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Fussy eating, not chewing and motor development: identifying a link

Presented by: Dr Denise Stapleton, PhD, APD

Denise describes the case of a 14-month-old toddler who was referred to her due to an increase in fussy eating. On investigation, the toddler was often gagging and vomiting on her food, had difficulty chewing and was delayed in her development. In her presentation, Denise describes a detailed history, nutritional assessment and dealing with the issues which underly mealtime difficulties. In this case, a paediatric physiotherapist was referred to address the toddlers gross motor development, strength and symmetry, and postural stability. Physiotherapy resulted in improvements in the child’s chewing skills. The theory behind this is that children’s trunk rotation, and trunk and shoulder girdle development, usually precede effective tongue movement and chewing skills.

Denise Stapleton is an Accredited Practising Dietitian who initially worked at a children’s hospital for 10 years prior to completing a PhD in 2002. Her research in nutrition for cystic fibrosis was published in both nutrition and medical journals and drew her to join others in further developing a better way of helping children who don’t always enjoy eating. Together with occupational therapist Gillian Griffiths, she co-authored the SENSE-ational Mealtimes book in 2013. As a senior community dietitian and private practitioner, Denise helps children of all ages, and clinicians who work with families throughout Australia, to explore tricky mealtime behaviour, fussy/picky eating and feeding difficulties. Her unique support enables families to develop ‘just right stretching’ of food that is accepted and enjoyed, so that mealtimes are pleasurable for the whole family.

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