My love for feeding therapy has taken on a whole new world these days. Working in a preschool with student’s who have varying diagnoses, one thing was pretty consistent, “picky eating”. Many of my students tended to prefer foods that were not very nutritious. Your typical “kid friendly” foods of chips, anything chocolate and chicken nuggets. When I asked their parents what a goal would be for their child’s feeding progress, eating a fruit or vegetable was high on the priority list.
I was desperate to find a way to introduce my students to healthy snack options. Snack options that were easy to do in a school snack setting, easy enough for parents to re-create at home and most importantly fun. Last year, I was lucky enough to be the first Special Ed Preschool class to pilot Dr. Yum’s Preschool Food Adventure Curriculum. (Visit http://www.doctoryum.org) It has been an amazing experience for myself, the staff I work with and our students. When your students request, “more” of their Kale Smoothie, that is something to be celebrated!
The asking for seconds doesn’t happen overnight though! Giving my students exposure to the recipe ingredients for a few weeks prior to creating a recipe has been the secret weapon to success. Participating in art, literacy, science and music activities allowed my students to interact with and learn about the foods without feeling the pressure to eat them. When it came time to making the recipe our students were more willing to participate in the preparation of the recipe and more willing try the new foods.
In comes gardening. Schools all over the country have started creating gardens in their school yards as a way teach students hands on lessons, teach the value of sustainability and to open up the conversation of living healthier life styles. For me, having a school garden was another way to provide my students exposure to healthy foods.
My class was preparing to make a recipe using strawberries at the end of the month. I had a student who spent several occasions out in the garden. His first time he went out with his OT to pick strawberries off the plants. He was excited to share yet wouldn’t taste them himself. The next time, he went out and picked some more. When he brought them in we cut them up and “painted” with them. I observed him bring one to his tongue to taste it. His family knew we were working on strawberries and decided to go strawberry picking as a family. At the end of the month we created a strawberry salsa. I again observed him tasting the strawberry over and over and taking very small bites. To me this was awesome progress! But the real success was when I received a note from his mom reporting that he had requested strawberries as a snack at home and ate them! Awesome news.
Early on I was questioned as to how gardening relates to my profession. I started questioning myself, and then that happened.
Exposure is so powerful, the proof is in the plant.
Check out this article written for my national association, the American Speech Language Hearing Association. It’s by Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, author of the new book Adventures in Veggieland, based on the research and importance of exposure. Be sure to download her free chart to help you keep track of your child’s new food experiences!