As SLPs, we are very lucky with the wide range of placement opportunities this job offers. You can work in a hospital, in a nursing home, in a school, or even from your own home. My first job out of grad school was in a school setting. I always knew that I wanted to be a school based therapist because I have always loved the school environment. In fact, before I discovered the amazing field of speech language pathology, my heart was set on being a first grade teacher. I spent 4 years there until my daughter, Kenzie, came along. I weighed my options with different setting options and what would be the best for my growing family and myself. I decided that private therapy was the best option because it allowed me more time with my daughter while still getting to do what I loved. However, being a therapist in a school setting, I was not exposed to many types of therapy, feeding therapy being one of them. Over the last year I have been working with patients that have feeding disorders. This was not an area that I thought I would ever like to practice in as it is a huge step out of my SLP comfort zone, but guess what, I really enjoy it.
I have learned many things about children, their eating habits, and patience over the last year. I was very used to typical articulation and language therapy where students would progress at a somewhat fast pace. I have learned that feeding therapy is very different and is a marathon type of therapy. Unfortunately, parents are usually so incredibly stressed and worried about their child when therapy first begins. They want immediate results, but it is so important to stress to them that this is a slow process. With many children, you just need to make them feel comfortable being around food first.
Working with these students has made me a better therapist and forced me to think outside of the box. Feeding therapy is more than just eating. When you are working with a child that has a feeding disorder, you can't just jump in and expect them to take food from you because you said so or because you will reward them with a sticker. You first need to make food something they are comfortable with. Therapy needs to be fun! Color pictures of food. Make food out of PlayDoh. Try incorporating plastic or wooden foods into your sessions. Have your child pretend to feed his favorite teddy bear. Contrary to what we all learned growing up, it is OK to play with your food and get a little messy!!
Stepping out of my comfort zone with feeding therapy is something that I am glad I did. I am by no means an expert in this area; I still have lots to learn. But I can say that I am definitely enjoying the journey!