Specialized Clinics Treat Feeding Disorder
> 8/23/2007 12:08:41 PM

Feeding disorder, the rare yet pernicious problem that largely affects young children, can be the cause of immense stress and anxiety for parents. Categorized by a child's unwillingness to eat, the disorder's roots are often hard to pin down. However, unless treatment of symptoms begins quickly a child will often begin to lose weight, leading to delayed or impaired development. Finding a physician or therapist capable of handling this enigmatic disorder can often mean the difference between a life of struggle and a normal adulthood. Unfortunately the disorder's rarity makes finding qualified care difficult. Today, the New York Times profiles one such qualified facility that operates within St. Mary's Hospital in Bayside, New York. As one of only nine centers in the U.S. specifically geared toward children and families with feeding disorders, the St. Mary's Center for Pediatric Feeding Disorders has a waiting list of over 16 months.

Describing the work that takes place at the center, the New York Times writes:

Underlying the work is the notion that eating is a learned behavior, not an instinctive one. Babies fed by tube after birth may never learn to associate the sensation of hunger with the act of eating; babies who do not move to solid food by the age of 8 months may not learn to breathe, chew and swallow without choking. When those learning opportunities are missed, children can develop a deep anxiety that defies logic, something that Dr. Manikam compares to a fear of flying.

At the center of the NYT profile, and at the center of St. Mary's program, is Dr. Ramasamy Manikam. He has made his name by treating those cases of feeding disorder that seem beyond hope. Along with the rest of the center, Manikam approaches each case on its own terms. Parents are often guilt-ridden and stressed about their child's problem, and the center works with them to develop a strategy that matches the case's needs. In some cases this can mean regimented eating schedules. In others, this may include individual or family therapy. In most cases the process involves breaking down conditioned behaviors about eating that are established early in life, and then helping children learn appropriate and healthy eating habits.

As many as 5% of all pediatric hospitalizations are for failure to gain weight, and there is evidence that feeding disorders could account for half of those. Often this disorder will rectify itself, but while rare, feeding disorder can be incredibly problematic. Parents need to be aware of their children's eating behaviors, especially early in life, as getting help in the early going is one of the best ways to improve outcomes. While their operation may be small, Dr. Manikam and his team at St. Mary's have had incredible success, and should serve as a model for others looking to replicate their success.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy