Once we understand the many reasons a child in our care may struggle to eat, and we understand that selective eating may be a red flag for an underlying neurodevelopmental or sensory integration difference. Then as caregivers, we ask what can I do next? Which practical strategies can I use at home or in school to support a child who is struggling with eating?
The first and most important step is to have a child evaluated by a trained and registered medical professional, it is important to rule out medical conditions. A specialist speech and language therapist will be able to check that a child can swallow safely.
An occupational therapist can assist with feeding and eating difficulties because both feeding and eating are occupations, and so this is their area of expertise. The therapist might look at how eating can be broken down into smaller easier steps that a child can manage, or suggest that you change something in the environment such as finding more suitable seating, reducing noise, smells or distractions. An occupational therapist with post-graduate training in Ayers’ Sensory Integration will be able to both assess and treat any underlying sensory integration and processing difficulty which can be interfering with eating. In this post-Kath Smith (OT) talks about how a child’s gross motor movements, seating and posture can interfere with eating, and how these can be addressed by an occupational therapist.
But what next? what can we do at home and in school to support therapy? How can we transfer the things we have learned from the therapist to our own environments and to the (at least) 6 opportunities a day we get to interact with our kids to support them to become confident, adventurous eaters.
Here are some of the strategies we have tried, every child is an individual and so some ideas will work and some won’t. I also say, its best to take baby steps in the right direction, big changes that happen quickly are not helpful for anxious children. Just make one small change, as they say, Rome was not built in a day!
Keep an open mind, Listen to what the occupational therapist is saying, you are the expert in your child, but she is the expert in supporting our kids to overcome the difficulties they face. It is very likely that your therapist has seen and treated other children with similar issues before. This works best when we collaborate.
Ditch the rewards, punishments and star charts.
Think about seating
Reduce sensory overload from the environment
Reduce stress and pressure
Pick your battles
Use a visual support
Try to understand how your child views food
Make it fun
Serve a buffet
Model Model Model…
For more ideas have a look at these blogs and websites
During and post Covid-19 many of us who work with adults using sensory integration theory and principles are being asked about ways to help this client group post Covid-19 rehab. Join us to share resources, knowledge and learning about the senses and sensory integration about neuro-rehab including from Covid-19. Join in our community of practice on Telegram.
Our Telegram space includes articles including about stimulating the sense of smell and the importance of movement.
If you missed out on any this Summer, they are available for Winter watching via CLASI’s website, including Kath and Ros’ contribution on working with adults. Technology has enabled the International Vision and projects to develop ASI, and its practice across the globe, to continue despite COVID-19. ICEASI launched its website last month and we look forward to their updates and news about international programmes and education in Ayres’ SI. The minimum standards for education in ASI have now been published after many years of international debate and discussion and you can see these guidelines on the new website at www.iceasi.org.
Sarah Chierico left ASI Wise on 14 December 2020. Sarah has been with us as a member representing parents and those with sensory integration challenges. She has fulfilled this role since we started ASI Wise and has been great in her support of Ayres’ Sensory Integration on the Social Media team and in her role supporting the Education team to develop and deliver a range of modules and workshops. Sarah leaves us to pursue her career as an Occupational Therapist with Mosaic Children’s Therapy Centre Limited. We wish Sarah all the best in her future.
It has been a privilege to be actively involved in the EASI Project, as Regional and country leads and to have gathered together an amazing group of
normative data collection therapists collecting normative data for this new international assessment. Data from the British Isles is currently being analysed for the EASI preliminary norms for English speaking countries.
Kath, Ros and Mandy are excited about next year’s ASI Wise modules after attending the first M3 for US delegates, where the EASI was the focus test used to help delegates learn assessment skills about the constructs of Ayres’ SI. This was taught by Dr Zoe Mailloux and we were delighted to be included alongside other international instructors to observe this new test being taught online; live and interactive. Moving into 2021, ASI-Wise’s Module 3 will now include this focus on the EASI, with exciting news about the EASI norms and data collection received recently from Zoe and the team in the US. See the EASI 2020 Update for more news.
It has been inspiring how therapists have joined in and supported ASI Wise initiatives like ‘Sensory Stuck at Home’, jumped into webinars about adapting practice to deliver services online, including doing complex assessments and building Sensory Ladders on Zoom. The quick response was possible by accelerating projects already in development including Parenting Through the Senses and our Trauma, Mental Health & Wellbeing 10 Series Workshop’.
The online groups have truly shown the metal and commitment of our wider community – with advice, resources, discussion, virtual coffee and chat shared generously, often after a tricky day juggling and adapting to ever changing demands at work. It was inspiring how our community responded to each request and question, generously supporting each other.
To finish; this has been an extraordinary year. We have all been challenged beyond what we could ever have imagined, at this time last year. Not all plans could be actioned, but together we have created a responsive adaptive community of practice, emerging stronger and better equipped to meet the needs of those whom we serve, maintaining our professional standards and commitment to Ayres’ Sensory Integration.
We wish you all a calm, restful and peaceful start to 2021. Season’s Greetings to all and from ASI-Wise….Onwards!
Next Wednesday night, 16th December 2020 at 7.30 pm our evening coffee and chat will focus on ASI and Mental Health. Topics will include Covid-19, current neuroscience to support practice and how to use this to make the case for ASI Services in MH. We will also be exploring assessment and intervention beyond childhood. Bring your ideas, stories and experience to our community of practice coffee and chat.
Sign Up here: COFFEE AND CHAT | We hope you can join us TONIGHT. If you have registered before, the Zoom link will automatically be emailed to you. To register for the first time and receive the zoom link, please click here https://forms.gle/2udpNdcmjfdnsxbw7