Adapted from January’s presentation by Sheryl Trainor, MS, OTR/L

What is the SOS Model? The SOS Model is an approach to feeding therapy developed by Dr. Kay Toomey, Pediatric Psychologist. It uses systematic desensitization to encourage exploration of foods working towards healthy eating. The SOS Model includes the use of sensory, oral motor, and play based techniques in a sequential developmental order to motivate and nurture the skills necessary to eat and self-feed.

Shouldn’t eating be easy and instinctual? When children have difficulty eating, it is crucial to understand why eating is a difficult skill for them. Feeding ourselves is one of the most multifaceted things that we do on a daily basis. Eating involves all parts and systems of the body, including all of the internal organs, motor skills including oral motor (mouth) skills, breath coordination and postural stability, as well as processing of complex sensory information by all of the senses. The desire and ability to eat is also shaped by a child’s history with food, environment, and health status. A vital part of the SOS model involves a multi-disciplinary assessment that looks at these different factors before determining a course of treatment.

Isn’t picky eating just part of childhood? As children grow and change, being picky about what they eat can be part of normal development. However, challenges with eating can become a much bigger problem for some children. If your child eats less than 20 foods, does not start eating a previously liked food after deciding she doesn’t like it, and falls apart or gags when new foods are presented, please seek out help.

How can I nurture healthy eating for my child? Here are some simple ideas you can try at home to expand the diet of your picky eater:

  • Have family meals together – the more times a food is explored, the more familiar it becomes, which opens up more possibility for eventually eating it. In addition to foods you know your child will eat, provide them with the chance to explore the foods the family is eating as well.
  • Explore food at home when it’s not meal time. Check out the sensory properties of the food. What does it look like, sound like (e.g. when banged on the table), feel like, smell like, taste like? What can be done with it? Is it wiggly/rigid? Build, make art, and do pretend play with food.
  • Use tools while exploring food. Utensils, tooth picks, cookie cutters are a few good ones. Have a washcloth/napkins readily available for hand washing. Plastic wrap can be wrapped around a finger food that your child isn’t ready to touch.
  • Be Playful- the food is the subject, you are the teacher.
  • Create a supportive and consistent environment. Have a routine around mealtime, use consistent seating and place settings.
  • Check for any food allergies or intolerances.
  • Eat the food yourself to see what you need to do to eat it, i.e.: Is it meltable? Chewy? Does it scatter? How much tongue movement is needed? Match food to skill level of your child.

For additional information check out these helpful resources:

GHS SOS Program