based approach. We focus on helping children and their families enjoy mealtime as the child expands their curiosity and shifts their mindset about food.