The term “picky eater” is a label often used when parents describe their child’s eating habits, but what exactly does that entail? Characteristics of picky eating includes eating less than 30 foods, experiencing tantrums when new or undesired foods are presented, refusing entire categories of food textures or groups, and demonstrating different eating habits than the rest of the family (Toomey, Ross, & Kortsha, 2015). A gray area is present when determining whether a child’s eating habits are considered solely “picky eating” or if an underlying feeding issue exists.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us as a society to modify many of our everyday habits and routines, including mealtimes. This time of uncertainty has allowed many families the opportunity to revive family mealtime traditions due to limited dining out options and new work from home standards. A recent study from the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior identified the positive impact of shared mealtimes on family connectedness, cohesion, and communication. The idealistic family mealtime may be impeded if child feeding difficulties are present but it allows for ample time for parents to begin to identify issues as they arise.
Feeding is a common issue affecting childhood development and can account for difficulties in 25-50% of typically developing children and 90% of children with disabilities (Carpenter & Garfinkel, 2019). These difficulties are often overlooked and undermined as “picky eating” although an underlying deficit may be present. Difficulties can present as eating too much or too little, delay in self- feeding, demonstrating disruptive behavior, and/or motor control or structural impairments. Overtime, these feeding difficulties can be linked to deficits in cognitive development, behavioral problems, and eating disorders (Gronski & Doherty, 2019).
Occupational and Speech Language practitioners are trained to provide feeding based interventions through facilitation of parent-child interactions, oral motor techniques, desensitization methods,and positive mealtime habits and routines. Treatment plans are typically designed to follow behavioral, parent-directed/educational, and/or physiological- based interventions. Through the use of activity analysis, our trained professionals are able to break down steps of self-feeding into the basic building blocks of utensil usage, proper positioning, texture tolerance, and mechanics of sucking, chewing, propelling and swallowing food.
Telehealth has become a new streamline process to replace typical feeding programs that are usually accessed through early intervention, admission to NICU or inpatient settings, and outpatient clinics. Access to virtual feeding therapy provides many advantages to families including elimination of travel time, wait times,and stress. Telehealth services are also flexible in scheduling, which makes it ideal for therapists to gain a better insight on family mealtime routines and traditions. Parent involvement within feeding treatment sessions are beneficial to the development of stronger family bonds, decreased disruptive behavior, reduction of parental stress, structured mealtime processes, and improved parental and child quality of life (Gronski & Doherty, 2019).
At Triton Support Services, we value and prioritize family- connected relationships. Our telehealth and clinic based services are available to address these feeding difficulties through our experienced providers. A picky eaters questionnaire is available to identify any suspected feeding difficulties and connect you with a Triton Certified Occupational or Speech Language Therapist. Our Occupational and Speech Language Therapists are qualified to assess feeding issues, design an individualized treatment plan, provide family education, and make appropriate recommendations.
An online interactive cooking class with our Occupational and Speech Language Therapist team is available weekly to promote engagement in functional life skills, sensory play, and communication. This fun one-hour class is designed to address a wide range of feeding and sensory difficulties while promoting positive family and peer interactions. Each week will focus on a new recipe and skill set to provide a comprehensive treatment approach to picky eating.
Picky Eaters Questionnaire
Reviving the Family Meal During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Carpenter, K. M., & Garfinkel, M. (2019). Telehealth as a supplemental service to treat pediatric feeding delays and disorders. SIS Quarterly Practice Connections, 4(4), 2–4.
Castle, J. (2020, April 1). Reviving the Family Meal During the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Retrieved August 21, 2020, from https://health.usnews.com/wellness/for-parents/articles/reviving-the-family-meal-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic
Gronski, M. & Doherty, M. (2019). Feeding interventions for children and youth 0-5 years:
Systematic review of related literature from 2010 to 2017[Critically Appraised
Topic]. Bethesda, MD: American Occupational Therapy Association.
Toomey,K., Ross, E., & Kortsha, B. (2015). 4-Day Basic Training. Fremont, CA: SOS Approach to Feeding.