Fun with Food!

Welcome to Fun with Food! This site was designed to help parents and caregivers find, share and ask about fun foods for your selective toddler!

As a speech-language pathologist specializing in pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders, I encounter many children who have experienced negative associations surrounding food. These children often have accompanying oral motor feeding difficulties and sensory processing difficulties--making eating a very stressful experience instead of an enjoyable one.

This website will hopefully serve as an "idea place" for meals as well as questions and support from other parents and caregivers. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Heightened anxiety and Sensory based feeding aversions

Many of the children I see for feeding therapy have increased anxiety surrounding new foods and many will "shut down" so to speak at the very sight or mention of a new or undesired food. When working with families I ask them to list their child's favorite foods and then I examine the various properties and help plan which foods to introduce based on the similarities. Pairing desired foods with new or undesired foods has been helpful with many do not want to be 'sneaky', but rather discuss the similarities and provide opportunities for exposure and for your child to build trust and familiarity with the new foods.

It is not uncommon to see a child with a limited diet Love foods that are crunchy, sweet, salty, even spicy. What is the common factor in those type of foods? They all have an increased sensory value and give more feedback! A child who loves barbeque chips for example, may love the idea of having chicken tenderloins coated and baked in her favorite bbq chips. This is a way you can expand on a food. Children who prefer these types of foods often Overstuff foods, usually the foods that are a little softer. Here is a great article by Suzanne Evans Morris regarding overstuffing: Mouth Stuffing.

Yesterday I discovered a great blog written by the co-authors of Food Chaining. I did not realize that the treatment approach I use with many children is similar to the concepts and plan in Food Chaining. Please check out the site, it is a great resource and lists many others! I plan to order the book and incorporate some of the examples in my own therapies! I spoke with a very sweet, very concerned mother of a 5 year old son who has a diet limited to 4-5 'staple' foods. Her story is like many others--she knows her sons anxiety and panic surrounding new foods is not typical of other children his age but she is having trouble seeking treatment. A speech-language pathologist or occupational therapist specializing in pediatric feeding disorders is sometimes difficult to come by but we are out there! I hope to continue adding to this site and eventually have a list of treatment centers and speech and occupational therapists working in the field of pediatric dysphagia; so if you happen to be reading this and are a professional in the field or have a recommendation for other families, please leave a comment below! Most Children's hospitals have a feeding/swallowing program and will offer outpatient treatment. You can also check with any company that offers speech or occupational therapist and ask if there is a therapist/therapists who works in the area of feeding.

Below is an example of introducing a new food, discussing its properties, presenting it in a new form (puree for dipping) and pairing it with a like colored desired foods.



Sara said...

just thought you might like to see one example of jackson and a "meal" reaction. I just happened to have my camera on the counter and grabbed it. This is mild compared to if we were to make him sit at the kitchen table with a plate of food in front of him. I am including the youtube link to the video. would love your thoughts. And of course, little brother logan is always there to offer his 2 cents and sensory input!

Kristina said...

Thanks for sharing Sara! I'll start by saying I wish I could see him on a weekly basis! He is on high alert, knowing that that piece of unwanted food is in front of him and his anxiety is up because he is being asked to do 'something' with that food. Hey, he leaned down a little to give a sniff! I think the ongoing power struggle between parent and child does make things much more difficult and that what he needs is that one on one therapy time for a while..or time with you to use a fun activity (favorite game, puzzle, stacking blocks as high as he can ) and have a visual chart so he can see the progress he is making and feel good about all of those steps in between. Ill try to get video of an example.

tmastropietro said...

I am a speech therapist in Hanson, MA who provides feeding therapy in my private practice. I LOVE feeding therapy. When a child makes progress, the joy is felt by all. I find it difficult to locate new information for pediatric feeding treatment. I really value Cheryl's Fraker's book, "Food Chaining". I also have been fortunate enough to meet Cheryl Pelletier of Cape Cod, MA. She does a wonderful presentation regarding pediatric feeding therapy. I use singing "chewing tunes" to help encourage and celebrate with the child who presents with sensory difficulties. Family education and participation is the key to success in any feeding therapy, so kudos to you mom and dad.

Speech-Language Pathology Center -

Kristina--Picky Tots said...

Thanks for your input! Would love to hear your 'chewing tunes' sometime :) I made up some for the clients I worked with in Raleigh--especially for those tending to overstuff food! If you do not have a copy of Pre-Feeding Skills by Suzanne Evans Morris and Marsha Dunn Kleinn you should place that next to your Food Chaining book! Thanks for your comment and insight--i'll check out your website.

Beth said...

You should check out this site . It has so much information on kids who don't eat and why they don't eat and what we can do about it. It's a great resource.

Kristina--Picky Tots said...

Thanks Beth, that is a great site which gives good insight as to the many factors contributing to feeding disorders-- I will add the link to the blog :)

Here are a few other links that help shed some light on "What is a pediatric feeding disorder (dysphagia)" and list some 'red flags' that a child (or infant) may need a feeding evaluation: (I've listed the red flags for a feeding disorder at the end of this paper)

andrea malchi said...

My 4 year old is having so much difficulty eating. She used to actually throw up from certain textures of food, especially bananas. I thought she would outgrow this but she hasn't. If I sit down next to her with a bowl of somethng potent like chili she gags and moves to another seat. I quit trying to introduce new foods and just give her what she will eat. But she is almost 5 and won't eat vegetables or fruit or meat(she eats a little meat). Anyway our town has one therapist and basically told me over the phone she can't take on more work for a couple of months and that I would have to put myself on a waiting list! ha can you believe that? I know I could help if given the right approach and tools but where do I start? I know she has sensory issues.. she doesn't need to be diagnosed ..All the signs are there she hates to have her hands dirty, getting her dressed is a total nightmare, she can't smell ccertain foods I could go on..I should also mention that she has had several episodes of Fainting/seizures realted to pain(like tripping and bumping her head) they call it a vaso vago(spelling?) response.. seems related to me. on the bright side she is strong healthy looking and speaks perfectly! But help is needed for sure any words or articles I could read would be great.Thanks!

Lis said...

The Pediatric Center for Feeding Possibilities in Fort Wayne, IN

Robin V said...

You are right on. Everything you mentioned except for mouth stuffing we have experienced with our food aversion son. We've had wonderful success using food chaining, desensitization, "You can" statements and the hierarchy. I explain all these in more detail plus other techniques that have been helpful at It's a long slow road but worth committing yourself to for the good of the child.

SarahSLP said...

Children's Innovative Therapy Group in Bethesda MD provides feeding therapy for children of various ages. Check out are website here: