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*The information on this blog and website is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace careful evaluation and treatment. If you have concerns about your or your  child’s eating, nutrition or growth, consult a doctor.

The Nuance Between a Responsive & Behavioral Approach to Feeding Therapy: Part 2

The Nuance Between a Responsive & Behavioral Approach to Feeding Therapy: Part 2

Part 2: The Case For a Responsive Approach to Feeding Therapy (Missed Part 1: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Professionals & Feeding Intervention? Find it HERE.)   Drawbacks of Behavioral Methods in Feeding Therapy Practitioners who use behavioral modification methods in their therapy sessions do so because they believe them to be useful tools for achieving their agenda of getting a child to eat. I have worked with therapists who use them, have been directly referred patients from inpatient behavioral feeding programs, and have seen many behavioral protocols that parents have been asked to follow within these programs/therapies. My core belief system rejects the idea that it is my job to “get” a child to eat, and therefore it is not necessary for me to use any tool that may cause anxiety in child I am treating, which is often the case when these methods are used. I have heard ABA clinicians use the term “break the child” in reference to the point in therapy where a child ultimately gives up and begins complying with “taking bites” in therapy; this smacks of dehumanization and is cruel, in my opinion. Another explanation for “giving in” could be found in trauma theory. Research is needed to examine if giving in and eating is actually a trauma response. “When the dorsal vagal nerve shuts down the body, it can move us into immobility or dissociation”…that comes after “fight or flight”, where a child is trying to avoid eating whatever the adult is presenting. A child who ‘zones out’ after fighting tooth and nail to avoid something they perceive to be dangerous is not ‘complying’. They are... read more
The Nuance Between a Responsive &. Behavioral Approach to Feeding Therapy: Part 1

The Nuance Between a Responsive &. Behavioral Approach to Feeding Therapy: Part 1

Part 1: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Professionals & Feeding Intervention Your child’s ABA therapist wants to develop a feeding plan for him right away. What should you know? Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) began in the 1930’s with BF Skinner, who believed that radical behaviorism was the lens through which we needed to view human motivation. Even though there have been many advancements in our understanding of behavior and motivation, his work continues to be used as the basis for an entire therapeutic and business model. With the advent of neurological imaging technology and the scientific measurement of cognitive processes (DeSouza et al., 2012; Kühn et al., 2014), behaviorism has ceased to be a leading theory of learning. Nevertheless, there has been a surge in the number of ABA clinics and providers around the country, with many integrating ‘feeding plans’ into their therapy sessions with children. I was recently asked to explain how I view the role of behavioral modification principles in feeding therapy and how the therapy model/approach that I practice and promote is different (see part 2 for my answer). Many feeding therapy programs (inpatient and outpatient) and some therapy providers (Speech-Language Pathologists-SLPs, Board Certified Behavior Analyst-BCBAs, etc) use ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) methods to “get” children to eat more or different foods than they are currently comfortable eating.  The proponents of these approaches point to research that heavily relies on low-level evidence such as “individual case-control studies, case series, or expert opinion without explicit critical appraisal or based on physiology bench research or “first principles” with small sample sizes” (often one child). I offer my perspective on behavioral approaches as someone trained in college by... read more
Keeping Your Kids Hydrated in the Heat

Keeping Your Kids Hydrated in the Heat

It’s summertime and as the weather heats up, staying hydrated is even more important, especially for our little ones! Dehydration can lead to loss of energy, lethargy, irritability, headaches, difficulty sleeping, constipation, fainting and if severe, can lead to more dire consequences*. Sometimes that cranky toddler is really a thirsty toddler, but with regular opportunities to drink and take in food with high water content, almost all children do just fine. (Use common sense around activity on hot days and sun exposure. Some kids are more sensitive than others, so watch your child and maybe skip that all-day soccer tournament when the temperature is in the 90’s!) Here are some tips to keep your children well hydrated and happy during the summer months. Pushing children to do anything around eating and drinking can backfire, so avoid pressuring them to drink more. Instead, try these ideas:   For the child who enjoys strong or interesting flavors, consider offering tart juices like cranberry or pomegranate, or add lime or lemon juice to water. If they seem to enjoy the carbonation of soda, offer flavored seltzer water or mix sparkling water with juice. Turning up their nose at plain water? Consider adding water flavoring like Mio, Hansen’s Natural Fruit Stix, or watered-down juice or Gatorade. Get shaped ice cube trays and make ice from juice or water for a fun addition to water. Let them pick out a special new cup that they can drink from at home and on the go. Keep an insulated cup in the car during days spent driving around in the heat. Show your child how to use the... read more
Five ways facilitation can turn into pressure with extreme picky eating

