We would like to share with you this incredible journey one of our young Tree Toppers has experienced through feeding therapy.
“My son had a difficult start with feeding, due to a dairy intolerance. Prolonged reliance on bottle feeding of specialist formula milk, plus continued vomiting throughout the day and night, led to speech delay and an extremely restricted diet. Fish fingers and one brand of Chicken nuggets were manageable, but he would not look at bread products, pasta, vegetables, or ‘wet’ foods – the ‘no’ list was endless!
By the time he was 7, this was having a real impact on his life, making it hard for him to join activities with his friends or to go anywhere without a supply of foods he would tolerate. He was bored with the food he could eat, but scared to try anything new – and would gag or vomit if he did try ‘strange’ foods. He could not tolerate being around other people as they ate – every day his lunch came back uneaten, because he was too close to other children who ate with their mouths open, or sprayed bits of food near his lunch. He would get distressed by this and become cross with them.
Way past the point of being able to dismiss this as ‘fussy behaviour’, we approached Treetops for help.
The initial assessment was a revelation, as we discovered underlying motor issues that stopped him moving new food around his mouth properly – being unable to deal with new tastes and textures meant that he had become completely unwilling to risk trying anything new. The assessment also highlighted other sensory issues that heightened his aversion to eating anything out of his comfort zone.
We had to be realistic in our expectations – we knew that Feeding Therapy would not lead to an overnight ability to eat everything. What we needed to work on first was overcoming his resistance to being around food and other people eating. And this was where Treetops began their programme.
They began by improving his tolerance to having new foods around him, then touching the food. It was gradual and the emphasis was on having fun and celebrating every success, however small. This built up through various stages, until he could put a small piece of the food in his mouth. Our therapist talks to us about any areas we’d particularly like to work on or foods we would really like him to try, but generally, we’ve focused on broadening his range of tolerated textures and tastes. This mainly involves putting the food in his mouth, but he can swallow small pieces of some of the things he’s tried. The strategies and games they play have really helped with this, and he looks forward to going to Treetops – especially with activities such as making funny faces using his test foods!
We have a Home Programme to follow, with a Sensory Diet to get his body ready to try a list of foods each week. The exercises do help to prepare him, and we find he is keen to show us his progress by eating the food he has discovered during his Treetops session. Now that we understand how challenging it is for him, we put more thought into how we can eat together as a family and make mealtimes enjoyable for him.
We would definitely recommend Feeding Therapy to any family facing the same issues. Enjoying food is something we all take for granted, and not being able to share that with family and friends can really undermine a child’s self-confidence and restrict social opportunities.
It’s still early days for us – we’re six months into a mission to override years of negative experiences with food. But in that time, we have appreciated every achievement. Last week, he asked if we could find him a dairy-free pizza, so he could try it out and be like his friends. He took a tiny bite, chewed it – and didn’t like it. But we all saw this as a huge step forward – he asked to try something new! Feeding Therapy at Treetops has given him the confidence to take these steps into the unknown, and we all feel much more relaxed as we know how to offer useful support without adding undue pressure”.
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