Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program

1
2
3
4
5

Celebrating 30 years as a national leader in treating feeding disorders

Established in 1987, our program is one of the oldest in the nation and has served as a model for other programs. We offer inpatient, day hospital, and outpatient clinical settings.

The Joy of Eating

Eating was an hourly struggle for these premature quadruplets, until they found success at the Feeding Disorders Program at Kennedy Krieger.

Evidenced-based interventions

We combine the medical expertise of feeding disorders with the therapeutic techniques of behavioral psychology to treat complex feeding disorders on a variety of diagnoses.

Family Training and Support

The family is an important part of treatment. Families participate in therapy and are provided training to carry treatment over to home.

A Team Approach to Treating Feeding Disorders

Our team features pediatric experts in occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, & behavioral psychology to treat your child’s feeding and swallowing difficulties.

ABOUT OUR PROGRAM:

Established in 1987, the Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, is one of the leading programs in the nation designed to help children participate during daily meals with their parents and caregivers by providing a comprehensive approach to treating feeding disorders.

Our program was one of the first to combine the medical expertise of gastroenterology (the study of the digestive system and its disorders) with the therapeutic techniques of behavioral psychology in the treatment of children with feeding disorders. Our interdisciplinary team of specialists can measurably improve a child's appropriate eating behavior while decreasing inappropriate behavior so that mealtime can become family time again.

Our ongoing commitment to implementing innovative methods to address increasingly complex feeding disorders helps ensure positive outcomes. As a result, our methods have become a national standard in the treatment of feeding disorders.

While a wide spectrum of factors can contribute to feeding disorders, certain medical and psychological conditions may accompany them. We see children with conditions related to one or more of the following:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Gastrointestinal motility disorders
  • Duodenitis
  • Food allergies
  • Delayed exposure to a variety of foods
  • Behavior management issues
  • Oral-motor dysfunction

Our patients range in age from one to 12 years, with an average age of four years old.

FEEDING DISORDERS OVERVIEW:

A child with a severe feeding disorder does not consume enough food (or liquid or a broad enough variety of food) to gain weight and grow normally. General feeding difficulties are relatively common among most children. For example, a child may be a picky eater and consume a limited number of foods, but the foods eaten span all the food groups and provide a well-balanced diet. A child with a severe feeding disorder, on the other hand, may only eat a few foods, completely avoiding entire food groups, textures or liquids necessary for proper development. As a result, children diagnosed with feeding disorders are at greater risk for compromised physical and cognitive development. Children with feeding disorders may also develop slower, experience behavioral problems and even fail to thrive. Severe feeding disorders can cause children to feel socially isolated and often put financial strains on families. As many as 50 percent of children experience some degree of feeding difficulties, and 3 to 10 percent develop severe feeding disorders.

There are many different types of feeding disorders, and they can take on one or more of the following forms:

  • Trouble accepting and swallowing different food textures
  • Throwing tantrums at mealtimes
  • Refusing to eat certain food groups
  • Refusing to eat any solids or liquids
  • Choking, gagging or vomiting when eating
  • Oral motor and sensory problems
  • Gastrostomy (g-tube) or naso-gastric (ng-tube) dependence

Feeding disorders typically develop for several reasons, including medical conditions (food allergies), anatomical or structural abnormalities (e.g., cleft palate), and reinforcement of inappropriate behavior. In most cases, no single factor accounts for a child's feeding difficulties. Rather, several factors interact to produce them.

While a wide spectrum of factors can contribute to feeding disorders, certain medical and psychological conditions may accompany them. We see children with conditions related to one or more of the following:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Gastrointestinal motility disorders
  • Palate defects
  • Failure to thrive
  • Prematurity
  • Oral Motor Dysfunction (dysfunctional swallow, dysphagia, oral motor dysphagia)
  • Esophagitis
  • Gastritis
  • Duodenitis
  • Food allergies
  • Delayed exposure to a variety of food types and textures
  • Mealtime behavior issues
  • Short Gut Syndrome

Awareness of risk factors and clinical presentations of feeding disorders, combined with appropriate referrals at an early age, will produce the best outcomes for children and their families.

Related Materials and Information

Appointments & Referrals

FIND A SPECIALIST

Publications

Read inspiring stories, news and updates about the Institute's patient care, research, special education, professional training, and community programs.

 

Resource Finder

 

A free resource that provides access to information and support for individuals and families living with developmental disabilities.