Five ways facilitation can turn into pressure with extreme picky eating

1. Offer opportunities to sample new foods in a low-pressure environment such as Costco, Trader-Joes or other stores with samples. facilitation: “I’m glad you liked it, I’ll pick some up next time I’m at Kroger (Walmart, etc.). Can you help me find oranges?” pressure: “Okay, but there are 64 of them and you promise you’ll eat them all if I buy them?” (“I will!” he insists, but you still have 62 of them a year later…) 2. Your child eats some gnocchi with pesto off your plate at a restaurant. facilitation: Offer to put a few on his plate (if you are comfortable with it he may continue to eat them from your plate for now if he doesn’t want them on his plate). Maybe pick up some gnocchi later in the week or offer pesto with pasta as an option the next time you serve spaghetti. (You could try to ask what he likes about the dish, the pesto or the gnocchi, but keep it casual and change the topic. Consider not drawing attention to it if your child is super sensitive to any interest/focus on his eating…) pressure: On the way home you go to a store and buy two packages of gnocchi and three jars of pesto, telling your son, “We’ll have it again tomorrow since you liked it so much! We’re so proud of you that you added a new food!” 3. Offer a paper napkin with meals so your child can spit food out (get food out of their mouth without gagging or vomiting). facilitation: Place the napkin next to each setting, or have a child... read more
One Page Essentials Handout for Extreme Picky Eating

One Page Essentials Handout for Extreme Picky Eating

Parents often ask us for concise information for family and friends: perhaps a grandparent will have your child who struggles with eating for the weekend or you want to share your philosophy with a nanny or childcare provider. Here is a one page handout (click here for free, printable PDF Extreme Picky Eating Essentials) perfect to stick to the fridge or the inside of a kitchen cabinet! Share the blog to preserve links with more information. Let’s face it, your parents probably won’t read a book, but they might read a one page handout and a few links!                                                     Essentials of Helping a Child with Extreme Picky Eating There are many reasons why a child might not eat enough quantity or variety to support healthy emotional, physical, or social development. These are complex issues, not the result of a child just being naughty. Help a child with extreme picky eating by reducing anxiety and supporting appetite with routine and pleasant meals. Progress may take longer than you’d like, but pressure, bribes, rewards, threats, and even praise can slow the process. Here are some ways to help children learn to enjoy new foods, and eat the right amount for healthy growth. (For more, read Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating.) Rotate a variety of foods at meals and snacks, including foods the family enjoys. Use this food preferences list to help with ideas of what to serve. Offer foods many ways, many times. Consider blueberries: rotate... read more
When You Worry That it Won’t Work: Lessons from Responsive Tube Weaning (Guest Post 2)

When You Worry That it Won’t Work: Lessons from Responsive Tube Weaning (Guest Post 2)

This is the second part of our series around using Responsive Feeding Therapy when the stakes are the highest.  Our first guest post from Heidi Moreland from Thrive by Spectrum Pediatrics can be found here. When You Worry That It Won’t Work Elisabeth Kraus, MiT; Becky Keifer, MA-SLP, CCC; Lisa Grentz, RD Growing Independent Eaters I’ll never forget that phone call.   I was speaking with a mom who had spent the last years trying to be everything, and everyONE, that her little girl needed. A dietitian herself, she wept as she told me that she never imagined that her child would struggle to eat – struggle badly enough to require tube feeding in order to grow, in order to stay alive. And here they were, years into their journey, her daughter eating and drinking nothing by mouth, all while she tried to function as dietitian, nurse, doctor, feeding therapist, house cleaner, chauffeur, cook, and everything else that you can possibly imagine. Nothing, she told me, was helping her daughter learn how to eat, and she was exhausted – tired from the years of trying to do it all.  “I just want the chance to be a mom,” she said. “I’m don’t think I can keep doing it all.” I’m not sure if she knew, but I sat on the other end of that phone call, crying myself as I recognized so deeply the pain she felt. She wanted her baby to be okay. She just wanted her baby to eat, not just because she had to, but because she experienced the wonder of family mealtimes and the food... read more
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