Feeding therapy is used to help infants and children who have difficulties sucking, chewing or swallowing. The earlier a child is in therapy to address these problems, the better their growth, nutrition and future eating outcomes. If you are concerned about your child’s food selectivity, food or texture refusal, mealtime tantrums, reduced food or liquid intake or swallowing, then your child may benefit from feeding therapy. An occupational therapist or speech language pathologist (SLP) 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 lean how to improve picky eating or start feeding therapy. At these events parents oftentimes want to know what questions they should be asking their SLP. Here are a few tips to help you navigate 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 therapy but also 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? 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 the sessions have the most carry-over 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 can provide therapy in-home, via hospital-based intervention or at a private clinic. Which environment will help your child be most successful? Engage in dialogue with your SLP on schedules, flexibility and the chosen therapy environment.
What will therapy look like?
How does the therapist start and end their session? Are you responsible to bring snacks or meals, utensils and toys? Is the therapy session held in a kitchen or therapy 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 therapy:
- 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)?
Being certified means that the SLP holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC), which 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 continuing 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 (which brings together more than 14,000 attendees) gives ezpz the opportunity to share the benefits of our products in feeding therapy and 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 #asha2016 #SLP #ezpzfun.
Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz