Spoons For Feeding Therapy

April 9, 2019

Textured Spoons Can Help Treat Children with Feeding Disorders

Most children look forward to mealtime. It provides a chance for them to not only fill their empty stomachs, but to socialize and bond with friends and family. Unfortunately, for some children mealtime is a stressful experience they seek to avoid due to a number of issues. For these children, a technique known as feeding therapy can be employed to help determine why they are experiencing difficulties eating, address the issue, and then develop more effective feeding behaviors to improve the mealtime.

What is a Feeding Disorder?

A child with a feeding disorder is unable to meet their full nutrition and hydration needs. The underlying cause of this condition can be difficult to pinpoint, but some typical causes include physical reasons such as severe gastroesophageal reflux, food allergies, neurological impairment, structural anomalies, and cardiorespiratory conditions, as well as other underlying issues such as autistic spectrum disorder, anomalies in family feeding patterns, and behavioral disorders.1 Symptoms of a feeding disorder include difficulty with age-appropriate foods or textures, pain or distress when eating, and below average weight gain. In more severe cases, the child may gag and choke when eating, vomit frequently, or refuse to eat entirely.2 Meals may drag out over long periods of time, and the child may be willing to eat only a very small amount and extremely limited types of foods—sometimes just ten foods or fewer. To properly diagnose a feeding disorder, the parent should consult a doctor or other health care provider who can examine the child, obtain a medical history, and ask questions in order to compare the child’s behavior with age-appropriate feeding skills.3

Feeding Therapy Can Help Address a Feeding Disorder

The goal of feeding therapy is to determine the source of the child’s difficulties to help them develop normal, effective feeding patterns and behaviors. The therapist works with children to teach them the specific skills needed to make mealtime more enjoyable and nutritious, based on the patient’s unique needs and specific issues. Children may be taught oral skills, be introduced to new foods and textures, and learn how to enjoy eating while reducing their sensitivities to certain foods and textures.4 When children lack the skills needed to eat or drink due to developmental delays, illness, or allergies, therapists teach them how to control and coordinate chewing, sipping, sucking, and swallowing while eating and drinking, and attempt to increase each child’s oral strength and range of motion. Therapists also work with patients to create a positive mealtime experience and help them gain the self-feeding independence that they crave by teaching skills like drinking from a cup, eating with a spoon or fork, or drinking from a straw.5

Special Spoons Can Also Help Treat Feeding Disorders

For patients who are unable to eat from a spoon without experiencing gagging, vomiting, or coughing, specialized spoons can help. This issue may be caused by hypotonia, hypertonia, structural defects, and postural impairments, as well as behavior such as not opening the mouth fully, retracting the tongue, or holding the bolus of the spoon under the tongue or in the cheeks. Some children simply never learn the skill of retrieving food from a spoon properly, an ability that most of us take for granted. Therefore, therapists may work on spoon technique and teach the child how to fully accept a spoon using a dry spoon with nothing on it, or a spoon coated in a liquid or puree.6

AliMed offers textured spoons that can help children develop better spoon skills by combining oral-sensory stimulation with feeding. These products include:

Textured Spoons: These unique spoons have a textured bottom to provide oral-sensory stimulation and a shallow bowl to reduce the feeling of gagging. They are available in child-friendly colors and feature extended handles that allow hand-over-hand assistance from an adult.

Maroon Spoons:These spoons have narrow, shallow bowls that permit food to slide off easily for children with poor lip closure, oral hypersensitivity, or tongue thrust. They are made in two sizes from a durable plastic that can withstand reflex biting.

Beckman E-Z Spoons:These spoons were designed by Debra Beckman with a flat design and shallow bowl that doesn’t bump the tongue. Thick, tapered handles with slip-resistant grips help improve poor oral motor control. The material is designed to be rigid enough to handle food, but soft enough to flex. 

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AliMed, Inc. is a manufacturer and distributor of medical supply products, and is not a medical authority. The contents contained in this article, including text, graphics, imagery, and other materials, are for informational and educational purposes only. AliMed does not provide or intend to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and the information contained here should not be treated as such. If you have questions about a specific medical condition or specific personal use of a medical device, always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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