Holidays can bring a whirlwind of stress, especially at mealtimes. During these holiday meals you may wonder, “Is my child being ‘picky’ or is there something more going on?”

We use all of our senses to eat- tactile, auditory, smell, vision, and taste of course! It is more difficult than walking or talking, and it can affect us cognitively, socially, and physically. Woah! Is your mind blown like mine is?

3-5% of children have feeding disorders. What is a feeding disorder you may ask? Is it picky eating such as a child not trying a banana but they will eat strawberries, blueberries, etc.? Is it a medical issue meaning the child cannot safely swallow without food or liquid going into their lungs (aspiration)?

These are great thoughts; however, feeding disorders are defined as: a severe disruption to eating, drinking, or digestion that causes a child to not take in enough calories to maintain or increase their weight at an expected pace. (

Many types of feeding disorders exist. Children may present with one or more of the following:

  • Difficulty with textures (e.g., applesauce, tapioca pudding, jello)
  • Refusing certain food groups (e.g. only eating carbs, refusing vegetables)
  • Refusing solid foods or liquids
  • Having a limited variety of less than 20 different foods in their diet
  • Throwing tantrums at mealtimes
  • Choking or gagging at mealtimes
  • Oral motor and sensory problems (e.g. inadequate lip closure or chewing on one side of mouth only, poor tongue control, etc.)
  • Gastrostomy (g-tube) or nasogastric (ng-tube) dependence

If my child is presenting with any of the following listed above, what should I do?

  1. First and foremost, recognize that YOU did an awesome job recognizing the signs to seek out services!
  2. Contact a feeding therapy provider in your area. CI Pediatric Therapy Centers provides consultations at all of our locations, which include Fitchburg, Middleton, Sun Prairie, Verona, Janesville, or Waunakee.
  3. Partake in a feeding evaluation with a multidisciplinary team (e.g., pediatrician, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, etc.) to determine if services are warranted.
  4. Begin the journey with your child! Feeding therapy is not an overnight fix, but a process that has an incredible impact on your child’s emotional and physical wellbeing. Treatment approaches include individualized therapy or a peer therapy approach. Each child is different, and your multidisciplinary team will work with you to find the best fit for you and your child.


Written By: Tiffany Smith, MA, CCC-SLP