Maddie’s mother, Mari, noticed her daughter seemed to be more picky about eating than other kids her age. Even the sight of oranges would make Maddie gag. It was difficult for their family to go out for meals because she would refuse to eat almost everything on the menu. Like many parents, Mari gave in and allowed Maddie to consume only a handful of foods that she found palatable: apples, bananas, and a few other snacks that primarily consisted of sugary foods with low nutritional value. “It was like she had programmed herself not to like certain foods, even before she had tried them,” Mari shared, “I just didn’t want her to develop unhealthy eating habits.” Lack of nutrients was a major concern, but she was even more worried about the possibility of her daughter developing an eating disorder. Maddie’s doctor referred her to Innovative’s Feeding Therapy program, which helps children who have difficulty eating for physical or psychological reasons.
Speech Language Pathologist, Debra Jablonski, worked with Maddie weekly for three months, and helped her address her reservations about eating certain foods, or even being near them. She helped Maddie desensitize herself to oranges by slowly progressing from being in the same room, to poking the fruit with a toothpick, then touching it with a finger, and eventually to her tongue. This process took about six weeks. Maddie realized that she actually liked the taste of oranges, and now eats them on a regular basis. “Enough exposure to a food they dislike will cause the body to remediate that process of fighting it,” Debra said, “but the key is allowing the child to be in control of the situation, to create a positive experience with food.”
Maddie now brags about all the new foods she’s been eating. Brave enough to eat shrimp (and actually enjoy it!) she’s willing and confident enough to give almost any food a try. She’s even helping her parents prepare meals in the kitchen, taking part-ownership of the process. “She used to get tense around food. Now she’s way more relaxed and open to trying new things,” Mari shared. “It’s been such a relief to our family.”