Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

Posts Tagged ‘coaching’

September 19, 2018

Tube Free Superstar: Meet Benji

Benji was born 41 weeks with no complications during pregnancy. Due to umbilical cord asphyxiation and meconium aspiration at birth, he went to the NICU. While there, Benji showed limited interest in eating and an inability to coordinate his suck, swallow, breathe reflex.  He stayed in the NICU for 25 days and transitioned home with an NG tube due to poor weight gain and continued food refusal. While at home, Benji’s parents attempted to feed him the bottle but he continued to be inconsistent. In July 2017, Benji received a G-tube. After having his G-tube placed, Benji’s parents worked hard on his feeding schedule and relationship with the bottle. His skills improved and there were some days that Benji did not need the tube.  Unfortunately,this did not last and Benji became aware of his pump and his oral aversion grew. Although Benji would eat around 2 oz purees with meals, he would gag on any other consistency and he regressed to only being interested in the bottle while drowsy or asleep. Prior to starting the program, Benji was receiving 75% of hydration via G-tube. Due to Benji’s strong aversion to the bottle, all of his bottle feeds were done while he was falling asleep or sleeping.

Benji’s family decided to do a supported tube-wean through Spectrum Pediatrics. Benji’s journey began at 12 months old with the team at Spectrum Pediatrics in his natural home environment in New York. Benji’s pediatrician worked closely with his therapist and family throughout his tube weaning journey. During the hunger induction period, Benji’s overall volume was reduced – allowing him to feel hunger and he began to show more interest in eating.  His parents observed that he seemed more interested in eating and being spoon fed. Benji began exhibiting signal cues for acceptance such as opening his mouth or reaching for the spoon. During the transition between hunger induction and intensive treatment, Benji’s dream feeds were dropped. Although formula was offered through the bottle, as well as other cups, while awake, Benji preferred to drink milk through a straw! During the first few days of intensive treatment, Benji’s interest in various purees and finger foods such as puffs or meltable solids grew tremendously. Benji began to show interest in cups that he saw his caregivers using and would accept a few sips from an open water bottle or cup. Benji’s oral motor skills continued to improve as he began feeding himself crackers and veggie straws, however he still wouldn’t accept the bottle.

Throughout the intensive portion of the program, Benji’s oral intake continued to increase as did his comfort with spoon feeding. Benji started to dip his own crackers or veggie straws into the puree to feed himself! When a straw cup was introduced, Benji required assistance at first, but within a few days, he was able to independently drink milk from his straw cup! Benji was consistently eating fruit and vegetable pouches, along with any type of cheese! We quickly learned that Benji loved mascarpone and ricotta cheese! Benji quickly started to increase his oral intake with liquids and solids and did not require his g-tube for any supplementation after the 8th day of intensive treatment. Over the course of 15 days including hunger induction and intensive treatment, Benji fully transitioned from being 75% dependent on his G-tube to becoming a 100% oral eater! Benji’s therapist and parents worked together to read his cues and identify what he was attempting to communicate as his body learned how to self-regulate. Benji was now able to express when he was hungry and let his parents know when he was full.

Benji has not used his g-tube since May 16th, and it was removed on August 20th! During the follow up period, Benji’s oral motor skills continued to improve as he gained more experience and he is now able to drink water, and  milk from a straw cup! Benji’s ability to recognize hunger and learn how to regulate what his body needs has had a lasting impact on his overall development. Throughout the intensive period, Benji began to crawl and became more confident in his skills. Benji has learned to eat various foods and has started to eat larger pieces of foods such as bread with almond butter or cream cheese, spaghetti, and pancakes. Benji’s mother shared that although Benji likes almost everything, he currently loves blueberries, meatballs and turkey!

We are so proud of Benji and his entire family! Congratulations on being a tube-free superstar!

Photos provided by Benji’s family

August 29, 2018

The Pressure of Praise: What else can I do?

By: Heidi Liefer Moreland, MS, CCC-SLP, BRS-S, CLC

As a feeding therapist, I always thought that I was being helpful when I “coached” children through their bites, cheered, and “whoo hoo-ed!” for all their eating attempts. I also observed well-meaning parents, grandparents and caregivers cheer, clap, and praise any attempts at eating, but we often did not see a consistent increase in eating as a result.

“‘Positive’ pressure is still pressure and turns many kids off from new foods.” – Katja Rowell, MD

Kids hat have little or negative experiences with food have limited experience with the smells, tastes, and textures of foods, and any new sensation or movement can make them even more anxious.  Attempts to “help,” can actually bring so much pressure to the situation that they have difficulty participating.  What adults may view as positive reinforcement, may actually sound like  “noise” to a child in an already challenging situation. It might also feel like you are taking on different personalities during mealtimes.

Natural reinforcers for eating are satiation of hunger, enjoyment of tastes and textures, and socializing in a relaxed and supportive environment.   Mealtimes are naturally meant to be social.  Nevertheless, the social interaction during mealtimes in families with a child with feeding challenges often becomes unnatural, scripted, and clinical.

