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Melanie Potock
BY Melanie Potock

5 Signs that Your Older Child May Benefit from Feeding Therapy

My previous posts on feeding therapy explored why infants and toddlers might need support from a feeding therapist. But, what about the older child? One fourth of my clients are kids over the age of 7! Here are 5 signs that your older child may benefit from feeding therapy:

1.  Your kid never grew out of “picky eating”

In the last post, I mentioned that toddlers are notorious for developing picky eating habits.  But if those habits persist year to year, it can be difficult to find your way to adventurous eating.  A professional who understands the physiological, sensory, oral motor and behavioral aspects of hesitant eating can guide you and your child in feeding therapy.

2. Your kid and the siblings label him/her “the picky eater of the family”.

Kids will most often live up to labels we assign to them: “Oh, he’s our math whiz” or “She’s our little athlete” or “He’s our picky eater”.  A feeding therapist can help “your picky eater” begin to think of him/herself differently and have the confidence to try new foods.

3. My child has food allergies

So only eats certain foods.  One of the challenges that parents encounter when their child has food allergies, is what to offer and how to expand a child’s food preferences while keeping them safe.  Holiday food is another obstacle, as is dining out.  An experienced feeding therapist who works specifically with kids with allergies can offer ideas to keep mealtimes joyful throughout the year.

4. My kid HATES the school cafeteria

Ever been to a crowded school cafeteria?  One of my 7 year old clients called it the “café-FEAR-ia.” It can be overwhelming in so many ways.  Feeding therapists are often welcomed into schools to provide strategies for both the child and the staff so kids can eat a relaxed lunch with their friends and get some important nutrition before academics start that afternoon.

5.My kid wants to eat the same food as his friends

But never learned to like that food.  I had a client who wanted to get a hamburger or pizza with his buddies after football, but grew up in a vegan household and wasn’t exposed to that type of food.  Plus, due to sensory issues as a child, he had a very limited repertoire of food he could tolerate in his mouth without gagging.

His parents were very supportive and wanted him to make his own decisions about a vegan lifestyle.  Feeding therapy not only stopped the gagging, it expanded his taste buds and he became quite the adventurous eater!  He may decide to adopt the vegan lifestyle again someday, but being able to eat with his friends was very important to him at this age.

Likewise, older kids who only eat chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese limit themselves when the other students at school are hanging out at restaurants  and food-centered events.  One of my clients didn’t want to ask a girl to Prom; not because he was too shy, but because he knew he couldn’t take her to a fancy restaurant and eat without gagging on unfamiliar food.  Eating isn’t just about learning to bite, chew and swallow: It’s a social experience. 

Melanie Potock

Written on March 5, 2014 by:

Feeding specialist Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP and pediatrician Dr. Nimali Fernando are the co-authors of the award-winning book, Raising a Healthy Happy Eater: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating. Melanie in an international speaker, training OTs, RDs and SLPs in feeding therapy and offering parent presentations to the special needs community. Dr. Fernando (Dr. Yum) and Melanie (Coach Mel) joined forces to create the Doctor Yum Preschool Food Adventure as part of The Doctor Yum Project, a non-profit focused on helping families create a culture of wellness in their communities. Dr. Yum gives our more recipes than prescriptions - she's your pediatrician in the kitchen! Together, they created the website, the new go-to resource for parents who want to learn how to raise adventurous eaters, even if they have a child who is hesitant to try new foods. Their 5 hour video course, The Picky Eater Course, is specifically designed for both parents and professionals who want to truly understand how children become courageous, joyful eaters and learn to love healthy foods!

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