turning picky eaters into adventurous eaters
picky eaters THERAPY
Picky Eaters cause stress for the whole family and you worry about your child’s nutritional intake. You try to get them to sample new foods, you explained why they have to eat more foods, you probably even begged – but you keep hitting a brick wall.
Our Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists see many picky eaters in our Bondi Junction clinic. In fact, most of the children in our Sydney clinic are picky eaters. Our therapists understand the stress that families go through when a child is resistant to new foods. They understand the frustration that parents feel when their child wants to eat the same, limited range of foods. They see the desperation that comes when their child suddenly refuses to eat the one thing that gave them some nutritional value. That is why we developed the picky eaters program. This is a program that is based on the best practice and evidence for picky eaters. It builds the skills, one at a time, so children become adventurous eaters.
Picky eating behaviours starts at a fairly young age. It is the toddler years when picky behaviours usually begin. This is especially frustrating for parents because some babies started off as very adventurous eaters but then they began to dig their heels in.
MAIN REASONS FOR PICKY EATING
Children become picky eaters for three main reasons. The three reasons are:
- a physiological issue
- a motor issue
- a learned behaviour
This concept of simplifying the reasons behind picky eating was introduced to us many years ago by Melanie Potock, a Speech Pathologist and paediatric feeding therapist , and Dr Nimali Fernando who is a paediatrician.
A physiological issue can include things such as gastroesophageal reflux. Other children may have very strong reactions to the smell of some foods and refuse to eat them. These are physiological reasons.
A motor issue can include a host of things such as poor tongue control and immature chewing patterns. This means the child struggles to move the food around their mouth. It could include a delay in gross and fine motor skills so the child has difficulty sitting up or bringing food to their mouths. These are motor reasons that can play a role in picky eating.
A learned behaviour includes the behaviour of the children, and yes, it also includes the behaviour of the parents. If your child choked on a potato or vomited after a strawberry milkshake, then they may have learned not to eat these foods in future. If parents offer options after children refuse food then the children may learn that they don’t have to eat what has been offered first. These are learned behaviors for picky eating.
All of these things can play a role in your child becoming a picky eater. In the program, our feeding therapists will assess all these areas.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A PICKY EATER?
The picky eater program will get your child started on the road to more confident eating. The first step is an assessment and this allows our feeding therapists to understand any physiological concerns, motor difficulties, or learned behaviours that are specific to your child. For some children, the progress to more confident eating is fairly straightforward. For other children, it can be complex and take much longer. To address the different types of picky eaters, we offer three forms of intervention:
1. Parent Workshops.
These workshops are for all parents, but they are particularly helpful for ‘garden variety’ picky eaters. These are children with no significant physiological issues and no major motor issues. This 2 hour workshop is offered every month and can be followed up with group or individual sessions. It is a great start to building a confident eater as parent learn the skills to support their child’s eating at home.
2. Group Programs
Group sessions put the fun back into eating as children explore and try new foods. These sessions are offered weekly during the school term and over the school holidays. All children in the group program complete a feeding assessment where we determine the cause of the feeding challenges, and set the goals. The groups allow children to explore food and expand their feeding in a fun, non-threatening environment. Meals are first and foremost a social event, so exploring food with friends is a large part of this program.
3. Individual Therapy
Some children have a longer journey towards becoming a more confident eater. These children usually need individual therapy. This allows the feeding therapist to use the appropriate intervention strategies to build more confidence. As soon as children in the individual program master more feeding skills, we encourage them to join the group program so that they have the fun of exploring and trying with peers.
For more information on our picky eater program, or to speak to one of our feeding therapists, don’t hesitate to give us a call on (02) 80657837 or visit our feeding program ‘YukToYum’. We developed the YukToYum program to help the increasing number of children with picky eating issues. YukToYum helps turn picky eaters into adventurous eaters! For more information, please go to our YukToYum website.