Feeding, eating, and swallowing are essential components of successful social participation in daily meals; therefore, children with feeding difficulties are at risk of being excluded from full participation in meals at home, school, and in other social situations. This course discusses evidence for an occupation-based approach and provides intervention strategies for enabling occupational participation and performance of children with feeding difficulties in mealtime routines at home, school, and in the community. Dr. Jennifer Pitonyak presents an overview of evidence that guides intervention aimed at supporting the participation of children with feeding difficulties in mealtime experiences. Case examples and panel discussion with experienced clinicians are used to introduce intervention approaches across neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), early intervention, and school-based settings. This course is a second introductory course in a series on occupation-based approaches to intervention for children with feeding and eating difficulties.
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.
It is important that intervention approaches with children with feeding difficulties be grounded in OT theory and guided by current evidence. This chapter presents diverse examples of evidence supporting the use of interventions for routines, occupational performance, social participation and translates the evidence to common needs of children in the NICU, early intervention, and school settings.
Dr. Pitonyak conducts an interview with Ashlea Cardin. Together, they discuss the evidence that guides intervention aimed at supporting the participation of children with feeding difficulties in mealtime experiences.
Dr. Pitonyak interviews a panel of experienced occupational therapists working in NICU, early intervention, and school settings to examine intervention considerations unique to each setting and analyze how the occupational needs of children with feeding difficulties change across settings.