Feeding Issues and Services
Feeding problems affect approximately 25 - 40% of children and up to 80% of children with developmental disabilities. A feeding disorder can include problems such as:
- Food refusal
- Inability to consume adequate calories
- Inability to consume an age-appropriate diet due to skill, sensory, medial and/or behavioral difficulties
Specific issues a child may face include:
- Food/drink refusal; limited volume of intake, sleep drinking, bottle aversion
- Inability to chew; swallow; parking/holding food
- Frequent expelling or spitting out due to aversion or oral motor skills deficits
- Recurrent gagging; vomiting
- Food or swallowing phobias
- Food selectivity by type, texture, flavor
- Inability to transition to baby foods, textured foods or table foods
- Mealtime behavior problems (tantrums, lengthy meals, refusal to sit/come to the table
- Failure to thrive or unable to gain proper weight for age
- Tube-dependent (nasogastric, gastrostomy tubes or TPN)
The medical diagnoses and underlying conditions, which can lead to feeding issues include, but are not limited to:
- Cardiac Conditions
- Cranio-Facial anomalies
- Cystic fibrosis
- Failure to thrive
- Food allergy
- Gastroesophageal reflux (emesis)
- Genetic syndromes
- Human immune deficiency virus
- Reactive airway disease and pulmonary conditions
- Metabolic disorders
- Oral-motor dysfunction
- Short bowel syndrome
- Status post organ transplant
St. Mary's Pediatric Feeding Program
St. Mary's Pediatric Feeding Program provides a unique transdisciplinary treatment model (TR-eat®) approach. The program takes a supportive, comprehensive approach that not only incorporates a child's medical and developmental needs, but addresses nutrition, behavioral, oral-motor and sensory feeding issues as well as family education and training.
- Assessment and consultation clinic
- Outpatient services 1 - 2 days per week with psychologists, speech and occupational therapists and a nutritionist
- Intensive Treatment - daily intensive therapy with the feeding team including 3 - 4 therapeutic meals per day.
To evaluate what services will best meet a child's needs, children are first seen by appointment to assess medical, oral-motor, sensory nutritonal and behavioral problems while observing eating patterns.
Children with moderate to severe medical problems who are medically stable are admitted to the day patient program. Intensive services are also available on an inpatient basis when a child's acuity level requires this level of care. Children with mild to moderate feeding problems are admitted to the outpatient program.
Because treatment can only be successful if the benefits transition to the child's daily life, education for parents is an immediate part of the treatment plan. Aftercare consisting of regular follow-up visits either in the Center for Children or via video conference provides further support, and ensures strides made during treatment are maintained.