It is often assumed that eating is a natural instinct children are born with and that difficulties in this area are rare. Not so. Various studies into feeding disorders have identified a wide variety of prevalence statistics. It is known that some children are at an increased risk for feeding difficulty; those who are born prematurely, experience early medical complications, or children with neurological disorders. But even for children without any medical or developmental diagnoses, feeding may be a very tricky skill to acquire.
Currently available data suggests the incidence of children who experience feeding difficulty is as follows:
- Manikam & Perman, 2000: Pediatric feeding disorders are common. 25% of children are reported to present with some form of feeding disorder. This number increases to 80% in developmentally delayed children.
- Lewinsohn et al 2005: up to 45% of children at 36 months of age exhibit some “picky eating” as defined by food refusal, or accepting food one day and denying it another.
- Emond, Emmett, Steer, & Golding, 2010: This study compared the eating habits of children diagnosed with Autism to a sample of typically developing children at multiple ages. Children with ASD experienced feeding difficulty much more frequently and to a greater degree. Using a parent-completed questionnaire, typically developing children were identified as “very choosy” eaters as follows:
- o 15 months: 5.4%
- 24 months: 9.5%
- 38 months: 15.5%
- 54 months: 13.9%
Parents of picky eaters, the underlying message here is: you are not alone. If your child is experiencing feeding difficulty, seek out the advice of a professional- your pediatrician, an occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, and nutritionist are among the qualified individuals who can help you to better understand and navigate the factors that impact your child’s feeding abilities.
Emond, A., Emmett, P., Steer, C., & Golding, J. (2010). Feeding symptoms, dietary patterns, and growth in young children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 26, 337-342.
Lewinsohn et al. (2005). Prblematic eating and feeding behaviors of 36-month-old children. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 38, 208-219.
Manikam, R., & Perman, J. (2000). Pediatric feeding disorders. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, 30, 34-46.