Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP feeding expert shares some simple tips with SensoryFlow.
Melanie has worked with families on how to have children be more adventurous eaters. Some children she sees dues to underlying conditions such as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Down Syndrome, Autism or any number of physical issues that require individual feeding therapy. Her experience with parents of special needs, and also looking back on being a parent herself, has given her so many wonderful tips on working with children and helping families have Happy Mealtimes,
Keep mealtimes as joyful as possible
When a child is dealing with Sensory integration problems they struggle with the ability to take in information and what to ignore. Melanie has a favorite quote she uses with families from Jean Ayres about experiencing an orange. That the whole body gets feel the sensations to know how to peel and eat and orange.
Children are young explorers, they need to explore food with the whole body not just their mouths
So many times we are caught up in keeping our children clean, whether at a restaurant or because we have new carpet. Melanie stresses it is important for kids to get mess and to always encourage kids to explore their foods with their whole bodies. She suggests even trying pudding in a bathtub because you can always rinse them off when they are done! Melanie has helped many children overcome severe feeding issues due to Sensory problems. One family is quoted in her book that tells how far they have come from mashing and rolling food to enjoying eating a variety of delights, even if the mess still happens. Melanie taught them what their daughter needed to become successful at experiencing food.
Exploration of food begins early and this is a time to also help young feeders, ages 6-8 months old, integrate the reflexes of suckling into eating more solid foods. This is a time that the oral motor skills begin to emerge with eating of a spoon. Melanie has gained a lot of experience in feeding therapy and learned as a parent some great easy tips to help this transition. Babies of this age just need to start to taste new food, they can still be trying to control the tongue thrust reflex that happens when they breast or bottle feed. When presenting food at this stage, the trick is to wait for the child to open their mouth wide, then with the spoon present the food and press lightly on the tongue. At his point, wait for the top lip to close and remove the spoon parallel to the floor. She stresses only small amounts for tasting at the beginning.
There are many great spoons available for early feeders. Coated spoons, spoons with shallow bowls and spoons with short handles are perfect for this age. One of Melanie’s favorite is a little dipper. This allows for just dipping of the end of the spoon into puree and allowing a child to learn to self feed. A wonderful design to this spoon is it has a lip block. The lip block only allows the spoon to go into a child’s mouth a slight bit. Other spoons that also have short thick handles are perfect for those little hands. The way a child will naturally grasp a shorter spoon makes for a lip block by their own fingers. Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids has more information about early feeders to help reduce your child’s frustrations at this stage.
About this time is also when Melanie suggests working on cups and straws. When you see less spillage from eating those first purees is a good sign your child is ready.
“Straws build their Orbicularis Oris, your kissing muscles”, I’m sure that has many benefits.
When starting with liquid in a cup and lid, be sure to fill the cup full. A full cup will have only about ½ inch of space in the straw and make it an easy first suck to get to the liquid inside. You can also use puree at this stage. The puree stays in the center of the tongue and they are already getting used to this taste and texture. It also does not spill out like liquid. Be sure to use a short straw, flexible straw are a good choice. A short straw allows the child to remove the straw and complete the swallow of the liquid or puree, reducing tongue thrust.
Melanie give a great visual example in her video of what it should look like when your child is swallowing after taking a sip out of a straw.
Many more useful tips are in her fun and easy to read book. She includes stories from parents and how they tackled the issues together to find success.
Her advice to parents who’ve completed feeding therapy or want to continue encouraging their children to be more adventurous eaters is simple.
Keeping it joyful and keeping it fun. It is about fun. Keeping every experience positive leads to good nutrition and healthy bodies and a wonderful time together in your home with your family.
Melanie Potock is a Speech Language Pathologist specializing is feeding therapy. She is the author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids: How to Teach Your Child About the Joy of Food!
To read more about the book you can go the in review here, or go directly to Melanie’s webpage, My Munch Bug. There you can find her Book and also her wonderful CD, Dancing in the Kitchen. Listen to A Peas Operetta on YouTube!
To see Melanie at a speaking engagement, you can find her full updated list here on her webpage, My Munch Bug.