Date Presented 04/20/2023

Feeding can be a complex occupation for children. A professional development course was created to provide OT practitioners and other professionals with strategies to address feeding difficulties with the pediatric population.

Primary Author and Speaker: Danielle Cassista

Additional Authors and Speakers: Rae Ann Smith, Julie L. Watson

Feeding, eating, and swallowing are complex, but valued, occupations for children. Approximately 25-45% of typically developing children, 40-80% of developmentally delayed children, and 90% of children with autism experience feeding difficulties (Yang, 2017). Occupational therapy practitioners (OTPs) and other interdisciplinary team members are often underprepared by their training programs to treat feeding issues (Boop & Smith, 2017). A professional development course was created to provide OTPs and other related service providers with strategies to address feeding difficulties with the pediatric population. Pediatric Feeding: Bridging the Gap is a three-hour course that was presented once in a face-to-face format and once using a hybrid method. Twenty-two participants were recruited through a regional service that provides affordable educational programs to underserved areas in northeast Connecticut. To accommodate varied learning styles of the participants, the course information was presented in a PowerPoint lecture, case studies, hands-on simulations, and group discussions. A pre/posttest and course evaluation were administered. A paired sample t-test was used to compare pre-and posttest scores. The mean of the pretest scores was 42.27; the posttest mean was 78.18. The data analysis revealed p =.00000038, indicating there was a significant change in knowledge. Overwhelmingly positive responses to the course evaluation indicated that the course met the objectives of educating OTPs and other pediatric professionals about strategies to address feeding difficulties across the pediatric population and increasing their confidence in their ability to do so. Feeding issues can lead to deficiencies in nutrition, growth, cognitive function, and neurodevelopment, and failure to thrive (Yang, 2017). There is a critical need to increase the number of well-prepared pediatric providers to address these issues.


Boop, C. & Smith, J. (2017). The practice of occupational therapy in feeding, eating, and swallowing. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(Suppl. 2), 7112410015p1–7112410015p13.

Yang, H. R. (2017). How to approach feeding difficulties in young children. Korean Journal of Pediatrics, 60(12), 379-384.