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Motor and Sensory Development

6 Signs of a Problem Feeder – Not Just a Picky Eater

30 November 2017


Problem feeding is not a typical part of childhood. Contributing factors may include a history of prematurity, tube feeding, swallowing problems, respiratory issues, gastrointestinal issues including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), food allergies or sensitivities, constipation, heart problems, early or ongoing medical or developmental problems, oral motor delays, sensory processing differences, anxiety, social-emotional/behavioral problems, environmental factors, family factors and medications.

1. Your child eats fewer than 20 foods.

  • Problem feeders may “drop” foods and do not go back to eating previously preferred foods.
  • Your child does not add new foods even after 10 to 15 exposures.

2. Your child refuses to eat all foods within a particular food group or a particular texture

  • He or she may have a big aversive response to non-preferred foods.
  • Problem feeders fail to progress to age-appropriate foods.

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3. Your child refuses and has a strong avoidant response to presentation of new or non-preferred foods.

  • When presented with non-preferred foods, your child may cry, yell, have tantrums, show aggression, throw food, gag or vomit.

4. Your child has no flexibility when it comes to foods.

  • Your child insists on sameness and rituals around foods and mealtimes.
  • He or she may be unable to eat out with family, at school with peers or at friends’ homes.

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5. Mealtimes with your child are a battle and very unpleasant.

  • Your family is not able to eat together or enjoy mealtimes.

6. Your child has ongoing difficulties with swallowing, gagging or vomiting.

Concerned about your child's development?

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