Responsive feeding therapy is available for individuals who have difficulty swallowing or have extremely selective eating habits, also called “picky eating.” This approach can also support feeding difficulties that may be a result of brain-based differences.

Responsive feeding therapy (RFT) centers autonomy, the feeding relationship, and internal motivation. Trust-based skill building and nervous system regulation is prioritized while supporting the child’s relationship with food and their body. Therapy focuses on the child’s felt-safety during mealtime and expands acceptance and eating abilities through play and exposure in a supportive environment. RFT also helps caregivers feel confident in their role in supporting their child.

Felt-safety and
nervous system regulation
is the key!


Who may need feeding therapy?

Feeding therapy may be helpful for children who have any of the following:

Oral-Motor Deficits: difficulty chewing or swallowing safely, coughing or choking, difficulty drinking from age-appropriate cup/bottle, abnormally long mealtimes, difficulty breastfeeding

Medical Diagnoses Related to Feeding: reflux issues, difficulty transitioning from gastric tube (G-tube) to oral feedings, not meeting feeding development milestones, poor weight gain/loss, concerns of adequate nutrition, repeated episodes of pneumonia or respiratory illness

Sensory-Based Feeding Differences: fewer than 20 foods in diet, refusal or avoidance of certain food textures, temperatures, colors, flavors, food groups, gagging or vomiting, irritable at mealtime, unexpected mealtime behaviors (crying, running from table, anxiety, etc.), parent stress of child’s diet or at mealtime

How does feeding therapy help?

Assess Oral-Motor Skills and Mealtime Habits 
puree and baby

Feeding requires oral-motor skills and ability to participate in mealtime routines.  

A comprehensive feeding evaluation includes assessment of underlying medical conditions and oral-motor exam to consider coordination, strength, and function of structural and muscular mechanisms needed to safely bite, chew, suck, and swallow a variety of foods and liquids.

Support Sensory-Based Feeding Differences

Mealtimes involve sensory processing and regulation.

A child’s accepted diet offers important information about their nutritional intake and current abilities to process sensory information related to various foods, drinks, and the mealtime environment. Differences in presentations, colors, textures, flavors, or temperatures of foods and drinks may need support to expand their accepted diet.

Increase Felt-Safety at Mealtimes 

Eating involves social and emotional aspects.

Children often are unable to describe what’s happening in their bodies during mealtime, and may feel anxious or scared around new or unpreferred foods. Children may use behaviors to express their discomfort or depend on undesired mealtime habits. Caregivers can learn strategies to increase a child’s felt-safety and co-regulation at meals.

Holistic & Responsive Strategies

Feeding therapy should support the whole child and family.  

It’s possible there could be an unknown medical condition that may be contributing to feeding issues, such as reflux or tongue-tie. The whole child is assessed to determine which management is appropriate. A feeding therapist will work closely with other professionals if needed to ensure your family’s needs are met.

Are mealtimes stressful?

Call today to learn more about our specialized feeding therapy services.