Food Therapy #4

I feel the need to keep going back and updating our food therapy information. Here is my last post on food therapy – which has two links on it to #1 and #2 – those have the most in depth info about what we do and why.

The reason I feel the need to do this is that I get sooooooo many questions about what we do and why and how it works. I get so many moms who say “wow. I am so glad to read this. I thought I was going insane.” (or was a bad mom, or had something horribly wrong with my kid) Most families I know that go through extreme eating issues with their children find very little support from family or friends or even doctors. They get so frustrated. The women and men I meet in real life – at food therapy or at school – all have been at a point where they hate food, they hate meal times, they have stopped cooking for the family, they avoid food themselves or over eat, they are embarrassed to talk about it because people say “just make him eat…” like you are stupid and haven’t thought of that yourself. They don’t know how to explain to other parents (or doctors or teachers) that normal methods don’t work. That this child WILL starve themselves. That THIS child isn’t just being obstinate. 

We have seen some amazing progress this summer with my son and I really want to share some of what we are doing because it has really helped and it’s all new. 

I don’t want anyone to take any of my posts as medical advice, or to use this in place of trying to get professional help. But I do feel like if one tip helps one mom out there feel less crazy and alone, then it’s worth writing down. 

At the end of spring we started seeing an OT for my son’s sensory processing issues. She has really helped and has given me some great ideas. Our feeding therapy kind of felt like it was stalled. We had gotten past the freak out if the food is even on the table phase. We had gotten past the taking a tiny “ant bite” of new foods without melting down for hours. We were confident licking and smelling and kissing and exploring new foods through touch. We were stalled at that point. I could not get past “taking a tiny ant bite” to “eating half of a hot dog” or whatever food we were working on. 

I have to be honest I was getting a little frustrated. A tiny ant bite does not a meal make. Even several tiny ant bites doesn’t make a meal. 

The feeding therapist and the OT therapist collaborated. We started having both therapies in the gym. The OT combined heavy work with trying new foods. It has been amazing so far. Apparently the use of both gross motor skills and fine motor skills can help some kids feel less anxiety or push through the anxiety about trying new foods. I am going to list some of the things that have helped us or that have been suggested to us and a brief description. I don’t think any of these things could be detrimental really, (please make sure there is no choking hazard – don’t jump while actually swallowing unless you are confident your child has the coordination not to choke, etc) so I don’t feel funny giving “therapy suggestions” when I am not a qualified therapist. Trying similar type activities may help other children too. 

The progress I have seen over the summer has been incredible. We have gone from refusing meats all together to eating 2 chicken nuggets or a whole slice of deli turkey at a time. We have also tried quite a few new veggies and snack type foods with out major melt downs. Honestly this is the fastest and most encouraging success I have seen.

I want to mention that some parents like to do food therapy at main meals and some parents like to do it at snack time so meals are more “mannered” or more “socially acceptable” – let’s face it, grandma might not think it’s so fun to paint with pudding on her dinning room table. Our therapists have always let us choose whether we want to make main meals part of the therapy time. When I am just tasting new things, getting used to a new smell, etc – I don’t mind using meal time for that. But I do think that using meal time for some of the games we have done is more for snack time. When we first started and we were holding a cracker (for example) in our lips and spitting it in a bowl, I chose not to do that at meal time. These gross motor skill and find motor skill ideas I have also mostly chosen to do at snack time. (not snack foods – all foods – but not during family dinner) If I had more children I would definitely do them at a time separate than sit down family meals, mostly because I think chaos could quickly ensue. But it may be helpful to include other siblings.  

Ideas we are using and have had success with:

1. Heavy work. We have seen awesome, awesome progress using this. Heavy work is simply exercises that use your major muscles. Kids with sensory problems like my son benefit greatly from core muscle improvement as well as major muscle work. Examples are things like lifting hand weights, jumping up and down, climbing things, running, hand stands, bear crawls, swimming, lifting a heavy ball, pull ups, pushing or lifting and moving heavy things like full laundry baskets, full bookbags and couch cushions, karate type moves with punching and kicking – especially with contact to a heavy bag. All good examples of heavy work. We try to incorporate these types of activities into our daily routine every 2 hours. At first it was difficult for me to think about it and say “ok, do some bear crawls”, but now it’s second nature and my son does much of it on his own throughout the day because it makes him feel better. So, how do we incorporate feeding therapy into this? We do heavy work while we try new foods. So far we have done things at the gym at OT like climbing and jumping onto a crash pad, swinging on a platform swing, hanging by his hands, crawling through tunnels, etc. At the gym he would do one activity in a 3-4 activity circuit and then take 2-3 bites. At home he has made tall stacks of couch cushions, climbed up them and jumped off, then ran over to get a bite, then run back to climb again or rearrange and climb. (the lifting, climbing and jumping onto a pillow are all heavy work) He has done jumping jacks, stomping, jumping, running, climbing at the park (my OT likes park work a lot, so she suggested picnics) and swimming at the pool we have access to a the apartments – next summer we will have to get a season pass to a local pool – it is such good therapy. He just does some heavy work for a few minutes, then runs back for a bite. It is going amazingly well. No fighting, no fussing, no upset snack times.

2. Movement. My son loves to swing. He loves to spin (and doesn’t get dizzy or nauseated). He loves to ride fast rides. Any kind of movement like that is terrific for him. He has done some really good work between turns on the swing at the park and in the gym at OT (I had to put a limit – for example 10 swings, jump out, run to me for one bite). I can’t wait until we get our house – we have a Twizzler (a spinning toy that you hang on from your hands) and his dad is already figuring out swing ideas after he saw what we do at therapy. I think that will be excellent for food therapy. Some kids might do well on a sit and spin or rocking chair as well.

3. Stomping – this is basically heavy work, but it has worked so well my son does it on his own now – and doesn’t even always realize it. If he is feeling anxious about a food, or having a hard time taking another bite, he stomps his feet under the table. Wow. It helps so much he does it himself. Just encourage stomping during bite taking or chewing or swallowing and it may really help. 

4. Fine motor skills. Games. My feeding therapist did this and it helped a lot. I don’t know if it’s a distraction or what – she said fine motor skill work sometimes helps kids – but didn’t really explain the reasoning. We have a travel “connect four” and a small checkers board. I am looking at a travel sized battleship and a few others. Basically how it works is you set up the game, and every time they take a bite, they get a turn. You take your turn, they take a bite, and they get their turn. It really has helped. I think it’s better to do as a once in a while thing so it doesn’t lose it’s novelty.

Now, I know some of you are thinking “but I can’t even get him to kiss a piece of turkey, much less eat it!!!!” Stop waving your kid’s turkey eating in my face! 

I get it. I do. I was there this time last year. But tiny progress is better than no progress. So your kid won’t bite deli turkey. That’s ok. Have him lick it between swings or jumps or climbs. Have him kiss it. Have him stick a piece on his nose for 30 seconds. It can be scaled back or scaled up. Maybe you are going for more quantity – have him take 5 bites instead of one. This has been a terrific time to PUSH. I have been wary of pushing before now. I always took the least aggressive route because we were building trust. I have really been able to push during these activities without causing mistrust issues.

This all has helped way way more than I thought it would. I encourage anyone to try it. 

Some more resources I have found interesting: 

This blog post about how bouncing helps feeding issues:

And honestly the whole blog:

This pinterest board: 

This whole blog: 

This site:

Tons more out there if you have a few minutes to google “food therapy and occupational therapy ideas.” There are lots of people way more experienced with me with terrific ideas!



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