Check Your Health: Occupational therapy for eating

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Occupational therapy for eating

(KUTV) Mealtime isn’t always easy if you’re a parent with a child. However, if your kid has problems eating, therapy can step in and help. This was the case for Natasha Newby and her son Taran.

“He got diagnosed at two with eosinophilic esophagitis,” says Natasha.

Taran has a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the esophagus when he eats certain foods. Natasha says he’s always had issues with eating ever since she began trying to introduce solids. Taran struggles with food because he fears how his body will react to many foods and is stuck eating only purees. This has led him to occupational therapy.

“You can have kids coming in for different reasons,” says James Stewart, Occupational Therapist at Dixie Regional Medical Center.

Whether it’s because of reflux, constipation, some sort of GI issue, or sensory difficulties, eating can be a challenge.

“Doesn’t really matter what the cause is. It all comes back to one central thing which is anxiety. They have some sort of anxiety with food,” says Stewart.

The goal of occupational therapy is to decrease that anxiety.

“They make it fun. They know how to go around it so it becomes like a fun adventure for them,” says Natasha.

There’s two approaches to make eating a positive experience. One is sensory based. This includes being playful with food, making it a lot of fun, and progressing through steps. The second approach is behavior based.

“You basically get kind of rewarded for taking bites,” says Stewart. “With Taran, I kind of mix the two together.”

In addition to therapy sessions, homework helps ensure kids continue to progress with their eating at home.

Many parents can relate to the stress of mealtime, which is why it’s important to reach out and get this kind of help.

“One of the biggest myths that’s out there is that if you wait long enough, kids will eventually eat. That is not true,” says Stewart.

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