Kennedy Krieger Institute Pediatric Feeding Disorders Institute

Applied Behavioral Analysis

Research has shown that behavioral approaches to the assessment and treatment of children with feeding disorders help increase appropriate eating and decrease inappropriate behavior. Kennedy Krieger’s behavioral psychologists work with the interdisciplinary team to combine this approach with other disciplines to treat all aspects of your child’s feeding difficulty.

When treating your child, our behavioral psychologists will use a data-based approach of behavioral assessment and treatment strategies that are based on an applied behavior analysis model. Behavioral analysis is a science that is concerned with what children and caregivers do and say in an attempt to understand the function or purpose of the child’s behavior. A behavioral assessment includes an evaluation of caregiver-child mealtime interactions to identify what situations may be causing inappropriate behavior and also how caregivers are responding to that behavior. This will help us plan an individualized treatment approach for your child.

The behavioral psychologist will conduct additional behavioral assessments with your child. These assessments will include direct observation of your child’s mealtime behavior under different situations. The behavioral therapists will record how your child responds to a variety of situations (for example, the number of bites taken), which may include the following:

  • The presence of preferred foods versus nonpreferred foods
  • The presence of higher textures versus lower textures
  • The use of preferred toys or foods for taking a bite of the therapist choice
  • Sessions in which the therapist gets to know your child’s preferences for foods and toys through a series of structured choice trials

Your child’s behavior during these sessions will help the behavioral psychologist plan a treatment approach tailored to the needs of your child. Once an appropriate treatment has been developed and your child begins to eat regularly, we will begin to train you and other caregivers to implement the behavioral treatment. Under the supervision of a behavior feeding therapist, you will practice the treatment in a variety of settings. This training will help you and your child bring the treatment plan into your home, and it will help ensure that treatment gains are maintained.

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