Feeding Disorders Program

The Feeding Disorders Program at ATF Learning Difficulties Center stands out as one of the few facilities nationwide offering evidence-based, intensive day treatment explicitly designed for children grappling with feeding disorders. Irrespective of whether a child has autism or a related condition, our program specializes in providing interdisciplinary assessment and behavioral treatment for children ranging from eight months to 21 years of age, dealing with feeding disorders.

Feeding disorders significantly impact a child's ability to function effectively in various environments, including home, school, and social settings. These disorders affect physical, social, and psychological development and may manifest through various signs and symptoms, including:

  • Poor weight gain
  • Distress and anxiety with new foods
  • Dependence on feeding tubes
  • Difficulty in transitioning to different textures
  • Dependency on bottle or formula
  • Inability or refusal to self-feed
  • Prolonged mealtime durations or mealtime tantrums
  • Extreme selectivity in food choices (consuming fewer than 12 foods)

Our program aims to comprehensively address these challenges, providing tailored interventions to help children overcome feeding difficulties and achieve improved overall well-being and development.

More about the program

Staff members evaluate the factors contributing to feeding problems, develop individualized treatment plans, train caregivers to implement procedures and provide long-term follow-up care. The most complete and efficient treatment involves a team of specialists, including:

  • Occupational therapists — Focus on reducing hypersensitivity to gagging or textures while building skills related to chewing and self-feeding
  • Behavioral psychologists — Use behavior analysis or related techniques to design a structure to help children and parents during mealtimes
  • Nutritionists — Ensure children are getting balanced nutrition, guiding adjustments to supplemental tube feedings or feeding formulas
  • Physicians and nurses — Monitor the impact of health and development on a child’s feeding practices

The Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program offers many levels of service to address each child’s unique feeding needs.

  • Feeding Clinic — Provides interdisciplinary assessment allowing the team to make general recommendations for further evaluations and interventions at ATF Learning Difficulties Center or in the community.
  • Day Treatment Program — offers a medical program for children who require intensive daily therapy without 24-hour medical supervision, including intensive feeding sessions, sensorimotor training, psychosocial family support, and medical and nutritional monitoring.
  • Outpatient Program — Serves children with feeding disorders who can be treated by less intensive therapy, e.g., one hour, once a week, with one discipline, or children who graduated from the Day Treatment Program needing additional assistance.

  • Treatment goals — Eighty-five percent or more of goals set by parents and the treatment team are reached by completion of the Day Treatment Program.
  • Parent satisfaction — Parents gave high ratings for program satisfaction (4.9 out of 5), program effectiveness (4.3 out of 5) and treatment acceptability (4.6 out of 5).

  • Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) eat an average of only three foods upon admission, but they leave eating 19 foods, including at least four fruits, four vegetables, four starches and four proteins.
  • Children accept and swallow bites quickly 84 percent of the time.