Laura Gentile, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, prepares for a telehealth session.

Laura Gentile, MS CCC-SLP, CBIS works with children from birth to school age who have feeding problems either from sensory aversion or dysphagia. Dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Laura has switched in some cases from evaluations and treatment in person to evaluations and treatment remotely, with excellent results.

“The feeding program is for kids with sensory aversion, meaning that they are over-sensitive to certain foods or textures or children who are unable to successfully and safely eat,” she said.

How does the therapist go about desensitizing the child?

“The overall goal is exposure and increasing the tolerance of new foods in children with aversions. The child has to be exposed to different textures and consistencies at different levels and increase their tolerance.  A lot of it is based around extended exposure on different levels. (touch, taste, eat, etc).

What is the process for participating in the feeding program?

“The physician would refer for a feeding evaluation. At this time, it is done remotely.  To evaluate a patient remotely, I would observe the child eat foods they are comfortable with, as well as watch their behaviors as they deny or reject foods they do not eat. Prior to the scheduled evaluation I touch base with the parents to create a plan for the evaluation as they will need to have some food available. As always, parent interview is conducted to gather more information. ”

Laura says that it is a little more work up front to do the feeding therapy via telehealth.  “When therapy is in person, I am modeling the behavior.  Over telehealth, there is a lot of discussion with the parent leading up to each session.  The parent has to have the predetermined foods ready, and I have similar food ready for modeling. ”

The sessions are structured to follow this pattern:

  • Each session begins at an empty table.
  • All food is out of the child’s sight but within reach of the adult.
  • The adult and child are sitting at the table with proper posture.
  • The table is wiped with soap, water, and a cloth.
  • The hands are wiped.
  • The table is set with white plates, napkins, and utensils if necessary.
  • The food is introduced in a predetermined hierarchy.
  • Complete the session.
  • The child helps with clean up.

“Telehealth may not be for everyone. Safety is always a priority.  But there has been success, and I have seen parents be super-creative and the sessions go great! ” said Laura.

To learn more about the feeding program, visit Bacharach.org.


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