Warning Signs for Feeding Issues in Young Children

Pediatric feeding disorders (also called avoidant/restrictive food intake disorders) are conditions in which a child avoids eating or limits what or how much he or she will eat. 

This leads to problems including weight loss, nutritional deficiency, need for nutritional supplements, and/or problems with daily functioning. These disorders often limit a child’s ability to participate in social activities, that include food, and can disrupt a family’s daily functioning.

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Our patients have fun making food during “Food School” and demonstrating techniques learned by our Speech Therapists to get them used to tasting different foods and textures.

The Speech-Language Pathologists at Unified Therapy can help children with feeding and swallowing problems.

Signs we look for in younger children (less than 2 years old) are:
⦁    Inability to transition to purees by 10 months
⦁    Inability to transition to table foods by 12 months
⦁    Inability to transition from formula after 16 months

Signs we look for in older kids (2 years and older) are:
⦁    Aversions or avoidance of all foods in a specific texture or nutrition group: 
⦁    Refusing to eat entire categories of food (proteins/fruits/veggies/dairy/starches)
⦁    Restricted range of foods, typically less than 20
⦁    Tantrums, runs, hides, cries, gags when new foods are presented
⦁    Food jag: "burn out" from eating the same foods repeatedly, resulting in refusal and leading to a further decrease in the number of foods accepted

The goal of feeding therapy is to increase the number of foods a child will readily except. Ideally, we would like the child to expand their feeding repertoire to have 10 foods in each category: protein (meat/dairy), fruit/veggies, and starches. This allows parents to decrease the likelihood of food jag by rotate enough foods so that a single food is not presented more than 1 time in a 3-day cycle. 

Other signs to watch for include:
⦁    Ongoing poor weight gain (rate re: percentiles falling) or weight loss
⦁    Ongoing choking, gagging, or coughing during meals
⦁    Ongoing problems with vomiting
⦁    History of a traumatic choking incident
⦁    Aversion or avoidance of all foods in specific texture or nutrition group
⦁    Family is fighting about food and feeding (ie. meals are battles)
⦁    Parent repeatedly reports that the child is difficult for everyone to feed

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Morgan Powers, M.A., CCC-SLP, is a Speech Language Pathologist for Unified Therapy Services who is trained in the SOS Approach to Feeding and Beckman Oral Motor Protocol. If you feel that your child is exhibiting the signs of a feeding issue, please call our office for a free consultation at 563-583-4003. Our Speech Therapy team can treat a wide variety of speech, language, voice, and feeding/swallowing disorders. Visit our website for more information: