I love using food in speech therapy. Now I do not work on feeding or swallowing. I also don’t directly treat picky eating, but many children on my caseload are picky eaters. Many Occupational Therapists (OTs), I have worked with, did work extensively on picky eating, and many of the ideas and principles came from them. Note: This is not a post on how to treat picky eaters.
Considerations before you start
You do need to do some research before you start. You need to know if your student is on a special diet or if their culture does not eat particular foods. For example, in some middle eastern cultures, you don’t eat gelatin. This means no marshmallows for them. You need to know if there are any severe allergies other students in that child’s class may have.
Finally, if a child is a picky eater, I always talked to the parents and talk with them about what I am going to do. That way, they are informed, and they can update you on any ongoing outside support for picky eating they are receiving. I also call those outside agencies and get more information. This can sometimes be a sticking point, depending on their approaches. Usually, we can hammer out a compromise.
Why use food in speech therapy?
Well, food is all around us. We need to know how to make/obtain food. Food and how we interact with it is also cultural — it guilds how we relate to the people around us and how we relate to food.
There are so many goals you can address using food as the “theme.” You can work on social language goals, such as how to politely refuse to eat something you don’t like or what happens when you don’t like the smells of a particular food. You can work on following directions, describing, artic goals, and the list goes on and on. Bonus: Many of the activities are functional.
Is it more expensive to use food in therapy? Yes, it can be. Is it messier? Yes, it often is. Are the students engaged in treatment? Often more so than more traditional types of therapy. In the next couple of blog posts, I will talk about some ideas you can use, and I’ll talk about how I still use food in teletherapy sessions.