When is a child a problem eater rather than simply a picky eater? All children go through phases of picky eating, which typically begins during the early toddler years and slowly fades away during the early elementary years. When does this pickiness become a true problem? As a general rule, a child with fewer than 20 readily accepted foods is considered a problem eater. They may reject large categories of foods, often based on texture. Children may also be brand-specific with accepted foods, display meltdowns or high levels of anxiety when presented with a new food, and often struggle in social settings involving meals. A structured, family-centered feeding therapy program can help children expand their palates and incorporate a greater variety of foods into their diets.
Sensory-focused feeding therapy addresses the root of feeding challenges. Evaluation and treatment are focused on addressing foundation skills required for appropriate oral sensory processing. These include retained primitive reflexes, processing skills across each sensory system, and the ability to appropriately integrate sensory input for successful self-regulation. Once a child has a solid foundation, they will build feeding skills one system at a time, with a concrete path for families to follow at home.