How to recognise and help a fussy eater

Having a fussy eater can be a daunting and frustrating experience – we’ll explain what to do and how we can help you.

What is fussy eating?

There are a number of factors that define a child as being a fussy eater.

The range of foods that a fussy eater will accept to eat is restricted in number. Some children will be happy to touch a new food but not eat it, others may completely refuse to have a new food close enough to be able to smell or see it.

Fussy eaters may refuse foods based on their texture or type. They may refuse purée consistency foods or fruit, they may eat only a very small number of meats, vegetables or foods that require a lot of chewing.

Most fussy eaters will eat a different meal or modified dinner when compared to the rest of the family. Some children will tolerate eating at the same table as the rest of the family but others cannot cope with the sensory demands of sitting at the same table as everyone else in the family.

Fussy eaters typically take a long time to add new foods to their diet and may burn-out eating favourite foods that they have eaten a lot.

How can I help a fussy eater?

If you have a fussy eater, it is important to consistently provide them with opportunities to engage with a variety of foods. Offer what the rest of the family is eating each meal time, even if you know your child is not likely to have any, but do not force them to eat it. This will allow them to experience the food in a safe environment.

Encourage messy play with food! This may sound a little daunting, however most children need to experience food in a number of ways before they are willing to try it. This includes looking, smelling and touching (eg: poking, squeezing, wiping) and can be done with hands and various utensils (eg: spoons, forks, spatulas).

Provide your child with independence. If they don’t want you to feed them, give them a spoon or fork and encourage them to have a turn. Take turns, play games and show your child that you are eating it too.

Involve your child in meal planning and preparation. Take them grocery shopping, encourage them to watch you prepare meals and involve them in age-appropriate stages of preparing eg: washing vegetables, cutting, putting in dishes, stirring, plating meals and setting the table. Having family-style serving where the food is placed in the middle of the table, and each person serves themselves is very beneficial and increases the likelihood of children engaging with more foods.

If your child’s fussiness continues and they are consuming a limited amount of foods, contact a Speech Pathologist who will be able to discuss your concerns and a plan for therapy if required.

What age does fussy eating start?

Sometimes fussy eating may start when a child is progressing between different textured food as they grow older eg: moving from purée to more solid food textures.

Occasionally fussy eating may appear to commence after a child has been sick.

Fussy eating may start when a child is reaching an age where they are becoming more independent. Children begin to want to make choices in everyday life (and tell you about it), and this also appears during meal times. Your child may want to choose what they eat, feed themselves and refuse foods at times.

When does fussy eating become a problem?

Fussy eating becomes a problem when a child restricts the range of foods they will eat only a very small number of foods. When a child refuses to eat a whole nutrition group such as meat or fruit then dietary balance may be compromised and require medical attention.

If the child continues to reduce the number of foods they are eating then an appointment with your General Practitioner would be suggested and referral to a Speech Pathologist.

When eating causes ongoing meltdowns then a discussion with a General Practitioner and Speech Pathologist could be beneficial.

How do I treat a fussy eater?

A Speech Pathologist can assist you if your child has ongoing fussy eating. An assessment will be conducted and detailed feeding and eating history obtained. The Speech Pathologist will then provide you with strategies for you to use at home and discuss ongoing therapy.

Therapy involves exposing your child to a wide range of foods and encouraging them to interact with the foods using all senses. Children feel safe to engage with the food at the level they are ready, and this builds as therapy progresses.

If your child is a fussy eater and they are consuming a limited amount of foods, contact Harrison Speech Pathology who will be able to discuss your concerns and arrange an assessment and a plan for therapy if required.

Our Newcastle based pathologists are experts in treating fussy eaters. Contact us today for an appointment.

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Stuttering – what parents need to know

Stuttering impacts upon approximately 1% of the population whether it be children, adolescents or adults. This affliction usually starts in early childhood before the commencement of school and may have either a gradual or sudden onset to the symptoms seen or experienced.

What causes stuttering?

No one knows exactly what causes stuttering to occur, however, it is thought it involves a functional difference of speech production in the brains of people who stutter.

It’s commonly believed stuttering is an inherited trait with a strong genetic basis often seen in affected children, adolescents or adults who stutter. Individuals who stutter may find their stuttering stressful, which can exacerbate the issue.

Can stuttering be cured?

Stuttering may change in its severity and present characteristics over time. It may increase, decrease or disappear for a length of time.

Speech therapy targeting stuttering is proven to reduce the stuttering severity and assist management of stuttering for children, adolescents and adults alike.

What do I do if my child has a stuttering problem?

