75+ Feeding Therapy Tips & Strategies

For any therapist seeking to specialize in feeding, the best piece of advice I could give you is to become a sponge.  Take courses and workshops, read as many articles as you can, talk to and learn from your colleagues, join special interest groups on Facebook and ASHA etc., follow blogs, observe other therapy sessions, and don’t forget – learn from the children you treat as well.  They will be your best teachers.

 

Feeding issues are complex.  So take in as much information as you can from as many outlets as you can.  But, take it all in with a grain of salt, because not every strategy will work for every child.  Over the past 35 plus years, a number of people have told me that their way was the only way.  Although that certainly would have made my job easier if it were true, I’ve never been able to use any one method “by the book.”  Each child is different, so it will be up to you to evaluate their needs and cater treatment accordingly.

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Do Chew Tools Increase the Need to Chew?

Question:  My son has ADHD and Anxiety, he spends a lot of time chewing/sucking on clothes, plastic, and other non- edible items. Would your chewies encourage this sensory seeking behavior or will it help him to eventually not need to mouth everything?   My son is 7 years old.  Thank you!
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Do Chew Tools Increase the Sensory Need to Chew?

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Great question.  Although each child is different, having a chew tool typically doesn’t increase the need to chew.  Especially if the chewing is sensory-related, he’s going to have a need to chew whether or not he has a safe outlet to do so.  Using a chew tool just means that he’ll be able to safely and more comfortably meet that need (as opposed to chewing on his fingers, shirts, pencils, etc.).
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Chewing actually has many benefits, and it usually serves an important purpose.  When you’re thirsty, your body tells you to take a drink.  When you’re tired, your body signals that you need sleep.  Similarly, when some kids need to focus, organize, or calm themselves, their body urges them to chew.
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For more background on why some kids need to chew, click here.  And for a list of all of the chew tools we make, click here.  All options are made in the USA (woohoo!) and come in 3 different toughness levels.  As long as he’s not chewing through things or causing any damage to what he’s chewing/sucking on, it sounds like any of our softest chews would be a good fit for him.
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Some kids always have a need to chew.  Others grow out of it.  For some it ebbs and flows – they might go for weeks or months without needing to chew, and then it comes back again and so forth.  Often this is tied to stress (it’s common to see chewing increase during stressful situations like the back to school transition, holidays, if there’s been a lot of change in their life, etc.).  In my experience, for many kids the need to chew decreases over time, especially if they have other calming / sensory strategies in place, which you can learn more about here.
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I hope some of this helps!
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All my best,
Debbie

My Child Chews on Everything – What Can I Do?

Have you ever craved crunchy foods?  Or chewed gum?  Ever chewed on your pen caps while concentrating or bit your fingernails when nervous?  We all have oral sensory habits to some extent.
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For children with sensory needs and/or Autism, however, oral sensory input can play a particularly important role.  Chewing throughout the day (especially during times of stress and/or anxiety) can help them calm, focus, and self-regulate.
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There are several things you can do to help meet that need safely.  For the purposes of this post I’ll refer to children, but the recommendations here can apply for any age.  Some kids grow out of it, others may always have oral sensory needs to some extent through adulthood.
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Please note that the information here is based on my experience with the children I have personally seen as a speech therapist, and may not be relevant for everyone.  There is NO substitution to an in-person evaluation with a trained professional, with treatment catered to your child’s needs.

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Continue reading My Child Chews on Everything – What Can I Do?

Thumb / Finger Sucking Alternatives

Question:   My sensory child is more of a sucker than chewer.  She usually sucks on her thumb and fingers, but I am wanting to get her some other options for school and transitions.  She’s 5.  What do you recommend?


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Thumb/finger sucking can be a very hard habit to break – what works for one person may not work for the next.  Our products are mostly used by kids who need to chew.  Sucking isn’t as direct of a use for them, so I can’t be 100% sure she would use our tools as a substitute.  But some parents have successfully redirected the habit to our chew tools before, so I’d say it’s worth a shot.

