Adaptive Feeding

Feeding is such an important Activity of Daily Living or ADL. However, sadly many children suffer from feeding disorders and difficulties. The reasons may be a medical condition or a sensory issue. Often premature babies suffer from feeding difficulties. Mealtime is so important across cultures, it is a time to sit down and enjoy food together. But, when your child refuses to eat anything and is suffering from low weight mealtimes can be a major source or stress. Parents who deal with these issues often build their life around their child’s eating. Some children will only eat purees when bribed with a digital pacifier such as an ipad.

Recently, I came across a post in an international special needs parenting group asking about adaptive utensils they can purchase. I quickly did a google search and found no store in their COUNTRY from which these items can be purchased. I then learned that people often use shoppers who can purchase items off amazon or other websites and send them things. However, when parents are unsure what to purchase, having a shopper can mean they are only incurring uncesssary expense. Shortly after this, I was contacted by a therapist who is having difficulties with the manual techniques of feeding with children who suffer from Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy is a disease that affects muscles and presents differently from one person to the next. It is caused by abnormal development in the brain or damage to the brain according to the CDC. This can occur in utero, during labor or shortly thereafter. While it is not a degenerative disorder, meaning it should not get worse over time the symptoms such as spasticity (muscle tightness) can get worse if muscles are not stretched frequently.

Unfortunately my experience with feeding disorders is limited. I do know of a wonderful feeding program called St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s is a Children’s hospital in New York that has a feeding program. They can treat children in outpatient or inpatient settings. They do a thorough evaluation which includes multiple disciplines. They then form a plan, and have a speech therapist who specializes in dysphagia work with the child. I found this wonderful article in the guardian that details the experience for outpatients by author Tahmima Anam:

She traveled from London to New York to participate in feeding therapy for her son. I quickly understand that what this therapist is asking is a very big task. It is not only manual techniques but a whole protocol that is necessary to really tackle a feeding issue. From the evaluation to the actual therapy a therapist specialized in dysphagia is very important.

With that being said my research did bring me to some excellent therpeutic feeding products. I learned that the maroon spoon is an excellent tool for feeding disorders. The maroon spoon is not as wide as typical spoons and it also is shallow and not scooped,this means the spoon doesn’t hold too much food at once.

I would definitely add foam padding to the maroon spoon for self feeding. This is to make it easier to hold. Typical utensils with a flat holding piece require a lateral grasp which can be difficult for young children or children with weak grasp or spasticity in their hands:

The maroon spoon and the foam rolls would be my ultimate items recommendation based on my knowledge. A good suction bowl would go nicely with these items. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a good one on Amazon, however, they are frequently found in the baby aisle.

For drinking, I recommend these cut out cups and the honey bear cups:

These items along with a preferred item or activity (toy, ipad) can be used to encourage and assist with feeding difficulties. However, for severe feeding problems a therapist with experience in dysphagia is necessary. And all children’s hospitals should work on establishing a feeding team. I hope to educate myself more on this topic and be able to follow up with some informative manual techniques next time. For now, I hope this article has helped someone!

For international parents who need assistance in obtaining therapy items. Please subscribe to the blog and a post will follow about consulting and shopping for therapy items.

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