What is Pediatric Feeding Therapy?

Lunchtime enrichment at Blue Bird Day aims to help children develop the skills they need to eat and have healthy mealtime routines. Mealtime interventions can significantly improve a child’s overall health and well-being. Blue Bird Day therapists are trained in understanding the significant emotional impact on a family when raising a child with picky eating or a limited diet. Therapists recognize that feeding is one of the most complex activities one engages in during early childhood and strive to be empathetic to the needs of the children and their families.

How Does Feeding Therapy Work?

Evidence shows that children with autism and sensory processing differences benefit from consistent mealtime routines and being slowly introduced to new foods. Therefore, the Blue Bird Day feeding program is structured to promote each child’s participation in a daily feeding routine. Blue Bird Day therapists pull from a variety of feeding techniques across multiple theories and models of intervention. Some of these include the Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) Approach to Feeding, the Get Permission Approach, and the Beckman Oral Motor Protocol. These interventions work by targeting the underlying skills necessary for functional and safe eating in a supportive environment.

The blended techniques allow therapists to incorporate interventions across disciplines and evidence-based practice models for the best possible results. Depending on the priorities for the child, an occupational therapist may work on piercing food with a fork, whereas our developmental therapist may be promoting social participation through engagement with peers during mealtimes. For children who are highly avoidant of non-preferred foods, the therapy team will work with the child on gradual exposure through motivating play schemas, working up towards consumption.

Adaptive Equipment

The Blue Bird Day program is designed to work towards functional independence, meaning one child’s fork may look different from the next. Each child is unique in their skills and capacities. For example, a student may benefit from using an angled utensil to increase their feelings of success by promoting their ability to bring food to their mouth without spilling. A variety of adaptive equipment is used during mealtimes to foster these positive results.

What are the Goals of Feeding Therapy?

The first goal of the feeding team is that the mealtime environment is safe and supportive. Once children are able to maintain a regulated state in these environments, the team can address functional mealtime skills such as cup drinking, oral motor skills such as chewing, and acceptance of non-preferred foods through graded consistent exposure and modeling. The goal of family-style preparation is for the children to participate in a social mealtime environment. Long term goals are to target increased food consumption and variety in diets to promote nutrition and health. Ultimately, the goal is for each child to accept a wide variety of foods in their repertoires, eat a well-balanced and nutritious diet, and generalize these skills to outside environments.

Data for feeding therapy focuses on functional mealtime skills, oral motor skills, participation, and food consumption within fruits, grains, proteins, and vegetables. Setting feeding goals begins upon enrollment with the participation of the caregivers and therapists. Blue Bird Day uses an electronic data collection and management system to collect data on each therapeutic session, which is closely tracked by each child’s therapeutic team. Progress is shared quarterly via email and in-person during the annual IITSP/reevaluation meeting. Quarterly progress is examined giving a cumulative display of growth and a narrative for each discipline.

Who Makes Up the Feeding Therapy Team?

Blue Bird Day’s collaborative multidisciplinary team ensures the best possible therapeutic interventions are used during meal times. The inter-professional team includes occupational therapists, speech therapists, developmental therapists, and registered behavior technicians. Our Registered Dietitian Nutritionist oversees the mealtime preparations and communications with our catering company.