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Nutrition and Feeding
People who have disabilities and complex conditions can experience challenges with nutrition (maintaining adequate nourishment) and feeding (the act of eating and swallowing). At Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, we offer a comprehensive team approach to improving overall health, nutrition and mealtime experiences.
Gillette’s core feeding team includes registered dietitians, speech and language pathologists, and occupational therapists. We refer patients to other Gillette specialists, when needed, to help maintain proper nutrition and support health. Our team approach ensures comprehensive care for every patient.
Why Choose Gillette?
- We understand the unique nutrition and feeding challenges parents of children who have disabilities and complex conditions face.
- We recognize that each patient’s nutritional needs and feeding preferences are different.
- When developing a treatment plan for patients, we consider the needs of the entire family and understand the role food plays in daily life.
- We believe that people who have disabilities deserve a lifetime of excellent health care—from birth through adulthood.
Our team has extensive experience working with children, teens and adults who have disabilities and complex conditions that began during childhood. A patient’s core nutrition and feeding team most often includes specialists in:
When needed, we might refer patients to specialists in:
- Ear, nose and throat (ENT or otolaryngology)
- Medical genetics and genetic counseling
- Pediatrics and general medicine (for pediatricians and nurse practitioners who specialize in height and growth concerns)
- Radiology and imaging
To search for providers, visit Our Care Team.
Conditions We Treat
Our nutrition services and feeding clinics are designed for patients who have complex medical conditions and injuries. Many of the patients we see have a variety of challenges that affect their nutritional status and ability to eat.
For example, we often see patients who:
- Experience problems tolerating the sensation of eating or swallowing food (oral aversion)
- Follow specialized diets, such as the ketogenic diet or low glycemic index diet, to treat epilepsy and seizures
- Have conditions that affect appetite, such as Prader-Willi syndrome
- Have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Have motor conditions that affect the ability to eat independently, including the ability to sit up or coordinate their hands during eating or drinking
- Have weakness in the muscles of their mouth or face, which affects the ability to move food safely and efficiently for eating
- Take medications that pose nutrition challenges
- Use feeding tubes
Many conditions can lead to challenges with nutrition and feeding. Some that we see most often include:
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Being overweight or obese
- Being underweight or having insufficient growth
- Brain injury and related neurotrauma
- Cerebral palsy
- Complex movement disorders
- Conditions that affect bone health (or a history of taking medications that affect bone health)
- Conditions that result in the need for a feeding tube
- Developmental delays
- Dysphagia (difficulties swallowing)
- Epilepsy and seizures
- Neuromuscular conditions
- Prader-Willi syndrome
- Spina bifida
- Spinal cord injury
For more information about the complex conditions we treat at Gillette, search Conditions and Care.
Tests We Offer
Our specialists are committed to using the latest treatments, tests and techniques to support the nutritional needs of patients who have a wide variety of conditions.
Feeding Evaluations and Therapy
During feeding evaluations, a Gillette team assesses patients and their skills related to feeding. For example, some children have difficulty chewing or swallowing, aversions to certain food textures, and anxiety during mealtimes.
We evaluate many factors, including the patient’s anatomy, behavior, diet and level of independence with feeding. In some cases, we recommend a videofluoroscopy (swallowing) study—a type of full motion X-ray that helps determine whether food and liquid move safely from the mouth to the esophagus.
After a feeding evaluation, we might recommend feeding therapy sessions at Gillette. We often work with families to develop a home feeding program. We also might recommend better positioning to help a child eat and drink.
Additional Nutrition and Feeding Services
In addition to feeding evaluations and therapy, we provide the following services:
- Management of nutrition for patients who have feeding tubes
- Initiation and management of the ketogenic diet and low glycemic index diet to alleviate epilepsy and seizures
- Radiology and imaging tests, including upper gastrointestinal X-rays, gastric emptying tests and videofluoroscopy (swallowing) studies
- Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) to improve swallowing
For more information about the tests and treatments we offer at Gillette, search Conditions and Care.
Preparing for a Feeding Evaluation
Before we can schedule an interdisciplinary feeding evaluation, we must receive an order from a Gillette or community physician. The order must specify the need for an interdisciplinary feeding evaluation or for an evaluation by a speech and language pathologist, an occupational therapist and a dietitian.
Once we receive an order, we contact families to schedule an evaluation. Both before and after a feeding evaluation, our team communicates extensively with your referring physician to ensure coordinated care.
We might ask families to bring to the evaluation the silverware, food, drinks and cups or bottles they commonly use. If applicable, we might ask families to provide information on formulas, quantities and rates of tube feeding.
Treatments We Offer
Our feeding team uses several treatment approaches—including the sequential-oral-sensory (SOS) approach, Beckman oral-motor therapy, and food chaining—based on each patient’s needs. These approaches might include:
Get Permission Approach
This approach helps establish a foundation of trust in a feeding relationship. It’s especially beneficial for patients who have sensory challenges with touch, taste, chewing or swallowing. The goals of this approach are to help patients enjoy eating and feel confident in all aspects of mealtime.
Ellyn Satter’s Divison of Responsibility in Feeding
We instruct parents on the feeding relationship between parents and children, focusing on the parent’s duties during mealtime.
Sequential-oral-sensory (SOS) Approach
This approach involves using taste, smell, vision and sound to learn about food.
Beckman Oral-Motor Therapy
In this approach, we stretch muscles of the lips, cheeks and nose to increase range of motion and strength for oral feeding.
This approach concentrates on specific food characteristics, such as texture and taste, to gradually add similar foods to a diet.
Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES)
This intensive feeding treatment focuses on strengthening the muscles used in swallowing.
Weaning From Tube Feeding
When medically appropriate, we work closely with other members of patients’ care teams to wean them from tube feedings.
Locations of Service
763-496-6000 or 888-218-0642 (toll free)Learn More »
952-936-0977 or 800-277-1250 (toll free)Learn More »
651-291-2848 or 800-719-4040 (toll-free)Learn More »
651-636-9443Learn More »
Services vary by location. For all of our locations, visit Directions and Locations.
Because all children deserve a lifetime of amazing health care.Why Gillette »