What are the benefits of telehealth when it comes to feeding therapy?
The purpose of feeding therapy is to help clients develop effective feeding behaviors and to make eating a more enjoyable experience for the client and their family. This may include difficulties with chewing, sucking, swallowing, or feeding due to a selective diet, oral-motor difficulties, emotional factors, sensory aversions, and more. While most people think of traditional, in-person feeding therapy first, telehealth has become a newer and more common option for feeding therapy! Plus, there are so many benefits to telehealth feeding therapy.
Therapy in the Natural Home Environment
In a clinical setting, parents often see progress during sessions, but then they don’t see the same results or carryover at home. Telehealth allows the child to work on and practice their feeding skills at home from the start using the tools that you have - their utensils, their plate, their highchair, etc. Since home is where they’re going to eat the majority of their meals, it’s the optimal environment for learning and practicing these new skills.
Less Anxiety for Kids
Food can raise a lot of anxiety in children with feeding difficulties. Depending on their needs, food textures, smells, and/or flavors can lead to increased anxiety during mealtime. It’s beneficial to support feeding in a low-stress, pressure-free environment. Telehealth can help reduce anxiety during feeding therapy because (1) they’re in their natural environment, which is where they’re more comfortable, and (2) they’ll be fed by someone they trust. In a traditional clinical setting, therapists must spend time building rapport with the child over time, which means less time spent on feeding initially.
Less Travel Time = More Time at Home (And Less Stress!)
Telehealth gives parents and children the opportunity to engage in therapy while at home, which also means that you can spend more time at home. There is no commute back-and-forth during rush hour traffic or time spent packing and unpacking all the tools you need during feeding therapy. You can save money on travel costs, and may be able to take less time off work.
Parent coaching opportunity
Just like in a clinic setting, teletherapy can include both direct therapy with a child and a parent coaching model. Parent coaching allows the therapist to provide caregivers with real-time strategies to use during live mealtimes. This can include ways to respond during mealtime power struggles and how to change directions mid-meal if a certain strategy is not effective. Coaching parents encourages them to take the lead, helps them feel more comfortable supporting their child’s feeding when the therapist is not present, and gives the child the opportunity to receive more individualized feeding support at each meal.
Increased Opportunity for Family Participation
Mealtime is typically a social event. It’s a time for the family to get together, share a meal, and converse about the day. Telehealth allows all of the family members to easily participate in feeding therapy and learn different methods to support a child’s feeding difficulties at home.
Guidance on Seating and Arranging the Environment
Feeding therapy doesn’t just mean eating skills - it also addresses the environment. It is important to optimize your child’s seating and positioning to ensure successful feeding outcomes. Telehealth allows the therapist to look at your child’s current environment and make recommendations on how to modify your specific space to more successful sessions.
Access to Specialists
For some, feeding specialists are not readily available; such as in small towns or more rural areas. Telehealth means that everyone can have access to a feeding therapist no matter where you’re located.
While telehealth became more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, it continues to be an option that many people enjoy. It gives parents and caregivers the opportunity to have easy access to feeding therapy services within the home environment, leading to successful meal times.
Do you have concerns about your child’s feeding or their growth? Is mealtime a stressful routine in your day? A trained medical professional can evaluate and provide feeding therapy to make mealtime more enjoyable and help improve a variety of your child’s feeding skills. Contact us to learn more about how our therapists can support you and your family.