An Interview with Melissa Henderson: a mother’s perspective on mealtime struggles

Tell me a little about your family/child

Maria is a joyful, curious and endlessly silly four year old.  She was born at 33 weeks gestation and has been a poor feeder her entire life.

When and why did you start to notice a difference and seek support from an OT?

Maria’s formula intake was not increasing with age and as a result, she fell off the growth curve.  She violently vomited her first solids feed at 6 months and we thought it was funny at first… but it kept happening every single time.  She feared and dreaded food and formula feedings. After a year of endless tests, procedures, feeding clinics and specialists there was no medical explanation for Maria’s inability to tolerate textures or consume enough calories.  We walked away with a “Failure to Thrive” diagnosis and decided to try a different route. We came to Galvin Therapy for help when Maria was around 18 months old.

What are the most challenging aspects as the parents of a child with feeding challenges?

I decided to leave my career to better focus on Maria’s feeding issues.  I was too emotionally spent from work to support her therapy goals.  Maria’s challenges are very socially isolating because she has a hypersensitive gag and vomit response which is misinterpreted as sickness.   She cannot participate in the group snack at preschool and is sent home periodically for vomiting after running around too much.  We don’t go out to restaurants and feel stress at other people’s homes in case she vomits. Maria’s feeding issues are a constant in our family. As a mom, I feel jealous of other moms who have developmentally normal children.

What have you found to be the most beneficial part of therapy? Biggest achievement?

The biggest benefit is Maria’s attitude toward food.  She has become a bona fire food explorer and has a desire to learn to eat all kinds of foods.  Maria is still a long ways away from age appropriate, but her relationship with food has completely changed.  Miss Kara has been a huge help in helping me remain calm during Maria’s challenging behaviors and as a result, my relationship with Maria is better than ever.

What message would you like to share with other families considering OT for feeding?

Definitely!  Feeding issues are so vital to family dynamics and parental bonding.  OT considers the family’s personalities and motivators and can provide strategies to tackle complicated challenges.  Maria has a super trustworthy relationship with Miss Kara and I believe this is the catalyst for the progress she’s made this far.

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