What is Feeding Therapy?
By Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz
If you are a parent concerned about your child’s food selectivity, food or texture refusal, mealtime tantrums, reduced food or liquid intake, or swallowing, your child may benefit from feeding therapy. Feeding therapy is used to help infants and children who have difficulties sucking, chewing, feeding or swallowing. The earlier a child is in therapy to address these problems the better their growth, nutrition and future eating outcomes. A speech language pathologist (SLP) or occupational therapist (OT) is the trained medical professional that provides feeding and swallowing therapy.
As a speech language pathologist, I have the opportunity to speak at conferences to help parents learn how to quickly improve picky eating or initiate feeding therapy. At these events parents oftentimes want to know what questions they should be asking their SLP. Here are six questions you can ask to help navigate feeding therapy intervention with your child:
Does the SLP specialize in feeding and swallowing therapy? I always encourage parents to interview their SLP. Ask them how long they have been providing therapy, how many different feeding therapy approaches they know, and what their specialty is. Make sure your child is having fun in feeding therapy while learning the essential skills for eating.
How will you be involved in therapy? Will you be an active participant in the therapy session? Will you be looking through a two-way mirror and be less involved? Or, will you be in the waiting room oblivious to what is happening in the therapy session? I find that parents who are directly involved in feeding sessions have the best carryover of skills (and their child graduates from feeding therapy much sooner!). Inquire about how you can be hands-on in therapy.
Where will therapy occur? SLP’s specializing in feeding and swallowing can provide therapy in-home, via hospital-based intervention or at a private clinic. Which environment will allow your child to be most successful? Engage in dialogue with your SLP on schedules, flexibility and the best therapy environment for your family.
What will therapy look like? How does the therapist start and end their session? Are you responsible to bring snacks or meals, or your child’s plate, spoon, cup and bowl from home? Should you bring their favorite toys? Is the therapy session held in a kitchen or play room? Will the child be fed in a highchair or at a table? It is important to understand and discuss the therapy that your child is receiving so you can gain confidence about feeding your child independently.
What will your child and SLP work on in feeding therapy? To provide a general guideline, here are some of the goals I strive for in my feeding therapy sessions:
- Decrease mealtime tantrums
- Educate parents on feeding techniques
- Improve the movement and coordination of the mouth
- Improve the ability to chew and bite through food
- Increase proper positioning for eating safely
- Increase the acceptance of new foods and liquids
- Improve sucking and/or drinking abilities
- Recommend food temperature and texture changes for a safer swallow
- Recommend liquid consistency changes for a safer swallow
- Recommend compensatory strategies for a safer swallow
- Recommend food temperature changes
- Recommend products to improve feeding and swallowing skills
- Make referrals to other medical professionals
Is your SLP certified by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA)? The Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) is a nationally recognized, professional credential that represents a level of excellence in the field of Speech-Language Pathology. Certified SLP’s have met rigorous academic standards and are actively engaged in education courses to keep their certification current.
ezpz is a proud exhibitor and sponsor of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention. The ASHA Convention is the premier annual event for speech-language pathologists and feeding therapists. The annual convention gives ezpz the opportunity to share the benefits of our products in feeding therapy with children who struggle to eat.
Is your child in feeding therapy with a speech language pathologist? What questions do you have about feeding therapy? Share with us and use the hashtags: #feedingtherapy #ezpzfun.
Dawn Winkelmann (M.S, CCC-SLP) is ezpz’s Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist. She has 26 years of experience teaching parents and medical professionals how to start babies on solids safely and encourage toddlers to overcome picky eating. In addition, “Ms. Dawn” is the designer of our award-winning Tiny Cup & Tiny Spoon (for infants) and the Mini Cup + Straw Training System & Mini Utensils (for toddlers).