Benefits you didn’t know that Feeding Therapy can contribute to!
Feeding therapy conducted by a speech-language pathologist focuses on addressing the oral motor skills important for the physical act of swallowing and feeding. It can also support a child with any sensory-based difficulties that impact willingness to participate in meal times and eat a variety of foods. Feeding therapy, though, can have other benefits that many don’t realize.
- Safer meal times – When children have fully developed chewing, swallowing and eating skills, they’re able to eat with minimal risk of choking or aspirating. Meal times as a result are not only safer but also less stress-filled, too. Also, when a child can eat properly without the risk of choking, this enables parents to.
- Psychological well-being – Aversions to food can cause stress in the life of the child, who feels pressure to like or try certain foods that make him feel uncomfortable. This can, in turn, cause stress for the parents who feel obligated to ensure their child eats a decent variety of foods. Feeding therapy can get rid of, or at least reduce this stress by making a child more comfortable with different types of foods and removing the anxiety and discomfort surrounding food. With feeding therapy, a child can learn to see eating as a pleasant, interactive experience.
- More social opportunities – In simple words: eating is a social experience. Children who are able to eat with their families at mealtimes, without trouble at lunch time with other children, and even while at birthday parties, etc. are able to have more opportunities to engage with others. These interactive opportunities allow a child to experience less social stress, and children are provided with more opportunities to practice their interaction and communication skills.
- Fine and gross motor skill development – Feeding time and the act of eating overall provides many opportunities to work on fine and gross motor skills. Whether it be playing/mashing/exploring foods with the hands, grasping or selecting foods to eat with fingers and hands, using a variety of utensils, maintaining proper posture/trunk control and body positioning while eating, or eye-hand coordination to bring foods to one’s mouth, feeding opportunities enable fine and gross motor coordination development.
- Convenience – Let’s face it, a child’s ability to eat the same foods his family does increases convenience for parents and even for the child. Dinner time goes from being a hassle to being a breeze!
- Increased nutrition with the introduction of new, tolerated foods – When children are receiving added nutrients and healthier food options in their daily diets, their overall nutrition improves as a result. This balanced nutrition can result in weight management benefits and even help with the long-term management of medical conditions including diabetes, celiac disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. While we can help your child tolerate a variety of foods, it’s best to consult a nutritionist, who can put your child on the proper diet plan.
- Brain development – Proper nutrition is essential to brain development. If your child is able to eat an increased variety of healthy foods, this will give her brain the best chance to develop properly.
- Reduce chances of infection – Children with developed and competent feeding and swallowing skills are less prone to aspirate/choke during feedings, which can cause secondary infections. Furthermore, children who receive a more balanced diet and improved nutrition have stronger immune systems and are less susceptible to illness.
- Management of food allergies – Children with food allergies are already restricted in what they’re able to eat. It’s even more important, with these children, to ensure they have the necessary variety of foods in their repertoire to ensure proper growth and nutrition. Feeding therapy can help to introduce these new, allergy-friendly or gluten/casein-free foods so a child can begin to tolerate them more easily.
- Maximize quality of life – As a result of feeding therapy, a child’s quality of life can improve. Whether it’s reducing the time it takes to eat a meal or eliminating fears about foods, feeding therapy can improve quality of life. It can bring the enjoyment back into eating, allow social interactions while eating, and even allow families to share customs and traditions around mealtimes with their children. All of these things improve quality of life.
Food is Fuel
Food is such an important part of life, especially for a developing child. It fuels the brain, the body, social interactions and more. Feeding therapy can open your child’s world up to a new set of possibilities and, most importantly, freedom from the fear and anxiety that once ran rampant at mealtime. A free, fearless, and well-fed child is a beautiful thing! For more information about how to deal with feeding aversions in children, especially those with autism, check out our other feeding aversions article here.
DISCLAIMER: Information published about one particular disorder does not necessarily apply to every individual who has the disorder discussed in this article. Treatments and therapies are highly individual and must be customized to the needs of each person to be effective. Do not make changes to your/your child’s treatment plan as a result of what you read in this article (or any content published by AASL) without consulting your/your child’s physicians and therapists. This content does not necessarily reflect the opinions of All About Speech and Language or its therapists. To understand the opinions and recommendations of your/your child’s AASL therapist, schedule an appointment with your therapist to discuss your concerns.