Many infants and young children have eating disorders where they have chronic difficulties with food and therefore lack an appropriate and adequate diet. Children can have difficulty swallowing. There are also environmental or psychosocial responses to food, such as in Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (AFRID), where children show a lack of interest or a sensory aversion to certain foods.
Our early childhood centers are constantly addressing eating issues, which is prevalent with our population and is also one of the most concerning issues for parents. At the Chimes Israel Shaked Center in Ashkelon, we have formulated a unique work strategy, with each class having an eating team that meets regularly, that includes the nutritionist, clinician, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, social worker, emotional therapists, and class coordinators. The team meets and monitors all the children’s development and sets individual goals for them in the area of eating.
The Department of Child Development and Rehabilitation at Israel’s Ministry of Health recently held a seminar for the staff of rehabilitative daycare centers on dealing with the challenges of eating disorder in rehabilitative daycare centers. At the conference, the Chimes Shaked daycare staff presented as a expert panel, their success in the case study of “A,” a two-year-old child who entered the daycare center last September.
The panel, including Shaked daycare center director, Anat Shahar; staff nutritionist, Gali Danieli; emotional therapist and parent guide, Omri Botbul and communication clinician, Zohar Buskila, relayed the detailed strategies and outcomes of “A’s” case.
They discussed how at first, the child refused to eat or drink, and would not bring anything consumable close to him during the day. To overcome his anxiety over unknown foods, the eating team collaborated with his parents in developing strategies to tackle his eating disorder. The process included many professional discussions and developing a strategy that consisted of series of small goals tailored to his precise abilities toward eating at his own pace. In October, after just a month of consistently executing their strategies, “A” began to drink from a bottle that he had brought from home. A month later in November, “A” agreed to sit at the dining table. During December, he began to play with food, and in January he began to bring food closer to the mouth while playing. In February, suddenly and emotionally, he began to eat with appetite all the food served at the daycare center. Explaining that, “the process was exciting and extraordinary, and required a lot of faith in him and in ourselves,” they showed innovation and leadership in this complex and multidisciplinary field of childhood development and disorders.