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Food Chaining How to Introduce New Foods

Posted Mar 10 2008 12:00am
I think a lot of people really struggle with what to do and how to do it in a session when trying to introduce a new food. In our clinic, children usually see speech and OT together for sessions. We set up the room for snack after playing with The Dole 5 a Day website, cosmeo.com website or reading books about eating. Sometimes we play with puppets that eat. We get out our placemats, cups, utensils and divided plates. We have a routine throughout including washing hands. We offer a food or liquid the child likes to eat on the plate and we also offer a new targeted item. We offer the new food in the "looking place" on the divided plate. We do not have the expectation or give that underlying feeling of pressure to have a child bring the food to mouth during this part of treatment. (But if he wants to taste it, it is fine)
Once the food is in front of the child, it is his food and that is important, he gets to choose whether or not to eat. We do not tell him to eat the food item. We have a plate and the child has a plate. We talk about the food in fun ways.
For example, we have had children in clinic who eat peanut butter cups but don't eat peanut butter. We had a goal of moving to peanut butter. There are several things you can do in a treatment session. Here are some ideas...we might cut open peanut butter cups and scoop out the peanut butter inside. We also scoop out peanut butter from a jar. We talked about how the two types of peanut butter are the same and how they are different. We compare the peanut butter cup/regular peanut butter. We talk about how it smells and tastes. We put a toothpick in both and the therapists taste a small amount. (You could also add a bit of real peanut butter to the top of a mini peanut butter cup.) The child can taste anything if desired throughout the session. Sometimes we get out a few peanuts and talk about how peanut butter is made. We may sing the peanut butter and jelly song. We may put peanut butter on other foods on the therapist's plate...apples, banana, crackers, pretzels or mini bagels that we put on our plate and model that for the child. This also exposes the child to additional foods. Just demonstrate how you can eat peanut butter in different ways. We may put some peanut butter on toast and talk about how peanut butter melts and gets thin when it is warm. We may add a drop of chocolate sauce, honey or jelly and have the child mix it up for us or the parent/sibling. We may put a small amount on our tasting utensil (either a straw, a chop stick, a Duo Spoon, a Nuk brush, textured or regular spoon)to keep tastes small. Find some activities that appeal to the child and have fun during your sessions. The main points are, don't do too much all at once, don't talk too much, too loud or too often. Just have fun and act like the food item is something to learn about, not eat. Many times the kids will taste the food too just because they are given a choice.
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