Picky eating can be a concern for families on many different levels at a variety of ages. Even experienced parents may find themselves surprised and unprepared to work with a picky eater.
As each child is different, it's important to understand that each one brings different experiences to the table that play into picky eating. A limited diet is often how a parent may sum up their picky eater. He'll only eat… or she doesn't eat any fruits. In either case, the frustration that parents feel when concerned their child isn't eating a healthy diet may only be matched by the anxiety a child feels when faced with an unfamiliar food.
Concerns regarding picky eating can range from life-threatening to simply frustrating. At the extreme, a child who is not properly coordinating the swallowing of their food may be at risk of some of that food ending up in the lungs instead of the stomach, a process called aspiration. Aspiration can lead to pneumonia and/or other significant health conditions. Additionally, not taking in appropriate nutrition can seriously impact growth and development as well as daily brain functioning. Picky eating may also lead to significant family stresses and feelings of inadequacy among parents unfamiliar with how to resolve this problem or within a family of differing opinions.
Once concerns regarding aspiration are addressed, it is best to try to understand the road a child took to get to this point. This is often multifaceted and very individual to each child and family. In some cases, the child may be demonstrating a delay in eating skills and may have tried a texture or food they were incapable of managing. If there is a history of the child gagging or vomiting, it's important to recognize that this is a red flag telling you to expect that memory to impact their experience eating. If this has happened to your child, try to step back and take a fresh look at the experience of eating.
- Does your child appear defiant during meal or snack time?
- Do you feel that eating is a "war of wills"?
We at Therapy Specialists can help with that. Decreasing tension, increasing fun during mealtimes and encouraging food exploration are all topics discussed in occupational therapy. To discuss your child with one of our Pediatric OT's, or to schedule an appointment for your child, contact our Liberty Station clinic today: