Therapeutic Snack

by Emily
(Knoxville, TN, USA)


My daughter, now 3.5 years old, is a very picky eater. Despite what people said, "she will eat when she's hungry" and "no child will willingly starve to death," my daughter was diagnosed failure to thrive. Basically she was headed toward starvation and malnutrition. So, it is absolutely NOT true what those well-meaning people said about my picky eater. Fortunately, we have an AWESOME pediatrician who did not allow us to go very long without help.


My daughter started a feeding therapy group under the guidance of a speech therapist and an occupational therapist. It was awesome for her and for me! I learned so much about eating and the myths associated with picky eaters. One thing that really helped introduce my daughter to different foods was what they called a "therapeutic snack." Basically, this is a snack consisting of about 4-5 different foods. Each snack started with a food that was easy for all the children to eat, such as crackers or Goldfish. Then they would introduce a new food after each child ate their Goldfish. The new food would only be different in one way: shape, texture or color. So, if you start with some Goldfish, the next food could be a small slice of uncooked carrot (still small, crunchy and orange). The next food could change in texture,color or shape so possibly a Cheetoh (different shape, but same color and texture). Then add a line of peach yogurt in the same shape as the Cheetoh (but still orange in color) to the child's plate since it is similar in shape and in color but a very different texture.

In therapy they worked their way through many different textures, colors, and shapes until my daughter was trying so many new things. We did these therapeutic snacks with her at home too and she did well with them. It can be very overwhelming for a child with defensiveness (oral, visual, tactile, olfactory, etc.) to overcome food aversions because eating requires every human sense. So the idea behind the therapeutic snack is to lessen the number of changes and hopefully lessen the defensiveness enough to encourage your child to try new things. It worked for us!

Eating is still a daily struggle in our home, but I'm much more educated and armed to help my daughter. And, when my daughter has had several days without eating well, we can still count on PediaSure for survival!

Thanks for this website!!!

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Jul 31, 2009
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Picky eater
by: Anonymous

My son was assessed for autism at the age of two. He was not autistic but suffered from Sleep Apnea. After being treated for SA his behavior completely changed. He could touch grass, cope with food, ( he was malnourished) and he could be cuddled! He still suffers from anxiety and his eating has regressed 3 years later. We have been referred to an OT for an assessment regarding Sensory issues. I shall try this therapy snack idea in the mean time. Thank you.

Jul 30, 2009
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great idea
by: Anonymous

We have been struggling with the same problems since my daughter was 6 months old. She was formally diagnosed today. I am going to try this with her starting tomorrow. Thank you so much

Feb 10, 2009
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Thanks for sharing!
by: Sarah M.

Thank you so much for sharing your story. After months of not eating what was put in front of him, I finally decided to just give my son his own dinner. He would simply refuse to eat. His problem is that it has to look right. I will have to try your therapeutic snack idea.

My son once ate everything I put in front of him. Suddenly, he was a very picky about what he would put in his mouth. Now I know that he is autistic. This, in addition to sensory issues he has, explains a lot for me.

Feb 10, 2009
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persistant eating disorder
by: S. Chandler

My 11 year old daughter is being seen today by a pediatric GI. She was diagnosed with failure to thrive at 3 and still cannot eat properly. Lately she has been too starved to attend school and had some bloody stool. I have often been told she will eat when she is hungry. She doesn't. She starves. She is not anorexic, but she certainly does have an eating disorder. This is my nightmare. I really appreciated your story. We are hopeful to find an answer too.


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