Does My Picky Eater Need Feeding Therapy Or Will They Grow Out of It?

by Lindsay Beckerman, MOT, OTR/L

As a feeding therapist, I get asked this question all of the time. The tricky part, is that research tells us that many kids are picky at some point in their life. About 50% of parents rate their toddlers (ages of 19-24 months), as a picky eater (Carruth, B.,, 2004). Between the ages of 2 ½ to 4 ½, 30% of parents rate their child as a picky eater (Dubois, 2007). Fortunately, about half of the picky eaters do grow out of it. The tough part, is figuring out which kids will grow out of it, and which kids need some help.

In our clinic, we have created a few different handouts for parents to help them figure out if their child is going through a stage, or if their child has some skill deficits that are making it hard for their child to eat. Here are a few red flags for kids who probably need some help.

  • Ongoing poor weight gain (dropping percentiles, or losing weight)
  • Frequent choking, gagging, or coughing during meals
  • Avoids all foods of a specific texture (crunchy foods, soft foods, purees, etc.) or a nutrition group (meats, fruits, vegetables, etc.)
  • Eats less than 20 foods
  • Your child has a NG-tube, G-tube, or GJ-tube
  • Mealtimes are consistently a battle
  • Children who have difficulty transitioning to purees by 10 months, aren’t accepting table foods by 12 months, still eating only baby foods after 16 months, or haven’t transitioned to drinking something out of a cup by 16 months.  

Read about more Red Flags

Sometimes, kids have more subtle problems at mealtimes, which can still mean that they don’t have the skills that they need to eat an age appropriate diet. Here are some ways to identify these kids.

  • Your child has a hard time sitting at the table for meals
  • Your child eats meals separately from the rest of the family
  • Your child can only eat with a distraction (a screen, toy, or book)
  • Your child is very brand specific about which foods they will eat, or their food needs to be prepared in a very specific way
  • Your child gets very upset when any new foods are presented at the meal

Read about more about Picky Eaters vs Problem Feeders

If this described your child, the good news is that there are lots of places that can help! Feeding therapy can be really fun, and it gives families and picky eaters some new ways to learn about food. To learn more about how to help your child eat and grow better, check out SOS Feeding Solutions at STAR Institute for SPD. Always remember, there is hope and help for picky eaters in feeding therapy with a sensory and play based approach!

Learn More About How to Know if Your Child Has a Feeding Problem

Lindsay Beckerman PhotoLindsay Beckerman, MOT, OTR/L - Feeding Specialist 

Lindsay received her Masters in Occupational Therapy from The Ohio State University. During her graduate studies, she received a graduate assistant scholarship where she trained under Dr. Jane Case-Smith in a multidisciplinary Autism diagnostic clinic and collaborated with a special needs preschool to provide OT services embedded within the classroom curriculum. Prior to employment at STAR, Lindsay worked as an occupational therapist at a pediatric psychiatric hospital, working primarily with school aged children with an Autism diagnosis in addition to a psychiatric diagnosis in their residential and school setting and in a sensory-based outpatient clinic. Additionally, she has completed the STAR Institute Intensive Mentorship Program and trained under Kay A. Toomey, PhD using the SOS Approach to Feeding. Lindsay joined the STAR Institute team to work I as part of a multidisciplinary team and to expand her knowledge and clinical reasoning skills with the support of experienced mentors.