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Help! My Child Won't Eat

Children are creatures of habit. If you’ve recently had a big change in your household, whether it’s moving to a new neighborhood or bringing home a baby, it can cause stress for your child, and he may react by not eating. This type of refusal to eat is usually short-lived. Making friends in the new neighborhood or helping with the baby may solve the issue. 

However, a number of more serious issues may be at play. The good news? These can be resolved with professional help. Our expert pediatric speech and occupational therapists at Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy’s two offices in Charlotte, North Carolina, are trained to get to the root of your child’s eating problem. Here are some of the issues that may affect your child’s eating patterns. 

Sensory processing disorder

Do the tags on your child’s clothing bother him so much that you have to cut them off? Perhaps he will only wear one type of socks. If your child has sensory processing deficits, he may only eat soft foods like mashed potatoes or pasta, and gag or take other types of foods out of his mouth when it’s something crunchy or chewy — or vice versa. Our therapists are trained to help children with sensory processing disorders.  

They determine the attributes of the foods your child does eat and use the data to have your child try foods with those same features. They’ll design sensory bins for your child’s play that help him experience textures similar to the foods he’s been avoiding. 

Our therapists also coach you on what you can do at home. For example, if your child likes bananas but won’t touch yogurt, you might introduce a tiny amount of banana yogurt, or make a banana smoothie. 

Oral motor problems

Some children have difficulty coordinating all of the mechanisms that work together to enable them to eat: tongue, teeth, jaws, facial muscles, swallowing. These oral motor problems hinder your child’s relationship with food. He may not be comfortable with the work involved in chewing high-nutrient food like meats if he has poor muscle development. If he’s gagged before while eating meat or a hard vegetable, he likely learned to avoid those foods and anything like them. 

Our pediatric speech therapist understands issues with oral motor development. Working with our occupational therapists, she can diagnose and develop appropriate, fun therapy exercises for your child.  

Rigid eating patterns

If your child has sensory or oral motor issues, he’s learned to avoid what bothers him — and that might be eating foods that are offensive to him. Our therapists work with your child to make eating a fun activity instead of something to dread. They provide you with tips to help calm mealtime at home for picky eaters

What can you do? 

Feeling safe and encouraged helps your child surmount sensory and/or oral motor difficulties when eating. Praise progress when your child tries something new. Avoid negative statements or commands about eating. Our pediatric therapists regularly provide strategies you can use at home to help improve your child’s ability to eat a variety of foods.

Call Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy or request an appointment through our online portal for help with your child’s eating patterns and other needs.

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