What our feeding program tells us about online support

When we moved our feeding group support program to a virtual mode of delivery it had some unanticipated benefits.

The 11 week group support program is for children who have sensory challenges with food, or who eat a very limited diet. We made the decision to move the 2022 term 1 program to a virtual mode of delivery due to Covid-19.

The program is designed to encourage children to have more positive experiences around food and encourage them to broaden their horizons though play based interventions and gradual exposure to less preferred foods.

“Moving the program online actually made it more accessible for many of our families trying to fit it in to a busy schedule or who had to travel long distances due to being in a rural location,” says Ricky Weightman, Occupational Therapist.

Many children also seemed to respond well to the program because they were accessing the program from familiar environments they were already comfortable in.

“We know that children learn best in their every day environments, such as home, kinder and school. These are the places where they feel safe and enact their daily routines and activities. So they were already in their environments that give them the best opportunity to develop their skills and confidence;” says Ricky.

The program uses a variety of techniques to make the experience of eating more pleasant for children. It also provides coaching and tips for parents and carers on how to best support their children through the feeding process.

“Improvement is often gradual for many of the children with feeding challenges, but they definitely can get there with patience and the right support,” says Ricky.

Ricky is currently running the program in conjunction with dietitian Emma Jettner.

“The primary goal of feeding therapy is to expose children to a wide range of healthy foods to develop acceptance in a fun and engaging environment. Typically, I have found that this can take time but once the child has developed rapport with the therapist and the overall group dynamic has been established the acceptance of healthy dietary options can then develop,” says Emma.

 “Although face to face is often preferred by families, we know that we can have positive impacts in a virtual mode of delivery. For future programs we will potentially look at offering a combination of virtual and face to face formats so we can make the most of both forms of delivery,” says Ricky.

To find out more about our group support programs or Early Intervention and Therapy Services, call the team on 1300 946 337 or email info@windermere.org.au