Changing lives one bite at a time

Eating is essential for growth and development, but it is also a common challenge for many children and a source of stress for parents. Our Feeding Program offers comprehensive care to help your child develop a positive relationship with food.

Located at Marcus Autism Center, the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Center for Advanced Pediatrics and Children's at Forsyth, our multidisciplinary program is one of only a few facilities in the country to offer empirically supported, treatment for children 8 months to 21 years old who have chronic feeding disorders.

How do I know if my child has a feeding disorder?

Many children with feeding disorders struggle to gain weight from eating little or no food during meals or relying on formula by bottle or through a tube. Other children consume enough calories, but will only eat a narrow range of foods. Some often reject one or more food groups, like fruits and vegetables. Avoiding and/or restricting food intake can negatively affect a child’s physical, social and psychological wellbeing.

Signs and symptoms of a feeding disorder

  • Poor weight gain
  • Feeding tube dependence
  • Bottle or formula dependence
  • Mealtime tantrums, or mealtimes exceeding 40 minutes
  • Distress and anxiety with new foods
  • Inability to adapt to different textures
  • Inability or refusal to feed oneself
  • Extreme pickiness (eating fewer than 12 foods)

Programs to treat feeding disorders

    The Feeding Program offers many levels of service to address each child’s unique feeding needs.

  • Feeding Clinic–Provides testing to make general recommendations for further evaluations and interventions at Marcus Autism Center or in the community.
  • Day Treatment Program–Offers a medical program for children who require intensive daily therapy without 24-hour medical supervision, including intensive feeding sessions, sensorimotor training, psychosocial family support, and medical and nutritional monitoring.
  • Outpatient Program–Serves children with feeding disorders who can be treated by less intensive therapy, such as one hour, once a week, with one discipline, or children who graduated from the Day Treatment Program needing additional assistance.
  • Managing Eating Aversions and Limited Variety (MEAL) Plan–Aims to equip kids and families with the resources needed to help a child with autism spectrum disorder thrive during meal time through a 13-session treatment course instructed by a board-certified behavior analyst.

Coordinated care from specialized providers

Staff members evaluate the factors contributing to feeding problems, develop individualized treatment plans, train caregivers to implement procedures and provide long-term follow-up care. The most complete and efficient treatment involves a team of specialists, including:

  • Occupational therapists who focus on reducing hypersensitivity to gagging or textures while building skills related to chewing and self-feeding
  • Behavioral psychologists who use behavior analysis or related techniques to design a structure to help children and parents during mealtimes
  • Nutritionists who ensure children are getting balanced nutrition, guiding adjustments to supplemental tube feedings or feeding formulas
  • Physicians and nurses who monitor the impact of health and development on a child’s feeding practices

Patient successes and outcomes

  • 85% or more of goals set by parents and the treatment team are reached at the completion of the Day Treatment Program.
  • Parents gave high ratings for program satisfaction (4.9 out of 5), program effectiveness (4.3 out of 5) and treatment acceptability (4.6 out of 5).
  • Patients eat an average of only three foods upon admission, but they leave eating 19 foods, including at least four fruits, four vegetables, four starches and four proteins.
  • On average, tube feedings are reduced from 88% of a patient’s daily calories upon admission to 47% by completion of the Day Treatment Program.

Referrals

To have your child evaluated by our team, please email us or call 404-785-9493