How will Food Chaining Help My Child Eat? by Chicago Speech Therapy

The Effects of Picky Eating

Growing up, children usually go through picky eating stages – it is a very common occurrence.  Broccoli and brussel sprouts can still be difficult to get down even once you’ve approached adulthood.   Most children go through changes and can find something palatable one day then be repulsed by it the next.  This natural change and growth in appetite is something that parents have to experiment with their child in order to provide nourishment.

There are some occasions where children have an extra hard time getting past the picky stage.  Some parents have a hard time getting their children the proper nutrition due to these finicky eaters.  Eating is a multi-sensory experience, and can be deterred by any one or multiple senses.  Texture, taste, temperature, smell or even sounds of foods may be difficult for your child to accept or experience.  In the early stages of your child’s development, it is vital that he or she gets the proper amount of nutrition.  Malnourishment can lead to many disorders that will affect your child’s growth and health.

What is Food Chaining?

There are ways to help children who have problem eating habits, or are unable to chew or swallow properly.  Licensed speech language pathologists (SLPs) have had great success helping problem eaters with a therapy known as food chaining.  This is an expansion upon the natural experimentation and exploration children are comfortable with.  By slowly introducing food into a child’s presence, he or she is able to experience and react to the individual sensory experience for items.

If the smell of foods bothers your child, then just bringing it into the room for him or her to experience is the first step to take.  Children can be intimidated to see and smell food from a distance; it is better to allow them to become comfortable with its presence.   Encouraging play and allowing children to handle the food will allow them to experience its texture.  They can do this by simply holding it in their hands.  This will also allow your child to experience the sounds it makes when manipulated by hand.  Asking your child to kiss the food, or lick can slowly introduce taste.  These are just a few examples of the ways in which a speech therapist can help your child overcome picky eating habits.  By taking the experience of food slowly, children find it easier to enjoy and learn.

Since each child may have different dislikes or aversions to food, each remedy will be conducted in a diverse way.  This is why diagnosing early is so important.  Identifying the specific area or reason why your child dislikes food can take time but is most quickly diagnosed by an SLP.