The feeding program’s outpatient evaluation allows for a thorough review of the factors that typically contribute to children’s feeding problems. This multidisciplinary approach provides the feeding team with a comprehensive overview of the child’s feeding issues and allows the team to consider all aspects of the child’s behavior into the treatment program. The outpatient evaluation also provides a method for screening to determine which children will be best served by an inpatient stay. In some cases, the team may feel that a child would benefit from additional outpatient services or other interventions instead of an inpatient program.
The inpatient feeding program’s multidisciplinary nature allows the feeding team to meet multiple child and family needs during a single hospitalization. Children who are currently receiving, or are eligible to receive, speech, occupational or physical therapy will be provided with these services during their hospital stay. Social and psychological/behavioral services will be provided to meet both the child and the families’ needs.
The goal of the inpatient program is to develop feeding techniques and strategies that are effective for the individual child. These skills are then taught to the child’s parents/guardians through modeling, direct coaching and informational sessions. Children learn to eat from both the therapists involved in the case and their caregivers, to ensure that the child will continue to make progress at home.
For children who are at risk for G-Tube placement, the goal of the feeding program is to increase food intake and prevent the child from needing to be tube-fed. For those children who have a G-Tube, the goal of the feeding program is to increase oral food intake and decrease the need for tube feedings. The long-term goal of the program is to have the G-Tube removed following successful transition to oral feedings.
The initial goal of the feeding program for all children is to increase food intake to meet nutritional needs. Therefore, children may initially be encouraged simply to take their daily calorie requirements using supplements such as Pediasure. A secondary goal, once children are able to take all of their calories orally, is to increase the quantity and types of food that the child will eat.
Following discharge from the inpatient feeding program, children typically continue to receive outpatient feeding therapy. The goals of continued therapy are to ensure that the child’s gains are generalized to the home setting and to continue to work with the child to expand the child’s food intake. Outpatient therapists also serve as a continued link to the inpatient team to allow early intervention if the family experiences additional feeding problems or regressions in feeding behavior.
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