Feeding Therapy


Picky Eating or Disordered Feeding?

Picky eating and occasional food refusal are not uncommon in children. We all have food preferences and children are no different! However, in some cases this picky eating can evolve into a chronic problem that affects a child’s access to adequate nutrition and limits his or her ability to participate in mealtime with peers and family. It is in these cases that a speech-language pathologist trained in the evaluation and treatment of pediatric feeding disorders can be an invaluable resource.

Signs of a Feeding Disorder

Is your child’s diet limited to a few, very specific foods?

Does your child refuse foods based on color, texture or brand?

Does your child cry, gag, or vomit when refusing non-preferred food items?

Does your child throw tantrums or refuse to sit at the table during meals?

Does your child get upset at the sight of non-preferred foods?

Are mealtimes stressful for you and/or your child?

Do you find yourself constantly bargaining with or attempting to persuade your child to eat his or her food?

Do you use the ipad, television or other technology to distract your child so that he or she will eat?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider pursuing a full feeding evaluation. Mealtime does not have to be stressful!


Feeding disorders can also be physiological, or related to the movement and coordination of the muscles required for swallowing during the oral, pharyngeal, or esophageal phases of the swallow. This type of swallowing disorder is known as dysphagia (dis-FAY-juh). Dysphagia can occur during one or more phases of swallowing.

Signs of Dysphagia:


  • Losing liquid out of the mouth
  • Gulping/audible swallowing
  • Breath holding
  • Wet, gurgly vocal quality during and after eating
  • Coughing
  • Red, watery eyes during and after eating
  • Arching, crying and pulling away from the breast/bottle
  • Falling asleep while eating
  • Feeding for more than 30 minutes at a time
  • Frequent spitting up or vomiting

Cup drinking:

  • Losing liquid out of the mouth
  • Inability to drink from a developmentally appropriate cup (i.e. unable to transition from bottle to sippy cup or straw cup)
  • Coughing
  • Choking
  • Liquid coming out of the nose

Eating solids:

  • Drooling
  • Pocketing food in cheeks
  • Stuffing
  • Incomplete or inadequate chewing
  • Gagging
  • Coughing/choking

Dysphagia can put your child at risk for dehydration/poor nutrition, food refusal, choking, aspiration (when food enters the airway), and pneumonia; therefore, it is important that you seek help from a professional to address these issues.