Using Paediatric Occupational Therapy to Enhance Eating and Feeding Skills in Children

Paediatric Occupational Therapy to Enhance Eating & Feeding

Children are notorious for being picky eaters, but when does it become a problem that requires professional support?

If your child is a fussy eater and you are noticing changes such as weight loss or poor weight gain, aversion to certain textures, gagging or vomiting when eating, emotional difficulties at mealtimes, or low-calorie intake, it is time to act. This may mean a trip to your GP, and/or a visit to a qualified professional such as an occupational therapist. This can lead to food therapy for kids, which may be highly beneficial.

Many underlying factors or issues may be causing your child to have difficulties with food that go beyond a dislike for greens. It is important to identify these and work towards improvement as your child’s nutrition and enjoyment around food is paramount.

Paediatric occupational therapists can develop and implement a personalised food therapy plan for your child to help them progress as positively as possible. Learn more about food therapy and how our occupational therapists may help your child.

Is Fussy Eating Normal?

Everyone has at least one or two foods they’re not fond of, but some people have difficulties with food that can significantly impact their lives. This can affect health and well-being with issues such as nutrition deficits, insufficient growth development, learning difficulties, and mood disorders.

Some issues that may cause eating difficulties that are generally not considered healthy and may require professional support include:

  • Sensory sensitivity.
  • Swallowing deficits due to problems such as nerve or muscle issues.
  • Anxiety.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder after events such as choking on food.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease.
  • Allergies and intolerances.

What is a Paediatric Occupational Therapist?

A paediatric occupational therapist Sydney is a qualified healthcare professional who works with young people who have a variety of challenges when it comes to everyday tasks. These activities may range from social interaction at school to using scissors to showering independently to engaging in focus-heavy pursuits. It also includes eating.

Occupational therapists take a holistic and evidence-based approach to supporting children who have challenges with eating and food-based activities. We develop a personalised care plan that caters for the needs of each child, and assist them in a safe and nurturing environment. We also help family members to learn more about the issue and how they can help the child.

Can a Paediatric Occupational Therapist Help My Child With Eating?

When it comes to eating, there are many aspects that occupational therapists can help with. This may involve areas such as:

  • Fine motor skills.
  • Gross motor skills.
  • Sensory processing.
  • Food preparation.
  • Focus and concentration.
  • Emotion regulation.
  • Behaviour regulation.
  • Self-esteem and confidence.
  • Independence.

At Chatterbox, we are a multidisciplinary team. This means we can also take a collaborative approach to treatment if this may be suitable for your child. This could include options such as combining occupational therapy with speech therapist Sydney and/or physiotherapy. You may be surprised to hear that music therapy may be helpful too!

How Can I Encourage my Child to Eat Well?

It can be really tricky to know what to do when mealtimes are an issue. We are here to help you develop strategies that may help your child.

There are a range of things you can try at home to support a healthy environment. Some tips you can attempt alongside visiting your GP or an occupational therapist include:

  • Provide support rather than admonishment for actions such as spitting out food that unsettles them.
  • Cover food that may be upsetting them and revisit it later.
  • Show them how much food to take at one time rather than letting them put too much in their mouth at once.
  • Make a variety of foods available with different textures and tastes.
  • Encourage foods that help to strengthen their mouth and tongue and improve the skills involved in eating.
  • Talk about the foods and how they feel about them.
  • Be patient and understanding.

Seek Support For Eating Difficulties at Chatterbox

Food and eating challenges can have a significant impact on the health and well-being of your child and the rest of the family. It can be concerning, frightening, and frustrating for them and you as a caregiver.

The team at Chatterbox understands. We have extensive experience and qualifications in supporting children to improve their eating difficulties with food therapy techniques. If your child is struggling with food and mealtimes, please contact our friendly team to find out how we can help.