Do you have a picky eater? Can they do this.....?
When we hear or see the word "picky eater" we might automatically think it's because they don't want to try the food. We might think it's mainly "volitional/under their control".
"They won't eat anything and it's all in their head" is something you might have heard.
Some children who are picky eaters, tend to struggle with the actual motor skills needed for chewing and drinking safely. If a child feels they cannot manage that food safely or has not in the past, they will refuse! They refuse because their brain is keeping them safe! A negative association/experience is a strong obstacle when helping picky eaters.
We can forget that eating and drinking is actually refined motor skill and is coordinating beautifully with the respiratory, sensory, and nervous systems. When we initially start drinking breastmilk or formula, the body is coordinating a suck, swallow, and breathing pattern.
So as we grow and learn how to eat, we refine our skills.
How do I know if my child is struggling with picky eating because of their skills? not just a sensory issue!
If your child is older than 2 years, can they do this?
swallow liquid from a cup without losing any liquid from their mouth
swallow food (combination of textures) without losing any food from their mouth
transfer food from either side of the mouth without needing to pause in the center
drink from a cup/straw without having to "bite" on the cup/straw
manage a range of soft and hard foods (e.g. raw vegetables, meat, etc).
adjust their jaw to accommodate different thicknesses of food
when chewing, can they break the food down appropriately (no gulps! not swallowing large portions)
when chewing, the chewing movements are up/down and also "rotary" (almost grinding motion). At least beginning to chew with a grinding motion to break food down.
If your child has difficulty with one or more of the above-mentioned points, you can find ways to support your child's feeding needs. Many children will be able to move forward and learn these points on their own and others might not. There are opportunities to assess a child's feeding skills with a trained therapist in feeding.
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions/concerns.
I would be happy to assist you and if I cannot due to geographic reasons, I can help you find a trained therapist in your location to support your child's development.
Thank you for reading,
Jessica Earle, Occupational Therapist