The Marcus Autism Center Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program is one of only a few facilities in the country, and the only program in the Southeast, to offer empirically supported, intensive day treatment for children with feeding disorders.
The program provides interdisciplinary assessment and treatment of children between 8 months and 21 years of age, regardless of whether a child has autism or a related disorder. Feeding disorders affect a child’s ability to properly function at home, school and other social settings, impacting physical, social and psychological development.
Common signs and symptoms include:
- Poor weight gain
- Bottle, formula or feeding tube dependence
- Mealtime tantrums, or mealtimes exceeding 40 minutes
- Distress and anxiety with new foods
- Inability to increase textures
- Inability or refusal to feed oneself
- Extreme pickiness (eating fewer than 12 foods)
- Excessive weight for children who have a separate developmental concern
Staff members evaluate the factors contributing to feeding problems, develop individualized treatment plans, train caregivers to implement procedures and provide long-term, follow-up care.
The team includes:
- Occupational and speech therapists—focus on reducing hypersensitivity to gagging or textures while building oral-motor coordination related to chewing, tongue control, swallowing and self-feeding.
- Behavioral psychologists—use behavior analysis or related techniques to design a structure to help children and parents during mealtimes.
- Nutritionists—ensure children are getting balanced nutrition, growing appropriately and receiving correct adjustments to supplemental tube feedings or feeding formulas.
- Physicians and nurses—monitor the impact of health and development on a child’s feeding practices.