JJ with wip cream
Any parent who has a child who is a finicky eater can attest to the frustration it causes. When a child with autism, Down syndrome, low-muscle tone or cognitive delays has trouble eating, it generally has very little to do with the child being picky. It has everything to do with his or her need for intense guidance as well as physical and occupational therapy.

Many special needs children require extra love and patience to learn all of the physical and cognitive skills necessary to eat. For many of us, eating just simply happens. For these kids, they must be taught every skill we take for granted.

Every muscle in a child’s face, upper body, hands, and even his abdomen, has to be worked.

Before getting started with feeding, remember what works for one child may not work for another, so you may have to make your own modifications. Additionally, don’t forget to touch base with your child’s pediatrician and therapist(s) beforehand to inform them of your intentions.

Remember to make everything fun for your little one. Start out by making a relatively smooth texture.

Your goal will be to help your child increase the thickness of textures as he or she masters eating the smoother ones. Oatmeal with finely cut fresh fruit, yogurt or apple sauce are great and healthy mixtures.

Step 1. Start Feeding Solids to a 9 to12-month-old Child (great for 2 to 8-year-olds too)!

Purchase an inexpensive vibrating rattle, teething ring (at your local grocery store), a Nuk® massager, a set of feeding spoons and a couple of chewy tubes. Chewy tubes come in different thicknesses and are for use on the side and the back teeth. Textured chewy tubes, like the green one shown below, offer additional sensory stimulation.
Image 22 Spoons

Massage the baby’s gums. Start with the top. Then gently massage the bottom and sides with the Nuk. Dip teething/vibrating ring or chewy tube in food mixture. Encourage the child to taste the food. Then make it fun with making chewing motions using the oral tool. Alternate feeding with a spoon to prevent your child from getting frustrated or too tired. The Animal Menagerie Kit shown above provides opportunities for mouthing, sound production and feeding. It generates different sensations within the oral cavity, lips and face. Make sure to alternate sides.Image 23 Nuk

Make silly rolling sounds with your tongue like (EE-da LEE-Da LEE-Da-LEE or sing Hey Li Dee Li Dee , Li Dee Lo). If you prefer, you can recite nursery rhymes or your child’s favorite children’s songs. Encourage your child to watch and repeat the same sounds. You may incorporate books, flashcards or animal figurines. When using animals, show your child the animal. Then imitate the sound of the lion, the monkey, the elephant, the lamb or duck, for example. It may take months before your child has ease eating and making the sounds. Keep trying. These are some suggestions. Be creative. You know your child better than anyone does.

Place food on the spoon towards the back left side of the child’s mouth. Make him use his tongue to get the food. Alternate sides. Do not shovel the food in.

Remember to praise your child for every effort he or she makes. Say, “Good job. You did it!” Positive reinforcement goes a long way. You are helping him to build confidence and reassuring him of how much you love him.

You can reward your child with a sticker or small toy. Of course, getting your child to drink from a straw or trainer cup. For children with swallowing difficulties, Thick-It,® powdered thickeners, can help to thicken any beverage. Children with dysphagia (a condition in which swallowing is difficult or painful) can enjoy a variety of liquid food and beverages with this product. As in all products, be sure to check with your child’s pediatrician.

Below are general costs for items referenced in this article. Check online for availability and pricing that meets your personal budget.

Therapy and Travel Kit…………. $49.99 each
Teething Ring………………… $6-10 each
Chewy Tubes…………………. $7.50 each
Oral Nuk……………………. $13.50 each
Feeding Spoons …………….. $7 (set of 3)
Oral Massager………………… $13-25 each
Infa Trainer Cup…………….. $16 each
Thick It (30 oz)……………….. $24

These prices are estimates from online stores and are subject to change. All of these items can be cleaned/sanitized and given to other children when your child no longer needs them. For additional instruction on how to help your child, remember to check with a licensed speech/feeding pathologist.

All trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Products are sometimes replaced or discontinued by the manufacturer.

For parents of children with Down syndrome, Autism and low-muscle tone…There are ongoing concerns regarding speech and drooling. As covered on the previous page, you will have to incorporate a wide range of activities to help your child.

Firstly, your child may become bored with the same activities day in and day out. Other times, your child may not be responsive to one type of therapy or exercise on a given day.

One of my son’s speech therapists introduced me to TalkTools® whistle/horn program. This has been extremely helpful and enjoyable for my son. Your child may also benefit from this activity. Let’s begin with a better understanding of whistles.

Horn Kit

Horn Kit

A variety of exercises are critical in order to help your child build strong facial muscles essential for eating and clear speech.

Step 2. Incorporating Whistles (great for 12-month-old to12-year-old child)
Just before I begin this activity, I give my son a cool lemon ice or a tart yogurt. My goal is to “wake-up” his muscles and senses before starting the chewing, eating and/or speaking exercises.

Many children with low-muscle tone need a wide range of exercises to help them overcome speech impediments and drooling. This is what makes TalkTools Original Horn Kit (www.talktools.com) a great start. TalkTools Horn Kit is a hierarchy of approximately 12 whistles and horns. This program helps children build their facial muscles.

As your child learns to use one whistle proficiently, she will progress to the next whistle (which is slightly harder to do). The whistles come with word, vowel and consonant suggestions to help you encourage your child to annunciate words and sounds correctly while using a specific whistle. Sometimes products are replaced or discontinued. Check online for latest product updates by TalkTools.

Warning: Choking hazard. TalkTools requires adult supervision at all times.

Don’t forget about another fun activity: Teaching your child to blow bubbles. Image 31 Boy bubbles

It’s inexpensive and a blast for everyone!

Step 3. Fun Humming Activities (2-year-old to 8-year-old child) Everyone has favorite songs. We all love to hum our favorite songs as we work and do different
activities. Our children enjoy humming too.

Pick a song your child knows well like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Wheels on the Bus,” or “Old McDonald.” Hum the first few lyrics of the song three to four times to demonstrate for your child what you want her to do.

Tell your child, “It’s your turn. “Pause long enough to let your child attempt to hum the song. Don’t rush her.

Remember to praise your daughter for every effort she makes. Remind her to close her mouth or press her lips together. Say, “Good job. Woo-hoo, you did it!” Positive reinforcement goes a long way with children. When my son does a task I requested, I reward him with a healthy treat or his favorite sticker.

Try to avoid giving your child unhealthy candy or treats. You don’t want to encourage a bad habit that will be hard to break later.

Step 4. Making Refreshing Thick Drinks (3-year-old to 8-year-old child) You can really have a great time making your child healthy milk shakes or fruit smoothies to do this exercise.

After you blend your scrumptious drink, get your child a straw to slurp the thick liquid. Image 33 Clipart Milkshake

Check for the following:

1. Make sure your child is seated comfortably and securely (feet must be placed firmly on the chair or floor and not dangling).

2. Make sure the straw isn’t too high, so the child can drink comfortably. If necessary cut it.

3. Make sure the straw isn’t too thin or too thick either. Use a standard width straw. The goal is to make the child work by using her jaw muscles (it will take time to teach
her to keep her tongue in her mouth).

4. Place the straw in between your child’s pursed lips. Be sure to avoid letting the child force the straw deeper into her mouth. This reduces the work needed.
(Prevent the child from drinking like she would out of a bottle).

5. While guiding your child and ensuring she doesn’t take too much of the straw, use your finger to hold her chin up. Voila!