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Early Intervention Speech Therapy

Why Focus on Food?

Published October 12, 2010 10:39 AM by Stephanie Bruno-Dowling

Last week I introduced my new direction plans for the blog and shared my own personal and professional motivations for creating this unique feature. This week, I would like to share why I feel a food-based blog is so important and necessary for our discipline and the children that we treat.

What we eat is so important. It is vital for our health and survival, as well as the center of many of life's celebrations and special occasions. We dine in, we dine out, we gather with friends and family and for many of us we spend hours of our time in the kitchen preparing meals and feeding our family. When you have a child who is a picky eater, has food allergies, texture sensitivities and/or may be transitioning from being tube fed, meal time can be very, very stressful. For homecare therapists who are in the midst of trying to help a family through this time, therapy can be quite a daunting task.

In addition, these issues, if not resolved by the age of 3, often transfer into the early intervention school setting and beyond. Many of the children on my current speech and language caseload have significant feeding issues. There are several with food allergies. There are others who are terrified to try any type of new food. Even something simple like a saltine cracker or a scoop of yogurt can send some into a tailspin. There are others who eat the same few foods everyday, creating a very narrow and limited diet. In addition, there are also children who are given salt- and sugar-infested foods daily and seem to be doomed to a daily diet of French fries and chocolate cookies.

Watching some of these little ones munch on the same nibbles day in and day out, I can't help but wonder where will they be 10, 20 years from now? Overweight? Vitamin deficient? I've worked with numerous children who have a mouth full of decaying teeth.

In September, our preschool hosted "Back to School" Night and several parents shared concerns regarding their child's diet, even though they do not have feeding goals on their IEP. In addition, I've sat in numerous IFSP and IEP meetings over the years listening to parents express frustrations regarding their child's diet or lack thereof.

The concerns and needs are there, but it seems that the resources are often limited. My goal is to start to change that and create an online touchstone where parents and therapists can congregate, converse and find healthy common-sense solutions about how to feed their child in a nurturing and therapeutic way.


Great easy recipe. I was just talking to a fellow teacher about expanding  the variety of foods her son would eat.  Your article and recipe were very helpful.

Mary Griffin, , SLP John Q. Adams School October 19, 2010 4:14 PM
Deer Park NY

Kari ~ Thank you so much for your positive comments and feedback. It's great to hear!

My first thought with regards to resources is to see if there are other therapists in your area that you could connect with who may be interested in feeding and learning more with you. We have a feeding group in our area that is very grassroots - a few of us just starting talking about it and then the group was created. Also, I learned so much by co-treating with experienced therapists - that hands-on work is priceless and is definitely where I have learned the most.

Good luck and I hope that helps. Thanks again!!

stephanie bruno dowling, blog author October 14, 2010 11:29 PM


I don't know how I haven't seen your blog before, but I am thrilled to have found it.  I've been reading all of your archives this week and making lists of things to share, re-read and investigate further.  I can relate to nearly every single blog and many of the responses people have written.  

In Louisiana, our EI program is called Early Steps.  There are agencies who provide services and individual providers like myself.  I know that people within at least some of the agencies have no real SLP to SLP support system, and as individual providers, every other provider is a competitor for business.  Makes for an interesting professional situation for sure.  There are a handful of us in this area (individual, competing service providers) who meet for dinner every few weeks just to have an opportunity to talk with other people who do what we do.  I'm going to share your blog with them and they'll all be really excited.  Unless they already read it, then I'll be mad that they didn't share!!  Anyway, I know SLPs from all over the world have written in to provide validation and gratitude for the work you do with your blog.  Let me be another of those and say, "Thank you so much!!"

I'm writing now (rather than earlier this week) because I have a question.  You may play to address this later in this feeding series (or in the past and I haven't seen it yet), but I'm looking for recommendations for feeding therapy resources for SLPs.  As in, how to learn more about feeding therapy with EI clients.  My first training in feeding came, not in grad school, of course, but in on-the-job training during my CF.  I've also completed Sara Rosenfeld Johnson's feeding course.  I've read a ton, but I'm still looking for resources to learn more.  I need to expand my bag of tricks.  Especially for young eaters.  Once I put on my "Barney" hand (a purple nitrile glove), I can't get near one of my guys!!

I'm looking forward to what's coming up in your blog.  I'm re-writing therapy plans in my head as I drive from home to home.  Your blog is motivating me to be the creative person that I know I am.  I mean, Mr. Potato Head is fun, but there *IS* more to therapy, right!?

Happy talking (and eating),


Kari, EI Homecare - SLP, Individual Provider October 13, 2010 8:56 AM
Metairie LA

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About this Blog

    Stephanie Bruno Dowling, M.S. CCC-SLP
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Early Intervention in Delaware County, PA
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