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Pediatric Feeding Therapy: Teaching Tyler to eat healthy

Feeding Therapy: Tyler Van Houten

Kalissa Van Houten figured she was doomed to a life of ordering mac and cheese minus the cheese every time she and her husband went to a restaurant with their son, Tyler.

And at home, there would always be two meals – one for her and her husband, Jeremy, and a second made to suit the tastes of her young toddler. To say he was a picky and difficult eater was an understatement, but after a handful of sessions with Gritman Medical Center’s Pediatric Feeding Therapy team, meals with Tyler are no longer such a hassle.

“It just makes everyday life so much easier. I feel like I can give him better nutrition now because he is able to try new things,” Kalissa said.

Tyler’s struggles started early. First, he refused to breastfeed, and then he turned down bottle after bottle until he got the perfect one. Shifting to baby food was arduous, but nothing compared to the difficulty of transitioning to textured food. It got to the point where Tyler would only drink PediaSure.

“He went through a period of about a year where he did not gain any weight and did not grow in any way,” Kalissa, a registered nurse from Moscow, said. “That’s when our doctor said this was not normal and referred us to Gritman’s feeding team.”

Kalissa went into the first session discouraged and looking for any relief.

“At that point, you are really frustrated and feel like you have tried everything,” she said. “I’ve bought all this different food, all these different utensils, and all my kid wants to do is drink PediaSure all day.”

But her outlook improved quickly after meeting with our therapists – Tiffany Duman, RDN, LD, and Michelle Johnson, MS CCC-SLP. Each provided tips and guidance, and identified areas to focus on for improvement. The meetings were weekly at first but gradually became less frequent.

Tyler was about 1.5 years old when he started therapy. A year later, he is much more open to trying foods, and the days of ordering cheese-less mac and cheese are a thing of the past.

“It definitely has helped Tyler. He is growing, and eating is not always a hassle,” Kalissa said.

Kalissa was surprised to find out feeding therapy was available in Moscow, and she suspects many children could benefit from the service.

“I think there are kids out there who struggle with eating a lot longer than they need to just because people don’t know there is help,” she said.

To learn more about pediatric feeding therapy at Gritman Medical Center, go to gritman.org/pediatric_feeding

Image courtesy of Gotcha Photography