Kent speech-language pathology company adds feeding therapy to its services

Submitted photo

Talk On, an outpatient speech-language pathology company in Kent, recently began offering feeding therapy as another resource for the families they serve.

Feeding therapy can help kids with food aversions, difficulty chewing and other psychological and physical barriers that affect the child’s experience of eating.

The company has been open for five years, providing speech and occupational therapy.

Owner and speech-language pathologist Calley Mitchell said she opened the company when she noticed how long waitlists were for kids to get in for private therapy, sometimes being anywhere between six to nine months. She wanted to add another resource to families that need it.

She described that for young children, there are short periods of time when their brains are “moldable.” As they get older, it takes more work to give them the support they need.

She wanted her company to help “fill that hole for families,” providing more services to a growing community of kids who need them.

As more and more kids need the therapies Michell’s clinic offers, she said speech therapy is their biggest department.

Talk On’s speech therapists work with kids who have any difficulty communicating or understanding communication. Briana Hess, one of the company’s speech-language pathologists, said this includes therapies to help with articulation, expression, reception, fluency and literacy.

“Communication is such a critical part of human development and a critical part of when we look forward to people’s lives: their ability to gain employment, maintain employment, gain and maintain social relationships, have a good quality of life, things like that,” Mitchell said.

Its occupational therapists work with kids who need sensory regulation, targeting fine motor skills and building an understanding of how their brain interacts with themselves and the outside world, Mitchell said.

When she noticed few trained therapists offer feeding therapy, she decided to step in.

“As the practice has grown, we have seen that our families need support with these kiddos with feeding disorders,” Mitchell said.

Somewhere between 5-20% of children have some kind of feeding disorder, Mitchell said.

This could include oral motor skill issues like difficulty chewing, or a sensory aversion to specific textures of food, causing some kids to only be able to tolerate a small palette, sometimes under 10 foods, Hess said.

“Feeding and eating are such a critical piece of our day that many of us take for granted. It’s a time when people come together, so there’s a social aspect,” Mitchell said. “There’s lots of communication and engagement that happens through meals and a lot of internal sensory pieces that happen within ourselves for a meal.”

Hess obtained the certification to become a feeding therapist in February. She said other therapies touch on feeding a bit, but this clinic is much more structured and specific.

“Feeding therapy helps with the child learning about the food, learning about the sensory properties and exploring the food in a more safe, comfortable environment,” Hess said.

The goal is to expand their palette. Each session has a “food hierarchy” that is presented to the child, specific to the aversions they have, Hess said. It includes a protein, starch, fruit or vegetable and high-calorie drink, as well as a palette of textures including a hard munchable, a meltable hard solid and a puree.

During sessions, Hess said she plays with and teaches her patients about the food to help them get more comfortable with all types of food in a safe learning environment.

Mitchell said this clinic gives families another resource that they need, ultimately working toward her goal of increasing their quality of life.

Mitchell said it is an honor to have the opportunity to serve the families that come to them.

She wants people to know that there is support for speech-pathology needs other than through schools and doctors. Any family with a concern for their child can get in contact with Talk On.

Families can call or text Talk On’s clinic phone number, 330-846-1800, or they can email [email protected] to get in touch.

“Our goal is to serve,” Mitchell said. “And we serve through support.”

Lauren Cohen
+ posts