Pediatric Feeding Program


child participating in a feeding-related exerciseThe Pediatric Feeding and Swallowing Program at The University of Alabama Speech and Hearing Center strives to provide children and their families with the skills necessary to maximize feeding, swallowing, and nutrition in order to support age-appropriate growth and development.


We offer assessment and treatment of Pediatric Feeding Disorders. Our comprehensive assessment looks at medical history, feeding skill development, sensory processing patterns, and disruptive feeding behaviors. Treatment focuses on the whole child and is provided utilizing skill development, sensory integration, and/or behavioral approaches. Parent counseling to aid in the carryover of treatment strategies into the natural environment is a part of each treatment plan.

Pediatric Feeding Disorders: What, Why, and When to Seek Help

Pediatric Feeding Disorder is defined as impaired oral intake that is not age-appropriate and is associated with medical, nutritional, feeding skill, and/or psychosocial dysfunction.

Your child may benefit from a referral for help if any of the following red flags are present:

  • Poor weight gain or weight loss
  • Respiratory issues
  • Choking, gagging, or coughing
  • Picky eating
  • Vomiting
  • Aversion or avoidance
  • Nasal reflux
  • Food range less than 20 foods
  • Traumatic choking incident
  • Meal times are battles
  • Inability to transition to baby food purees by 10 months of age
  • Inability to transition from breast/bottle to a cup by 16 months of age
  • Has not weaned off baby foods by 16 months
  • Difficult for everyone to feed
Decreased range of variety of foods; will eat at least 30 foods. Restricted range of variety of foods, usually less than 20 different foods.
Able to tolerate new foods on the plate and can usually touch or taste a new food (even if reluctantly). Cries and “falls apart” when presented with new foods, with complete refusal.
Eats a tleast one food from most food texture or nutrition groups (i.e., purees, meltables, proteins, fruits). Refuses entire categories of food texture or nutritional groups (i.e., hard mechanical, meats, vegetables, soft cubes).
Frequently eats a different set of foods at a meal than the rest of the family (typically eats with the family). Almost always eats different foods at a meal than the rest of the family (often doesn’t eat with the family)
Sometimes reported by parent as a “picky eater” at well-child check-ups. Persistently reported by parent as a “picky eater” across multiple well-child check-ups.
Foods lost due to “burn out” because of food jag are usually regained after a 2-week break. Foods lost due to food jabs are NOT re-acquired after taking a break, often resulting in a decreasing number of foods in repertoire.
Will add new foods to repertoire in 20–25 steps on Steps to Eating Hierarchy. Adds new flavors in more than 25 steps on the Steps to Eating Hierarchy.

Download Defining Pediatric Feeding Disorders Red Flags as a printable PDF