Conquering His Fears
Watching 10-year-old Reid devour his Delmonico steak, it’s hard to believe it’s been only a year since this active fifth grader dropped from 91 to nearly 70 pounds after eating almost nothing for five months.
In April 2008, Reid choked on a slice of ham. A few weeks later, it was a piece of pasta. Then in June 2008, Reid choked on a piece of beef jerky and needed the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the food. After the third incident, Reid stopped eating solid foods and was so terrified to take a bite that even sitting at the dinner table with his parents and 5-year-old sister was agony.
“I wanted to eat,” recalled Reid, who existed on chicken broth, Hershey bars, milk and squeezable yogurt during those months, “but I would deny that I was hungry.” In social situations like birthday parties, Reid would eat icing but refuse the cake. Even his mom’s one-time offer to pay Reid $40 to eat didn’t help.
For Reid’s parents, Darrell and Donna, frustration over Reid’s refusal to eat soon turned to fear and concern as doctors continued to rule out medical conditions including achalasia, a disease of the esophagus muscle, or enlarged tonsils as the underlying cause.
Finally in Sept. 2008, the family brought Reid to Children’s Feeding Program, where after an initial evaluation, Reid began outpatient feeding therapy.
Children’s Feeding Program
Established in 1998, Children’s Feeding Program is designed to help children who have a medical or behavioral issue that limits their feeding and growth.
For conditions ranging from picky eating to failure to thrive, the program offers a continuum of care provided by an interdisciplinary team of specialists who join their varied expertise to address the multiple factors involved with eating.
The program’s team-based structure supports a comprehensive approach that incorporates medical and developmental needs, behavioral and oral-motor feeding issues, and family education, training and support.
Team members include a dietitian, nurse, physician and nurse practitioner, as well as psychologists and occupational and speech therapists with special training in feeding issues. Services are designed to minimize feeding difficulties, assist in the development of age-appropriate feeding skills, and maximize overall health status.
“Children’s Feeding Program offers outpatient feeding therapy as well as an intensive day treatment program, which is the only one of its kind in the area,” said Mary Tognarelli, MS, RN, CPNP, CNA, Director of Children’s Feeding Program. “The program is successful because of the multi-disciplinary model that allows behavioral, therapy, medical and nutrition staff to develop and implement a treatment plan together.”
The day program treats children with moderate to severe feeding issues five days a week at the Brook Road Hospital and includes four treatment sessions a day for six to eight weeks. Outpatient therapy sessions tend to last one hour and occur anywhere from a few times a week to once a month. Last year, Children’s Feeding Program served 35 patients through the day patient program and recorded 4,137 outpatient treatment visits.
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