Developmental Foundations for Children with Feeding & Eating Problems

presented by Jennifer Pitonyak

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Feeding, eating, and swallowing are complex processes that require the physiological function of body systems and structures as a foundation for the observable, goal-directed actions that emerge with development. This introductory course reviews the body structures and functions required for feeding, eating, and swallowing and discusses their relationship with typical developmental milestones expected from birth through early childhood. Dr. Jennifer Pitonyak uses specific examples to illustrate the development of necessary performance skills for feeding and eating. This course is part of an introductory series on occupation-based approaches to intervention for children with feeding and eating difficulties.

Meet Your Instructor

  • Jennifer Pitonyak, PhD, OTR/L, SCFES

    Jennifer Pitonyak, PhD, OTR/L, SCFES

    Jennifer Pitonyak, PhD, OTR/L, SCFES, is a licensed occupational therapist with 20 years of clinical experience working with children with feeding difficulties. She has previously worked in both inpatient and outpatient multidisciplinary feeding programs at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, providing occupational therapy services to children with oral motor impairments, self-feeding problems, and other sensory-behavioral needs related to feeding. Dr. Pitonyak has also worked in early intervention and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) settings where she specialized in supporting breastfeeding in infants with a history of prematurity and developmental delays. She holds specialty certification in feeding, eating, and swallowing from the American Occupational Therapy Association and is also a Certified Infant Massage Instructor. Currently, Dr. Pitonyak is faculty in the School of Occupational Therapy at the University of Puget Sound, where she teaches courses on occupational performance adaptations and psychosocial and biomechanical approaches to intervention. She is also coordinator for the onsite occupational therapy clinic at Puget Sound. Dr. Pitonyak has presented nationally on the topic of occupational therapy for children with feeding difficulties and has authored several publications on the role of occupational therapy in breastfeeding promotion. She values a family-centered, culturally-relevant approach to occupational therapy, as well as the importance of interprofessional collaboration and communication to best support children with developmental needs and their families. She is currently a per diem therapist on the infant team at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dr. Pitonyak earned a BA in Psychology from Allegheny College, a MS in Occupational Therapy from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and a PhD in Health Policy from the University of the Sciences.

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Chapters & Learning Objectives

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  1. Feeding, Eating, and Swallowing:  Body Structures

    1. Feeding, Eating, and Swallowing: Body Structures

    Feeding, eating, and swallowing require the function of numerous body structures. Dr. Pitonyak begins by defining feeding and eating according to the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process, 3rd Edition (AOTA, 2014), and then reviews body structures of the upper aerodigestive tract.

  2. Stages of Deglutition: The Physiological Process of Swallowing

    2. Stages of Deglutition: The Physiological Process of Swallowing

    In this chapter, Dr. Pitonyak reviews the physiological process of swallowing. Participants will begin to identify and understand three different phases of this process: oral, pharyngeal, and esophageal.

  3. Developmental Skills Necessary for Feeding and Eating

    3. Developmental Skills Necessary for Feeding and Eating

    In this chapter, Dr. Pitonyak examines the relationship between client factors and necessary performance skills for feeding and eating. Developmental skills necessary for feeding and eating from birth through early childhood are reviewed.