Early intervention and immediate action is the best recommendation for a child who starts to stutter. Research shows that therapy targeting stuttering has the best results when children are younger.

What are the different types of stuttering?

Stuttering may present in a number of different forms. It may be evident as initial sound repetitions eg. “d-d-dog”, syllable repetitions eg. “ba-ba-baby” or whole word repetition eg. “My, my, my”.

These repetitions may occur a few times or numerous times depending on the severity of the stutter.

Other stuttering characteristics include prolongations and blocks. Sounds being stretched when spoken are known as prolongations eg. “I waaaaant my toy”.

Blocks are when someone is trying to speak but no sound is heard and is often accompanied by blinking or other body movements.

What is the treatment for stuttering?

There are a number of different treatment approaches used to reduce stuttering. The approach used by a speech pathologist will depend on the age of the individual, the severity of the stutter and length of time the stutter has been present.

The Lidcombe Program of Early Stuttering Intervention is the most common stuttering treatment technique used with younger children.

Speech Pathologists are qualified to provide assessment and treatment of stuttering. Intervention should be provided as soon as possible to stuttering commencement to reduce the impact on daily life for children, adolescents and adults alike.

Contact us today for an appointment. Our speech pathologists can help assess the stuttering and can create a treatment plan to help reduce stuttering.

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Every child is different.

All children develop at their own pace – from rolling over and learning to crawl, to eating solid foods. It’s a process which is different for every child.

When it comes to communication development, there are general communication milestones which determine if a child is progressing appropriately with their speech and understanding abilities. These communication milestones tell us whether their current skills are typical for their age.

If your child is having difficulty saying a range of speech sounds, unable to join words together to make sentences or struggles to follow instructions, then a speech pathology assessment will be valuable to determine if speech therapy may be beneficial for your child.

What speech milestones should I keep an eye out for?

There are a few critical speech development milestones which you can look out for – you can download the information sheets here.

At 12 months a child should be babbling, gesturing and starting to say a few words. They should be able to copy sounds and noises you make. In terms of understanding, they should be able to respond to their name, recognise greetings and acknowledge familiar people.

At 18 months the number of single words a child can say should have increased with these spoken words becoming easier to understand by family members and friends. They will understand simple instructions and point to both familiar objects and pictures in books.

At 2 years a child will have more than 50 words that they can say clearly and be using these words in two-word phrases eg. “Bye Mummy”. They can follow two-part instructions and respond appropriately to “what” and “where” questions.

At 3 years a child should be speaking using 4-5 word sentences. They should be asking questions and be able to talk about something that has happened in the past. They should be able to follow complex instructions, recognise colours and understand concepts such as ‘same’ and ‘different’.

At 4 years a child should be able to make longer sentences describing events, asking lots of questions and able to count. They should be able to answer questions and understand “why” questions.

At 5 years a child should use full sentence constructions, take turns in conversations appropriately and use most of their speech sounds correct. They can follow three-part instructions, understand time-related words eg. before and after, be thinking about the meaning of words and be able to recognise most letters and numbers.

Do I need to go to the doctor before taking my child to a speech therapist?

You don’t need a referral from a Doctor to make an initial speech pathology appointment.

The “wait and see” approach is not recommended regarding a child’s speech and language development. If a parent has concerns regarding their child’s communication abilities it is best to make an appointment to see a speech pathologist so that evaluation can take place to determine whether an issue or delay exists.
The sooner your child is seen by a speech therapist, the sooner we can work on helping your child with their speech.

What will the speech therapist do in our first appointment?

The speech pathologist will assess your child’s speech and language skills. Important developmental information will be taken and questions asked regarding your child’s communication abilities within the home and preschool/school environments as well as in the community.

Via play or by looking at pictures, the speech pathologist will determine whether the child’s speech skills are appropriate for their current age regarding both the speech sounds used and length of utterances spoken. The speech pathologist will also evaluate whether the child is able to understand different concepts and follow instructions appropriate to their chronological age.

The speech pathologist will then be able to give feedback as to whether speech pathology intervention is necessary or could be beneficial for the child.

How long does speech therapy take before it’s effective?

The amount of speech therapy required for each child will depend on a number of individual factors. The severity of the speech and/or language delay or disorder will determine how long speech therapy will be required to maximise a child’s communication abilities.

Harrison Speech Pathology tailors your child’s speech pathology intervention program to the individual needs of your child to ensure that efficient and effective intervention is provided to every client.

If you would like one of our experienced speech therapists to meet your child and assess their language development, get in touch with our office today. We would love to help you.

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