Fussy eating can be very frustrating and stressful for parents, especially when the range of foods a child will eat is extremely limited, however for fussy eaters food can be extremely fear/anxiety provoking. For some children it can just be that they are a bit picky and a phase they will pass through with some gentle encouragement and exposure to different foods, however for others fussy eating is a lot more complex. There are a number of factors that can lead to fussy eating including, sensory sensitivities, traumatic experiences related to feeding (e.g. tube feeding, reflux, food intolerances) and poor/under developed oral motor skills resulting in chewing and swallowing difficulties. Due to the complex nature of fussy eating determining the underlying cause/s is vital and therefore a thorough assessment of the child’s feeding and medical history as well as a sensory processing assessment is needed in order to ascertain appropriate therapy. For true fussy eaters there is unfortunately no quick fix and therapy will be a gradual step by step process in order to encourage interaction with food at the child’s own pace. This is vital in order to avoid increasing anxiety and increasing fear that is likely to already exist around eating. Depending on the severity of the child’s difficulties this process may start with the child learning to tolerate being in the same room as certain foods and for others they may be able to tolerate touching new foods through play but will not be ready to actually try the food. The important thing for parents to remember is to remain positive around mealtimes and food interactions and never to force a child to eat a food that they resist as this may lead to further aversions. If your child is a fussy eater and you feel like you need some support through fun play-based therapy contact us at Adelaide Night and Day Family Therapy and book in to see one of our Occupational Therapists.
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