Increasing Awareness of Pediatric Feeding Disorder

Pediatric Feeding Disorder (PFD) presents significant challenges for children and their
families; raising awareness about PFD is crucial for early diagnosis and intervention, ensuring that children receive the appropriate care and support. This disorder can affect a child’s ability to eat and drink, impacting their nutrition, growth, and overall development. It is defined as “impaired oral intake that is not age-appropriate, associated with medical, nutritional, feeding skill, and/or psychosocial dysfunction.” Studies show that in the United States, PFD affects more than 1 in 37 children under the age of 5. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and Feeding Matters have been at the forefront of these efforts, working collaboratively to enhance understanding and recognition of PFD.

Understanding Pediatric Feeding Disorder

Pediatric feeding disorders encompass a broad range of difficulties related to eating and
drinking. These can include medical, nutritional, feeding skill-based, and psychosocial
aspects. Common symptoms may include difficulty with sucking, chewing, or
swallowing, aversion to certain textures or foods, and disruptive mealtime behaviors.
Early identification and intervention are essential to prevent long-term consequences,
such as malnutrition, growth delays, and social-emotional issues.

The Role of AOTA in Addressing Pediatric Feeding Disorder

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) plays a vital role in promoting
the role of occupational therapy in the assessment and treatment of Pediatric Feeding Disorder. Occupational therapists are uniquely equipped to address the complex interplay of physical, sensory, and psychosocial factors involved in feeding disorders. Through education, advocacy, and research, AOTA supports occupational therapists in providing evidence-based interventions to improve feeding outcomes for children.

Key Initiatives by AOTA:

  • Educational Resources: AOTA offers comprehensive resources and continuing education opportunities for occupational therapists to stay updated on the latest research and best practices in pediatric feeding.
  • Advocacy: AOTA advocates for policies and practices that support early identification and intervention for PFD, emphasizing the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Research: AOTA promotes research in the field of pediatric feeding, encouraging the development of innovative assessment tools and intervention strategies.

Feeding Matters: A Leading Voice in Pediatric Feeding Disorder Advocacy

Feeding Matters is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the understanding
and treatment of pediatric feeding disorders. Founded by parents of children with PFDs
Feeding Matters aims to provide support, education, and resources to families and
professionals alike. The organization works tirelessly to create a world where children
with feeding disorders thrive.

Key Contributions by Feeding Matters:

  • Educational Programs: Feeding Matters offers a range of educational programs for parents, caregivers, and healthcare professionals to increase awareness and understanding of PFD.
  • Support Networks: The organization provides support groups and resources for families, fostering a sense of community and shared experiences.
  • Research and Advocacy: Feeding Matters collaborates with researchers and advocates for policy changes to improve the diagnosis and treatment of PFD. For example, they have worked effectively to develop the Feeding Matters Infant and Child Feeding Questionnaire (ICFQ) – an age-specific tool designed to identify potential feeding concerns and facilitate discussion among the child’s healthcare team. It was designed by a group of internationally esteemed contributing authors including occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, physicians, dietitians, and more.

Collaborative Efforts: AOTA and Feeding Matters

The collaboration between AOTA and Feeding Matters has been instrumental in raising
awareness and improving the diagnosis and treatment of PFD. By combining the
expertise and resources of both organizations, they have made significant strides in
addressing the challenges faced by children with feeding disorders.
Joint Initiatives:

  • Public Awareness Campaigns: AOTA and Feeding Matters have launched joint campaigns to educate the public and healthcare professionals about the signs and symptoms of PFD, emphasizing the importance of early intervention.
  • Interdisciplinary Conferences: Both organizations co-host conferences and workshops that bring together experts from various fields, including occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, nutrition, and psychology, to share knowledge and best practices.
  • Research Collaboration: AOTA and Feeding Matters support and fund research projects aimed at developing innovative approaches to the assessment and treatment of PFD.

The collaborative efforts of AOTA and Feeding Matters have significantly advanced the awareness, diagnosis, and treatment of pediatric feeding disorders. By promoting education, advocacy, and research, these organizations ensure that children with PFD receive the comprehensive care they need to thrive. Continued collaboration and support from the broader healthcare community are essential to furthering these efforts and improving outcomes for children and families affected by feeding disorders.

