A speech therapist explains what eating difficulties are, a disorder that is often confused with pickiness. Some cases require treatment
The feeding period is often a challenge for many parents and guardians. As the family tries to introduce different foods into the child’s routine, they may face obstacles such as pickiness and difficulties with food. But do you know the difference between each of these?
Delicacy or Difficulty Eating?
According to speech therapist Carla Diliberato, who specializes in treating patients with eating difficulties, a case of selective feeding is when a child resists accepting a certain type of food at mealtimes, whether because of the taste, the texture , the smell. or appearance.
In general, children with picky eating tolerate all food groups, including carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and animal and plant proteins. For example: You don’t eat all types of animal protein (meat, chicken, fish), but you accept at least one type, chicken.
On the other hand, children with eating difficulties find it difficult to accept foods from all groups and may despise one or more entire food groups. For example: Never eat any type of animal protein, regardless of the type of preparation and situation.
“I receive in my office many patients who suffer from “serious” food selectivity, and this difficulty is classified as a child eating disorder, as stated in Resolution No. 659 of the Federal Council of Phonoaudiology issued on 03/30/2022. In the case of eating difficulties, the child does not even want to know or be interested in new foods, and many times when approaching this food that differs from his routine, he may also suffer nausea and vomiting. texture and smell of the food”, says the expert.
This often makes the family “hostage” to this situation, unable to follow a different routine such as going on a trip or going to a restaurant. “Everything becomes very difficult in the case of a child who has difficulties eating, as he gets used to the home environment, to eating food prepared by his mother, grandmother or nanny, many times the family is unable to leave this daily routine and go for a walk standing up”, explains the speech therapist.
Another common case that Carla sees in her office is that of parents who think that their children are vegetarians because they cannot eat protein. However, she draws attention to the fact that this condition, which is not always noticed by the pediatrician, is also associated with difficulty chewing, which requires greater effort on the part of the child. This means that the child rejects the protein in meat because it is more fibrous and difficult to chew and not necessarily because it tends to be vegetarian.
“Some babies start to eat very soft and tasty foods from the moment they are given the food and end up not developing the ability to chew so much, so in some cases, accepting meat can be difficult, because perhaps there is an inability to chew. .
When do you seek professional help?
The speech therapist explains that eating difficulties are divided into different degrees that need to be analysed. When a child neglects entire food groups, parents should seek professional help to avoid putting the child at risk of nutrient deficiencies, which can increase the risk of disease in the future.
The most cited professional in these cases is the oral motor speech therapist. This is because she has had specific training to assess the orofacial sensory system for complaints of difficulty feeding.
“It is essential that the specialist investigate whether the child has emotional problems or related organic conditions, associated with feeding difficulties, which may interfere with the non-acceptance of food, as is the case, for example, of respiratory diseases (sinusitis, goiter , enlarged tonsils), general neurological diseases and gastrointestinal disorders (gastroesophageal reflux, food allergies, constipation), among other factors,” he warns.
In the case of emotional factors, Carla explains that eating difficulties can also be related to family dynamics. “In this case, it may be necessary for a psychologist to intervene, because children often eat at school or during therapy with me. And when he is at home, in the presence of his mother or relatives, he does not eat to draw. attention. The important thing is to analyze each case in a unique way, and depending on whether the emotional follow-up treatment for this child is very important, it is analyzed.