In our house, we have 3 children and their eating habits are all so different. All 3 have disabilities—and all 3 have their own eating styles.
Our oldest child is a great eater and will try just about anything. He is an athlete and has to be careful because he has a tendency to overeat.
Our youngest child eats okay, but will never try anything new. He eats, but only certain things.
Our middle child is the most challenging eater. She likes to eat, but it can be dangerous, as she was born with dysphagia. Dysphagia is the medical term for having difficulty in swallowing.
My daughter has learned the necessary movements to eat solid food, but she has muscle fatigue and weakness in her mouth and throat muscles that make eating difficult. Her meal times usually start off strong, but can quickly go downhill. Speech and feeding therapy are encouraged, but there are also many accommodations that can be put in place at home that will help.
One of the most helpful accommodations is to make sure meals are kept short and that they end before fatigue takes over. This works better when you do more small meals with snacks in between meals. This gives the child time to rest between meals to gain strength for the next one.
We have added a pediatric drink to her diet which has more calories and vitamins than regular milk. It definitely helps to make sure her caloric intake is where it needs to be. She still uses a cup with a lid and straw. She can use an open cup, but the straw allows the flow of liquid to be easier for her to manage.
We also use a lot of “food lube.” This is a name we call condiments. Adding catsup or mayonnaise to her foods makes it easier for her to swallow. Without the “food lube," the food would get caught in her throat as she would swallow. This is dangerous and could cause choking. Cutting the food into small pieces is another good accommodation to help avoid choking.
My daughter loves to eat and I want to help her be a successful eater. Simple changes to your child’s foods and routine can make them healthier eaters for a lifetime.
As a parent to a child with special health care needs, we often must learn little tricks to get things done. Each month Marty shares some of the tips and tricks she has learned along the way.