With occupational therapy awareness month ending and Better Speech and Hearing month beginning, I thought this would be the perfect time to discuss a skill that both speech and occupational therapists address…FEEDING! Many people get confused on which therapist to refer to when it comes to feeding skills. Confusion is very common since feeding is a skill that requires a team approach.
Our feeding team consists of pediatric occupational and speech therapists to address both the sensory (occupational therapist) and motor (speech therapist) systems related to feeding. There is an ongoing interaction between our sensory system (how things feel, taste, smell, sound, look) and motor system (how the muscles work) that allows us to determine when food is adequately broken down and then give us sensory feedback for a successful swallow. This is called a sensory motor approach. You cannot separate these two systems. Whenever we move, no matter if it’s our legs or jaw, you receive sensory feedback and the input influences your motor system. Remember when you didn’t move your legs for a while when sitting down? They “fell asleep” and were numb. Because you didn’t feel your legs, you could not walk well. This is a great example that we use when explaining these systems. Many of our “picky eaters” have underlying sensory issues causing difficulty feeling the utensils and food in their mouth which later may cause difficulty with chewing, pocketing the food in their cheeks and swallowing the food whole.
After many years of working together, our feeding team have conducted many in-services and trainings to help other therapists become feeding therapists with a focus on a sensory-motor approach.
We are happy to share our top 10 feeding treatment tips and facts with YOU!
#1 Only 5-10% of feeding problems with kids are only environmental in origin. There should be NO judgement on the family. Environment is the reflection of the child and the parent, not the cause.
#2 After 6 months of age (developmentally), feeding is a voluntary learned behavior. Eating is NOT instinctive any more. This is why picking eating may increase with age.
#3 Oral motor development coincides with gross motor development. For example: a 2-year-old who is just starting to walk like a 12-month-old should not be expected to eat like a 2-year-old. They will eat on a 12-month level.
#4 Always play with your food and the messier on the hands and face, the better! Stop the lip scraping. No other countries do this.
#5 Nausea causes chemical changes in the brain. Neurotransmitters tell the brain to turn off appetite. Children can not turn this off like adults. This is why they learn to stop eating from past negative feeding events.
#6 Gagging is good! It is an Important part of development and a safety mechanism. Watch your reactions and stay calm. Don’t let kids think gagging is bad.
#7 It is natural to reject certain foods. To add certain foods to a child food inventory, you will need to expose and explore that food over 10xs.
#8 Positive reinforcement and imitation of others eating are two main ways children learn to eat.
#9 Eating does not begin in the mouth, it begins with the eyes.
#10 Do not agree with this myth: If they are hungry, they will eat! Children can actually habituate to hunger. They learn to ignore the hunger feeling because they eat and they don’t feel better.
We would love to share many more tips and facts. Continue to follow us here and on our social media pages!
www.talktools.com Feeding Therapy: A Sensory-Motor Approach
TR-eat® (Transdisciplinary Effective Assessment and Treatment) model
Susannah Silvia M.C.D, CCC-SLP, is the clinical director of Beyond Therapy for Kids in Ridgeland, MS. She specializes in early language disorders, severe articulation disorders, and feeding issues. She is also an adjunct professor at Jackson State University teaching early intervention and craniofacial anomalies. Follow her on IG @thesouthernbabble or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org