402-933-2882 info@zierinstitute.com

Feeding Therapy

Mealtimes are a time to connect as a family, learn and love. Sharing a meal can be a way to spend time together before a busy day starts or reconnect after school and work. Calm and happy mealtimes provide space for parents to nourish their child’s body and the child-parent relationship. When a child struggles to eat new foods or is not eating as much as parents and caregivers believe they “should,” they are often labeled as “picky eaters.” Some children outgrow eating issues; others need additional support to overcome these challenges.

Help is here. Feeding Therapy by Zier Institute

Mealtimes may feel challenging and stressful for families when a child struggles to enjoy eating. Children and their parents might begin to avoid family mealtimes or stop eating. Feeding therapy at Zier Institute is available for newborns through adolescence.

Feeding therapy can be a lifeline for parents who recognize their child is struggling and those who want to restore mealtime peace at the dinner table. Through feeding therapy, parents will learn why their child may be struggling to enjoy eating and how they can help. Parents and feeding therapists partner together to restore the joy of family mealtimes.

There are a wide variety of reasons why a child may struggle to eat. Some children have early developmental experiences that make eating challenging. Others have sensory systems that cause sensitivity to the textures, smells and flavors of foods. Specific medical conditions, discoordination/coordination difficulties, food allergies, social pressure and anxiety can all contribute to a child’s feeding struggles.

Parents often struggle with anxiety or guilt when their child is not growing or eating well. Zier Institute’s feeding therapists work with parents to provide guidance and a supportive emotional environment. Feeding therapy can help restore a child’s relationship with food and mealtimes.

How do I know if my child needs feeding therapy?

Below are a few common behaviors parents report experiencing with their children:

  • Dinner table tantrums
  • Picky eating
  • Non-stop snacking
  • Poor nutritional choices
  • Mealtime meltdowns


Contact us today to learn how we can help your unique challenges!

  1. Email us at info@zierinstitute.com
  2. Call us at 402-933-2882

We are looking forward to hearing from you.

Karen Dilfer, MS, OTR/L

Part of our pediatric expert team is, Karen Dilfer, MS, OTR/L out of our Chicago clinic, Amy Zier + Associates. Karen has extensive experience in creating successful treatment plans that help children enjoy food and reduce mealtime battles. Karen mentored with Marsha Dunn Klein, MEd, OTR/L, creator of the “Get Permission” approach to mealtimes and an expert in the field of pediatric feeding.

Click here to learn more in this recent article on Karen and her experience in the Chicago Tribune.

Karen collaborates with us on treatments, methodologies and intervention plans. Karen provides in-person feeding therapy treatment in Chicago as well as online therapy options for out of state clients.

Looking at Feeding Through a Developmental Lens

Eating is complex! It involves our body’s organs, muscles, and sensory systems. Mealtimes are highly social experiences. ‘Picky eating or ‘Refusal to eat’ is described; however, it can result from many different factors, not behavior problems.

Our Feeding Therapy includes but is not limited to:

  • Guidance for peaceful mealtimes with anxious eaters
  • Support for children and adolescents with a diagnosis of ARFID
  • Support to help children with sensory and motor feeding challenges

Zier Institute’s food therapy helps children overcome these challenges successfully. We work on-site with children and can help parents, caregivers and educators with strategies for ongoing support.

If you answer YES to any of the following statements, the child might benefit from food feeding therapy:

  • The child doesn’t appear to enjoy eating
  • The child has difficulty trying new foods
  • The child has trouble sitting at the table
  • The child eats fewer than 20 different foods
  • Mealtimes feel consistently and intensely stressful
  • The child has difficulty eating in a variety of settings (i.e., home, school, restaurant)
  • The child prefers certain brands of food and needs food prepared in a specific way.
  • The child may cry or meltdown when a portion of new food is placed on their plate or another person’s plate at the table.
  • The child will not eat foods that are hard to chew, e.g., meat, raw fruits, and raw vegetables.
  • The child may choke, gag or cough during mealtimes

How it works – There are many ways to address feeding, we focus on the relationship!

Follow the Leader

The child leads feeding therapy, and we never force them to eat. By observing the child’s behavior regarding food, we create a plan that suits them rather than one tailored to meet any preconceived ideas about what they “should be” eating.

How Much is Enough?

Nutrition is a primary concern for parents of picky eaters. Can a specific brand of Mac n’ Cheese, chicken nuggets, or crackers provide the nutrition they need to grow and thrive? We help calm parents’ expectations while motivating children with new foods they may enjoy.

Celebrate Food

Part of childhood is enjoying birthday parties, family celebrations, and social time with friends. Parents of picky eaters understand that any occasion involving food requires extra planning and an extra helping of stress. Eating therapy works to eliminate or reduce the anxieties associated with food.

Hungry for Help

Eating therapy is a collaboration between the child, parents, therapist, and doctors. Helping children eat a healthy diet, at any age or given any circumstance, is complicated. Our occupational therapists are part of the care team to find the right solution for your unique child.

Broaden their Horizon

Anxious or picky eaters may repetitively request and only eat a small assortment of foods, often prepared in a very specific way – down to the cup or plate it is served upon. Our goal is to understand the appeal of these foods and expand their food choices based on this knowledge.

Read the Food Cues

Children will tell us what they like and do not like through their behaviors, expressions, or outright defiance. With eating challenges, parents, caregivers, and therapists need to learn the specific cues of each child and react positively to avoid deeper food afflictions.

Exploring Habits

Our feeding program promotes a child-led and trust-based approach. We focus on helping children and their families enjoy mealtime as the child expands their curiosity and shifts their mindset about food.


Individualized approach

We are here for you. If you have any additional questions or would like to understand more about our feeding program, please give us a call at 402-933-2882, email us, or schedule a free consultation. We look forward to speaking with you.

Do you work alongside other professionals and pediatricians?

Zier Institute takes a comprehensive approach to all of our services and partners with doctors, teachers, and other professionals to ensure the best solution for your child and family. A one size fits all feeding plan doesn’t exist. We welcome partnering with other professionals while working to find a treatment plan that is perfect for your family.

How long does it take?

Eating therapy results depend on the age of the child and the particular issues they have around feeding – sensory, physical, emotional, etc. Some may experience differences within a few days or the first week, while others need consistency over a longer period of time before everything begins to click.


What can we expect from working with you?

Before the initial consultation, Zier Institute sends intake forms that enable us to understand family dynamics and detailed information about your family activities, and current challenges with eating. We will then schedule an in-clinic or virtual consultation which leads to a personalized feeding therapy plan. Our 3-week plans include varying levels of support based on your family and child’s profile.


Why is feeding therapy important for my family?

Zier Institute brings a multi-disciplinary approach to creating feeding therapy for families. As board-certified occupational therapists, specializing in DIR/Floortime® therapy, our holistic methods focus not only on eating habits and sensory issues but rather the family dynamic during mealtime. In doing so, we are often able to determine eating plans and meal methods that help your child.

Ready to get started?

Call us at 402-933-2882, set up an appointment for a free consultation or email us today!