How do I Know if My Child has a Feeding Disorder?


Feeding disorders are very common. Though it is hard to quantify, “[a]pproximately 20-50% of normally developing children, and 70-89% of children with developmental disabilities” (1) have a feeding disorder. How does this happen so frequently?!

According to Dr. Kay Toomey’s research and reviews of other studies, of children who have feeding disorders, between 65-95% of cases are caused by both behavioral and natural, organic causes (2017) (2). In other words, more often than not, a feeding disorder is not just behavioral! For example, a child that has undiagnosed reflux or allergies has learned to refuse food, because they have learned that food causes them to have an upset stomach. They may continue to refuse food even after receiving treatment for the initial physiological problem. A child that has choked on some solids because of undiagnosed oral dysphagia will begin to only eat liquid and purees to avoid choking. A child that is refusing crunchy foods could have sensory processing disorder and benefit from desensitization. A child that is having a hard time breathing will refuse food in order to get enough oxygen to survive. The examples could go on and on. Every child is different, and needs to be diagnosed and treated holistically.

Some signs that may indicate your child could have a feeding disorder include:

  • If your child eats less than 20 foods
  • If mealtimes take more than 30 minutes
  • If they refuse all of food of a certain texture or color, or are they having difficulty transitioning to solids
  • If they are choking, coughing, or gagging while eating
  • If they are demonstrating a lot of negative behaviors during meal times
  • If they have difficulty with mealtime routines or have a hard time sitting at the table
  • If they have difficulty chewing or swallowing (example: food left in their mouth after they’ve finished eating)

If you think your child could have a feeding disorder, or you feel that you’ve exhausted your options at home and don’t know where else to go, your child could likely benefit from a feeding evaluation and possibly feeding therapy. A pediatric feeding specialist can help you determine the cause, if a cause is present, make appropriate referrals, and plan the best course of treatment. Slowly, your child will become an adventurous and independent eater!


  1. 2013. June 13. Banchaun Benjasuwantep, Suthida Chaithirayanon, and  Monchutha Eiamudomkan. Feeding Problems in Healthy Young Children: Prevalence, Related Factors and Feeding Practices. Published online 2013 Jun 13. doi: 10.4081/pr.2013.e10
  2. Toomey, Kay (2017). Top Ten Myths of Mealtime in America. SOS Approach to Feeding. https://sosapproach-conferences.com/resources/top-ten-myths-of-mealtime-in-america/
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