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Thumb / Finger Sucking Alternatives

As a general rule for choosing a chew tool, I recommend trying to best match what the individual already likes to chew/suck on, as that will give you the best chance that the child will use it.  In this respect you’re in luck  – almost all of our chew tools have long extensions to reach the back molars, which means they’re also long like fingers.  We also have both smooth and textured designs.  The smooth ones would most closely match the feel of one’s hand.
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Feeding Issues from Reflux

Question:  I’m seeking help for our son. The short story is that my son was born at 25 weeks and was in the nicu for 3.5 months and has overcome many things.  When he left the nicu he was always a tough feeder (fussy) but always ate plenty by bottle. Then during a re admission, his feeding slowly declined and after a few weeks he was no longer willing to try anything.  The nurses were fairly forceful in their efforts in my opinion.  He has now been ng tube fed for 4 months.  He is 9 months, 6 adjusted.  He is going to go again to see a feeding specialist and back to GI but I’m looking for any possible help.  I should also mention that he has severe reflux and it really bothers him.  He vomits violently 2 or 3 times every day.  Please, any tips.  We currently offer him tastes of purees but he does not want to swallow the food I think because he is afraid of choking.  Thank you for any help you can provide.


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All medical issues that affect feeding must be managed first.  He’s not going to eat unless he feels well, and can’t be expected to before then.  So definitely no forcing – that will be your number one “feeding therapy commandment” so to speak.  I can understand why some parents / caregivers do this – they are hoping to prevent the child from having to be tube-fed.  But forcing can end up causing more damage than good.  Everything must be child-led.
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Food Pocketing in the Lips, Cheeks, and/or Gums

Question:  My four year old daughter pockets food in her lower gums.  Foods like pizza, chicken, egg whites, etc. (that do not melt like crackers or cookies).  She will simply let it stay in her gum pockets until she looks like a chipmunk and eventually we will have to remove it with our fingers.  She is not able to automatically understand the natural process of not allowing the food simply stay in her gum pockets.  How can we help her get the natural biting and chewing action which will prevent her from pocketing food in her gums?  We have a Grabber already and have her practice chewing on both the left and right sides.


Food Pocketing - possible causes & what you can do

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Great question.  There may be a few different reasons involved and a few different strategies to try: Continue reading Food Pocketing in the Lips, Cheeks, and/or Gums

Sensory Benefits of Heavy Work Activities

Heavy work activities are any type of action that pushes or pulls against the body.  This could be tension created by something pushing/pulling against your body (like swimming where the water pushes against the body) or tension that the body itself creates (like monkey bars where the body’s own weight creates the resistance).
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What Are Heavy Work Activities?.

Who can benefit from heavy work activities?
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Everyone!  Everyone needs heavy work activities to some extent.  After all, it’s mostly exercise and getting the body moving, which all of us need.  However, heavy work is of particular benefit for individuals with sensory processing issues for several reasons, such as:
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Why Does My Older Child Chew on Everything?

Question:  My 9 year old chews on everything… erasers, foam rubber, shirt collars.    He has always had an oral fixation since he was a toddler, putting toys in his mouth and chewing on everything in sight.  Is this something more than typical childhood behavior?  I’ve read on some discussion boards that your “Grabbers” are often used by other kids with the same issue.  Looking for advice…


Great question.  For babies and toddlers, putting things in their mouths is a normal stage of oral development.
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Some children, however, continue to chew non-food items well past the mouthing/teething stage.  For some, it is a passing phase.  Other individuals will always have a need to chew that may continue into adulthood.
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Why do some older kids need to chew?.

Why?  There could be many different reasons, and it’s not always a straight answer.  But in my personal experience with the children I see in therapy, it’s typically one (or a combination of) the following:

Continue reading Why Does My Older Child Chew on Everything?

7 “Think Outside the Plate” Feeding Therapy Techniques

Kids naturally like to discover and learn new things – that’s why they break things, take them apart, get into trouble, etc. – it’s all a part of the learning experience.
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But when it comes to feeding/eating, sometimes kids get stuck.  For one reason or another they stop trying new foods and exploring different textures.  When this happens, one of the best things I can recommend is to “think outside the plate.”

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"Think Outside the Plate" feeding therapy ideas.

When something’s not working, try switching things up!  Tap into the child’s inquisitive and playful nature to help them get unstuck and back to the discovery process.
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