Here are a few suggestions on what to do in place of praise during mealtimes:

  1. Remember to talk about things other than food and feeding at meal times. Check out the Family Dinner Project website for some great conversation starters!
  2. Reduce the number of questions you are asking your child.  Mealtimes should not feel like an interrogation.  Imagine a waiter standing over your table asking a bunch of happy questions as you are trying to eat.  No matter how good the food is, the questioning would likely ruin your appetite.
  3. When chatting with your child at mealtimes use a speech pattern, talking volume, and rhythm of speech that is more “Mommy”or “Daddy” and less “Cheerleader” or “Therapist.” Be yourself, and think about how you interact with your child when it isn’t a mealtime.
  4. Read your child’s cues.  If they are telling you they don’t want the spoon, honor it.  Take a pause and set it down nearby.  This gives the child the sense of security that comes with feeling understood and the space to initiate when the child is ready.
  5. Enjoyment is the name of the game.  Children that feel safe and relaxed at the table are more likely to develop healthy eating skills and try again at future sittings.  Quality leads to quantity.
  6. Sometimes, when safe, it is helpful to have a midday “snack” period where your little one is allowed to play with foods without obviously being watched.  Playing with their food is crucial for development and building trust during mealtimes. 
  7. Everything in moderation:  Be careful not to give extra attention or praise to food, but also remember to praise the non-feeding accomplishments of your child. For example, “I love how your sitting” or “Thank you for listening!”

 

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August 6, 2018

Family Mealtimes for Tube-Fed Kids

We have discussed in the past the importance of family mealtimes for all children. This is essential for kids who are tube-fed, but it is often more difficult. Stringent tube-feeding schedules and extended time spent on the tube feeding itself can make sitting down and eating together feel like either an additional chore, or an impossible luxury. Add in a history of stressful mealtimes that feel like failures, and the result is often allowing tube-fed kids to opt out of the family dinner table. Sometimes medical and behavioral complications have disrupted daily routines so much that family mealtimes have never even been attempted. Unfortunately, this results in a crucial missed opportunity on the road to becoming a healthy eater. In addition to the advantages mentioned in our family mealtimes post, kids who are tube-fed benefit by:

  • Being a part of a family routine.
  • Seeing food as enjoyable.
  • Having mealtime expectations that are not just volume or eating related.
  • Being exposed to a variety of foods through sight and smell.
  • Watching parents and siblings eat, which research has shown be the most powerful tool in the development of healthy eating habits.

Even if kids don’t put food in their mouths, there are other measures of success:

  • Helping to prepare food, making it clear that eating is not an expectation. It allows children to feel the pride of contributing and increases food experience.
  • Staying at the table for a certain period of time. Even if it begins at 2 minutes, time at the table can then be extended. If your child shows significant anxiety just with being at the table, this is an even more important step in becoming an eater.
  • Completion of mealtime chores such as helping to set the table, cleaning up the silverware, and helping to pass the serving plates can put the child in proximity to food that doesn’t force eating.
  • Participating in family conversation, even if it begins with one or two responses. Non-food conversation is important for family bonding and for helping the child to become a part of the “eating world” in preparation for becoming an eater themselves.

Talk to your therapist about other ways in which to build up to pleasant mealtimes. Past fears may need to be worked through before any food is part of the equation. If this is frustrating, remember that many families struggle with this, not just families with tube-fed children. If you missed it, check out the resources for family mealtimes here.

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July 3, 2018

Tube-Free Superstar: Meet Lucas

Lucas was born full term and diagnosed with an esophageal atresia and a tracheoesophageal fistula at birth. Lucas underwent surgery following birth for repairs and remained in the NICU for 2 weeks. While in the NICU, Lucas began eating by mouth with some success and he was discharged from the hospital. At home, Lucas began to refuse bottles and his mother described feedings as extremely difficult and stressful. He underwent multiple tests to attempt to find a reason behind the increased vomiting, reflux, and food refusal. When Lucas was 4 months old, he was hospitalized due to dehydration and food refusal. At this time, an NG tube was placed for primary nutrition. His parents report that following the NG tube placement, Lucas did gain weight, although any interest in oral intake decreased. Lucas’ parents reported that following the NG tube placement, Lucas continued to refuse food, despite decreased pressure.

Eating CookieFollowing multiple failed attempts to increase oral feedings via regular feeding therapy, Lucas’ family decided to do a supported tube-wean after learning about the program through their doctor. Lucas’ journey began at 8 months old with the team at Spectrum Pediatrics in his natural home environment in New York. Lucas’ GI doctor worked closely with his therapist throughout his tube weaning journey. During the first day of intensive treatment, Lucas began to show interest in both solid foods and purees. He immediately showed his independent side and started to feed himself! Lucas enjoyed crackers, cheese puffs, and anything his parents were eating. Lucas was so excited to start his tube-free journey that he decided to pull his NG tube out on the first day. His parents and therapists felt confident in Lucas’ overall interest in food and increased oral intake.

Over the course of the next few days, Lucas started to increase his oral intake each day. He quickly learned to love to eat oats for breakfast and wonton soup for dinner! He loved to munch on cookies, puffs, and anything dipped in ricotta cheese. Within the first 4 days of treatment, Lucas learned to love to drink milk from his cup and water or apple juice from his straw cup. He learned how to hold and drink from his straw cup all by himself. It was clear tat Lucas was slowly starting to trust food and build a relationship with his caregiver’s during mealtimes. He began to show signs of hunger and thirst by crying or reaching for food or his cup. He worked very hard to feed himself, drink through different cups, and swallow purees, liquids, and soft solids!

During the follow up period, Lucas was happy during mealtimes with his family. His parents quickly started to recognize his clear cues to request more food or signal he was all done. He learned to eat various foods and became a more competent and confident eater. Lucas loves going out to restaurants with his family, especially when he gets to go to Panera Bread for his favorite, mac and cheese! Throughout the first month of follow up, Lucas’ parents observed that he was starting to eat more consistent meals and have fun during mealtimes! Lucas is continuing to show his independent side, he is learning how to feed himself with a fork and spoon, as well as pick up small pieces from his tray.

We are so proud of Lucas and all the things he has accomplished! Congratulations to Lucas and his entire family for being a tube-free superstar!

Photos provided by Lucas’ family