Check out these important feeding resources that Therapro offers for your personal

Gust Blogger: Filomena Connor, MSOT – Retired

Preventing Academic Regression While Ensuring Summer Fun

As the school year comes to a close, families eagerly anticipate the long, lazy days of summer; it’s a time for relaxation, outdoor activities, and family fun. However, the transition from structured school days to a more flexible summer schedule can sometimes lead to a regression in academic skills for children. This doesn’t have to be the case! With a little planning and the right tools, parents can help their children prevent academic regression and maintain or even enhance their skills over the summer break, ensuring they return to school ready to succeed. Here are some strategies that can help.

1. Incorporate Learning into Daily Activities

One of the best ways of preventing academic regression during the summer months is to weave learning opportunities into everyday activities. Here are a few ideas:

Use Learn to Draw Books by eeboo to help prevent summer skill regression

Outdoor Exploration: Nature walks can turn into science lessons. Encourage children to observe and discuss plants, animals, and insects they find. To make critter discoveries even more exciting and educational, check out the Learn to Draw Animals book. Recommended for children age 7+, your budding artist will work on fine motor skills, spatial awareness, and have fun while expressing creativity.

Best Pals Diner Pretend Play that fosters executive function an essential component of academic skills

Picnics: Enjoy a picnic rain or shine with Best Pals’ Diner Pretend Play.  Children will love pretending to have an outdoor dining experience using guest checks, play money, food and beverage choices. Add your own play food for an imaginative new restaurant in your backyard! This activity fosters executive function, creativity, and social interaction, a perfect activity for preventing academic regression this summer.

Cooking and Baking: These activities are not only fun but also educational. Measuring ingredients can help with math skills, following recipes can enhance reading and comprehension, and discussing the process can boost language development. Make pretend food preparation more engaging with Scented Dazzlin’ Dough, which offers a variety of vibrant colored modeling dough that is scented. The resistive dough will strengthen fingers as the children mold “food”. Use cookie cutters to “bake” creative play cookies.

For hands-on cooking experiences with an adult supervising, Stepwise Breakfast and Lunch Cookbooks provide simple esteem-building activities that help children of varying abilities and ages experience cooking. The cooking instructions are arranged with one task per page and are clearly illustrated.

2. Maintain a Routine

SchKIDules; creating a summer schedule helps prevent summer skill regression

Keeping a consistent routine helps children feel secure and can make the transition back to school smoother. A daily schedule that includes time for reading, playing, and structured activities can help maintain the rhythm of learning. Try the SchKIDules Home Collection Combo Pack to help children understand and follow their summer routines. The 72, 2×2 inch pieces are magnetic and laminated. The SchKIDules Sensory Expansion Pack includes 12 activities such as swing, tunnel, chewing, etc. that can be added to the child’s daily routine.

3. Engage in Sensory Activities

Sensory play is not only fun but also crucial for development. It can help with sensory processing skills, fine motor skills, and even emotional regulation; essential components for academic success and perfect for preventing academic regression this summer. Here are a few suggestions:

Sensory Play: Fill bins with rice, dry beans, or sand and hide small toys or letters for children to find. Children love the Mini Animal Assortments; they are an inch or smaller and promote a pincer grasp. Choose Farm Animals, Sea Life Animals, and Wild Animals with 16 animals in each set, or choose an assortment of animals with 12 pieces. This activity can help with tactile processing and fine motor skills, sorting, and verbalization skills. You can add more fine motor skill work by using Gator Grabber Tweezers (ages 2+) that come in a set of 12. For success, the child must use a thumb/index finger grasp to squeeze the tweezer to pick up an object.

Sensory On the Go Camping Fun is designed for the preschool-age child to explore all of their senses, with a camping theme. The child employs fine motor skills and imaginative play in a way that will capture their interest. Parents love the “take-along” feature of this toy that comes with a handy, sturdy carry case that goes into the car, to the park, or to grandma’s house.

