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SOS Feeding Australia : A Lifeline for Picky Eaters and Problem Feeders

sos feeding therapy

Feeding issues with children can be a bit of a nightmare for their parents and caregivers - the stress of are they eating enough, are they eating a variety, how to promote good food choices and a healthy relationship with food… there are so many questions surrounding food, it can feel overwhelming - especially when your child appears to be struggling. SOS (Sequential Oral Sensory) feeding therapy is a method that has become a lifeline for many families dealing with picky eaters and problem feeders. At Beelieve Paediatric Therapy, we work with SOS Feeding Therapy, a therapy based program for children of all ages aiming to help address feeding difficulties and promote a healthy relationship between our client’s and food.

What is SOS Feeding Therapy?

SOS feeding therapy is a holistic approach to addressing feeding difficulties in children. Developed by Dr. Kay Toomey, the method aims to assess and treat the sensory-motor aspects of feeding difficulties while considering the emotional and behavioural components. SOS stands out for its sequential and systematic approach, gradually introducing new foods to expand a child's repertoire and build positive associations with eating. We want our clients to enjoy food, and feel excited to try something new - fostering a positive relationship with eating is central to the journey!

sos feeding

History of SOS Feeding Therapy: A Holistic Evolution

The development of SOS feeding therapy emerged from Dr. Toomey's extensive clinical experience as a paediatric psychologist. It integrates principles from various disciplines, including occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and nutrition. Dr. Toomey's innovative approach recognises that feeding challenges often extend beyond nutritional concerns, addressing the sensory and psychological aspects of the eating experience.

Who is SOS Feeding Therapy Suitable For?

SOS feeding therapy is designed for children who struggle with a range of feeding difficulties, including picky eaters and problem feeders. It accommodates various developmental stages and sensory preferences, making it suitable for a diverse group of children.

sos feeding australia

Picky Eaters vs. Problem Feeders: Understanding the Difference

Picky Eaters

Picky eaters typically have a limited but accepted range of foods. While their preferences may seem restrictive, they usually consume an adequate variety to meet their nutritional needs.

Problem Feeders

Problem feeders, on the other hand, exhibit severe limitations in the variety and volume of foods they accept. Their selective eating habits can result in nutritional deficiencies and challenges related to growth and development.

sos feeding approach

While picky eaters generally maintain a sufficient variety of foods to support their nutritional needs, problem feeders face significant dietary restrictions that can hinder their overall health and development. Regardless of how we categorise feeding challenges, if you are experiencing feeding struggles with your child, an occupational therapist can assist with techniques and strategies.

feeding therapy

At Beelieve Paediatric Therapy, we use the SOS Feeding Therapy program because it enables a child to engage with food in a fun and stress-free manner, helping to reduce the stress around mealtimes. This process starts with the child learning to tolerate having food in their presence, then progresses to managing the smell of the food and understanding its texture on their body and in their mouth. Ultimately, the child can experience the enjoyment of tasting and eating new foods.

Snack Ideas for Fussy Eaters

We recognise that feeding fussy eaters can be an absolute minefield - safe foods, healthy foods, portion sizes - it can all be a bit confusing. In our therapy sessions we discuss ways to present food options that are specific to each client’s needs and personal challenges, but if you are needing some snack inspiration, these are two options we find children usually gravitate to:

Freeze dried fruits

These foods are predictable whilst still really healthy and nutritious for our kids. Freeze dried fruits have the same texture and flavour every time and are often a crunchy, airy texture similar to potato chips making it a more consistent food that our fussy eaters and problem eaters are often more willing to try and continue eating.

Volume of preferred foods

It is really important that our kids continue to eat!! Therefore we always recommend at home to continue to provide volume of their preferred foods as we start to try and introduce new foods during explorative therapy sessions.

Signs of Fussy Eating

Fussy eating in children can present itself in several ways, including limited food preferences, where children may only eat a small range of foods and reject others. They might show resistance to trying new foods, often resulting in mealtime battles or hesitation when faced with unfamiliar dishes. Children who are fussy eaters may experience anxiety or distress during mealtimes, becoming upset or overwhelmed when confronted with foods they don't like.

feeding therapy

Texture aversions are also common, with children avoiding foods based on how they feel in the mouth, such as slimy or crunchy textures. Fussy eaters may also display strong food preferences based on colour, shape, or brand, insisting on only eating foods that meet their specific criteria.

If this sounds like your child, please don’t despair - dealing with a fussy eater can feel incredibly isolating, but these issues are common and at Beelieve Paediatric Therapy we have a range of strategies we can utilise to help our clients navigate their journey into loving food.

When and Why Should We Be Concerned About Fussy Eating?

While picky eating is common in childhood, persistent and extreme selective eating habits may raise concerns. Parents should seek professional advice if fussy eating impacts a child's growth, development, or overall well-being.

If you’d like more information, we have some tips and advice for feeding fussy eaters you can access on our blog.

 sos approach feeding

How Do Occupational Therapists and Parents Help with Selective Eating?

Occupational therapists are trained to help their clients with selective eating. We strongly encourage parents navigating their way through fussy eating to undertake the professional advice of a therapist rather than attempting to self-manage with these strategies. Issues relating to foods are usually multi-faceted, and qualified, trained assistance will reduce the chances of establishing further negative behaviours. We want to work with you, be a part of your team.

Some of the areas that we undertake to support our clients with include:

1. Food Exploration

2. Goal Setting

3. Providing Education (to both parents and their children)

4. Creating a Positive Mealtime Environment:

5. Involving Children in Meal Preparation:

SOS Feeding Australia

tools for fussy eaters

SOS Feeding Therapy for families in Australia offers a comprehensive and systematic approach to address the challenges of picky eaters and problem feeders. By understanding the difference between fussy eating and potential feeding difficulties, parents, caregivers, and occupational therapists can collaborate to create positive and effective strategies for expanding a child's food repertoire. Remember, each small step toward embracing new foods is a victory, and SOS feeding therapy paves the way for a healthier and more enjoyable eating experience.

If you would like to book a consultation to discuss if SOS Feeding Therapy would be suitable for your family, please get in contact with Beelieve Paediatric Therapy today.

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