Dealing with Feeding Disorders
Feeding therapy is usually done by either an occupational therapist, a speech pathologist, or a behavior therapist. Each type of therapist approaches therapy in a different manner. There are also other professionals that can indirectly help with your child’s recovery, such as pediatricians, gastroenterologists, nutritionists, and dietitians.
Typically, your child’s pediatrician is the first person to deal with your child’s feeding issues. Your pediatrician might order some blood work, write a script for an antacid, or refer you to a pediatric GI in order to rule out other medical issues that might be causing feeding issues.
Unfortunately, on some occasions, pediatricians will take the “wait-and-see approach.” This can put additional stress on parents because, usually, the child’s eating does not improve without intervention.
Pediatric Gastroenterology (GI)
These physicians specialize in both the upper and lower GI tracts. If a pediatrician refers to “pediatric gastroenterology,” it is for more a specialized examination. There are many tests that the GI can use to rule out any underlying medical causes of your child not eating.
There are many ways that professionals solve feeding issues. While other disciplines focus on the physiological mechanisms of eating, the focus of behavior analysis is learning and adaptation. Behavior analysis yields the most effective way to identify and treat components of a feeding disorder.
Some speech therapists also deal with feeding. Speech therapists also specialize in assessing whether your child can safely swallow without aspiration. If aspiration is suspected, a speech therapist can assess, as well as recommend, safe guidelines for conducting meals.
There are many opinions on how to resolve feeding issues. Unfortunately, some methods are counterproductive or do not produce any results.
In order to fix feeding issues, you must treat all the behaviors that occur during a meal. Some therapists conduct therapy in such a way that they never encounter those behaviors. It is more prudent to create a normal feeding condition and address each behavior as it comes.
Some feeding therapies consist of ending a meal when a child says “all done.” Most children who exhibit food refusal will do anything to get out of eating. The behavior that ends the meal will occur more frequently, so therapists who do this are only reinforcing verbal statements that request the termination of a meal.
Other therapists will teach children to play with food. While on the surface this might seem like a reasonable approach, no actual eating behavior is being taught, and no behaviors that are interfering with food consumption are being addressed.