4. Promote Physical Activity

Yoga Dice

Physical activity is essential for overall health and can also support academic skills by improving focus and reducing stress. Encourage outdoor play, sports, and exercises that children enjoy. Products like the Yoga Dice: A Fun Game of Rolling and Posing can provide both fun and physical exercise for children ages 6 and older. This movement game helps children try out 36 yoga poses. It is a great game for facilitating motor planning and focus of attention! 

Parachute activities bring group giggles and fun!  All you need is a colorful parachute and a lightweight ball, like a beach ball or foam ball.  The adult leader can direct movements to increase shoulder range of motion (“big up/down”, “little up/down or shake”), strength and stability; facilitate gross motor transitions (“bring the parachute to the ground and now stand up again”); and improve focus of attention and following directions. The ball on the parachute bounces on top as the movement of the children directs its course. Don’t let the ball fly out of the parachute!   

5. Encourage Reading and Storytelling

Reading is one of the most effective ways to prevent academic regression. Create a summer reading challenge with rewards for completing books. Encourage storytelling and creative writing to further enhance language skills.

Books: Therapro offers a variety of books that can make reading more interactive and engaging. Consider the Interactive Reading Books series, which includes books designed to develop vocabulary, sequencing, and comprehension skills. With these books the child begins with matching, identifying, and labeling of objects. Next, the child reads the sentences with pictures, then without pictures and in random order. Meet the Word Family and Who’s on First? are 2 books in the series that work on pre-reading skills, taking children through sequential steps until they are reading words without pictures.

Library: Make going to the local library a special activity. If your child doesn’t have one, sign up for a library card. Exploring all kinds of books will help your child develop a love of reading. Most local libraries also offer free activities in the summer where your child can join other children for fun reading-related fun! These activities encourage active listening, turn-taking, and focus. 

6. Keep it Fun

Most importantly, ensure that learning activities are fun and not seen as a chore. Mixing educational tasks with enjoyable activities will keep children engaged and motivated.

Ending the school year on a high note and transitioning into a summer of fun and learning is possible with a bit of planning and the right tools. By incorporating Therapro products into your summer activities, you can help prevent academic regression and ensure your children are ready for the new school year. Enjoy the summer, stay engaged, and make the most of this special time with your children!

For more ideas and products to support summer learning, visit Therapro. Let’s make this summer one of growth, fun, and unforgettable memories!

Guest Blogger: Filomena Connor, MSOT-Retired

Therapro's Booth at CAOT 2024

Exploring Halifax: 2024 CAOT Conference Highlights

The 2024 Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia was an incredible journey for the Therapro team with many highlights to share. Setting out from the Therapro warehouse in Framingham, MA, the Therapro team embarked on a road trip filled with anticipation and excitement. Along the way, they had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the breathtaking scenery of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, soaking in the beauty of nature surrounding them.

Upon arriving at the conference, the Therapro team was ready to showcase the latest and greatest products to the passionate occupational therapy community. From assistive technology devices to sensory items, the Therapro booth was buzzing with activity as attendees participated in hands-on product demonstrations.

Among the conference favorites were the Functionalhand and Eazyholds, which captivated attendees by showcasing how they could seamlessly collaborate to accomplish fine motor tasks, especially when grip or grasp is limited. Attendees were fascinated by the versatility and effectiveness of these tools in enhancing functional independence.

Sensory items also stole the spotlight, with the Wiggle Wobble Chair Feet captivating attendees as they experienced firsthand the benefits of dynamic seating options. Fidgets, weighted items, and resources like the Sensory Connection Program and The Polyvagal Path to Joyful Learning were met with enthusiasm, highlighting the growing importance of sensory interventions in therapy.

For school-based therapists, Therapro offered a wide array of resources to support fine motor development, including various pencil grips, raised line paper, and slant boards. The Fine Motor Olympics, a collection of engaging activities designed to promote fine motor skills, garnered significant interest and excitement among attendees.

Evaluations such as Here’s How I Write and the COMPs provided valuable insights into assessment tools that can inform intervention strategies and promote optimal outcomes for clients.

The CAOT conference was a whirlwind of learning, networking, and inspiration. Interacting with dedicated therapists made it a truly rewarding experience for the Therapro team. We’re thrilled to continue supporting the OT community.