Feeding Program - Patient Care and Treatment

Feeding Program - Patient Care and Treatment

Let us help your child thrive. Experts from different specialties work together to help children will all kinds of feeding problems live healthier, happier lives.

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When food is the enemy, pediatric feeding program helps kids triumph

Fifty-four minutes. That’s how long it took 11-year-old Jesus Rodriguez to eat a tiny bite of applesauce.

Fifty-four minutes. That’s how long Dr. Keith Williams persevered, brushing off the boy’s angry words, tears and fists as he waited for him to take a bite.

“Our job is to teach him to eat a wide enough variety of foods to correct his nutritional deficiencies,” said Williams, director of Penn State Children’s Hospital Feeding Program, who uses a behavioral tool called “shaping” that works by encouraging the child to take a tiny bite of new food to receive a reward, and then gradually larger bites of this food. Read the rest of our story here.

Watch video: Meet one young boy who is learning to eat solid food for the first time at the Feeding Clinic:

Feeding evaluation and outpatient services

Some kids have health or behavior issues that affect their eating. Our Feeding Evaluation clinic tests for and treats these challenges. We’ll work with your family to create a care plan that’s right for your child’s challenges.

We offer clinics with experts from several pediatric specialties related to feeding problems, such as Pediatric Gastroenterology (GI), Behavioral Psychology, Nutrition and Speech Pathology.

Our staff provides outpatient treatment for most feeding problems, including food refusal, food selectivity, choking phobias, chewing troubles, swallowing troubles, tube feeding management, transitioning to solid foods, problems with weight gain or weight loss.

What happens when you’re referred to us?

Referrals to our Feeding Program come from many sources:

  • Doctors
  • Therapists
  • Visiting nurses
  • School staff
  • Parents or other caregivers

When your child is referred, we’ll call you and ask you to fill out a screening packet. Sharing information about your child’s health history and feeding issues helps us offer the best services for your child.

What to expect

Our Feeding Program staff will see your child. Appointments usually last 60 to 90 minutes. During the visit:

  • We take your child’s weight and height.
  • Our staff will review your child’s medical, feeding and development histories.
  • Our feeding therapist watches your child feed.
  • Our staff works with your child’s caregivers to create a feeding plan.

Some feeding problems may need more testing or treatment. The time between follow-up appointments is different for each child. Some children need weekly therapy, but most children don’t need to be seen that often.

Intensive Day Treatment Program

Our Intensive Day Treatment Program is an alternative to inpatient treatment. It offers the same intensive treatment as inpatient treatment, but avoids hospitalization.

Children are usually referred for intensive treatment after:

  • Outpatient or home-based therapy hasn’t worked
  • Having a Feeding Program evaluation

Many children in our intensive program:

  • Need supplemental feedings
  • Are underweight
  • Have severe nutritional risk.

Children who are approved for day treatment attend the Feeding Program with a caregiver.

  • The day starts between 8:30 and 9 a.m., and ends around 4:30 to 5 p.m.
  • Most children take part in five to ten feeding sessions per day.
  • The length of each session depends on the child.
  • All the feeding therapy sessions are conducted by one of our feeding therapists or by the child’s caregiver if it’s a training session.

Ask questions or make an appointment

Phone:  717-531-7117
Fax:  717-531- 0720
E-mail:  feedingprogram@pennstatehealth.psu.edu

Where to stay

Families who do not live near Penn State Children’s hospital may want to stay nearby. Overnight options range from budget motels to bed and breakfasts. Some places offer-discounted rates for patient families.