8 ("ate", haha :) Ways to Support Your "Picky Eater" with Technology

I love technology (and I love to eat!) and I am always looking to integrate it into my practice.  I truly believe that much of what we do today, as professionals, parents, and people, is enhanced through technology.  So why should feeding therapy be any different? :)  Here are a few ways to use some awesome websites, blogs, and apps to support children who have difficulty eating in therapy sessions and at home.

#1 Teaching Kids and Families About Food (and Nutrition)

For some kids and parents, part of achieving oral feeding progress is to learn about portion size, balanced diets, and the vital nutrients the body needs to learn and grow.  This is especially true for children who eat a limited range of foods and limited volume of the foods they accept.  I have also found that some families just aren't really sure what and how much when it comes to feeding their kids.  The websites and mobile apps below are great tools to support learning about new foods and nutrition ( not to mention, educational and fun for parents and kids!)

Nourish Interactive
"Nourish Interactive is your free one stop resource for fun nutrition games for kids, interactive nutrition tools and tips for parents and health educators to use to promote healthy living for the whole family."  This AMAZING, interactive site is colorful and kid friendly, and even provides printouts on topics related to food groups, portion size, meal planning, and more!   The site has some culturally diverse information as well and can be viewed in English or Spanish.  Think this site is a great way to help families plan out meals for their picky eaters and to help kids learn about new foods.  There are even some blog posts in their blog section that specifically address picky eating.

My Plate is an effort by the USDA to promote healthy and safe eating habits for all American families.  This site is less kid-directed and more for caregivers but it is loaded with helpful information on nutrition guidelines, meal schedules for various ages, and even picky eating tips.    I especially love the online tools this site offers to help parents keep daily food logs and calorie counts.

Kids Food Adventure (App for mobile devices)
"Explore new foods with your family that are delicious, healthy and sometimes exotic! Kids Food Adventure puts the power of discovery in your child’s hands."  This fun and interactive app includes:
  • Colorful photos of each food to help kids identify and recognize new foods
  • Seasonal monthly food suggestions to pinpoint the ideal time to try new foods.
  • Parent/kid-friendly fun facts, health benefits, and other information on cooking, buying and preparing each food 
  • Color-coded stars help kids track their progress and rate the foods they’ve tried.
  • Reward stickers encourage kids to give new foods a try!
The developers of this app are also working on another app that targets picky-eating more directly (Choose my Food).

#2 Having Fun (and games!) With Food

For some kids, simply taking the pressure off can get them more comfortable with new foods and the eating experience.  Many times, we will create cooking and sensory exploration activities around food without any focus on actually eating.  Food theme activities can also be fun, especially for kids who need a less direct exposure to a food before they will interact with it.  Here are some great apps and online games that are simply fun and food themed :)  I like to use these kinds of activities to prep my kids before a cooking or snack activity, and as a learning tool to set the context for trying new foods.

This site is simply fun and games. :)  It has free online games that target a variety of topics, including cooking and food.  Parents, just a bit of a caution here:  Some of the games (not the cooking or food related, but some of the others) are a bit mature, so screen them before you sit down to play.

ZisBoomBam: Where It's Ok to Play With your Food
"ZisBoomBah is an innovative website that challenges conventional wisdom and develops tools to empower children and inspire parents to live a fun, active and healthy life. ZisBoomBah’s free online tool “Pick Chow!” allows children to create meals by dragging and dropping foods onto their virtual plate. The “Add it Up!” meters show the nutritional values in a fun and easy way and rates each meal with one to five stars – a feature that helps children learn quickly how their choices make a difference in creating a well-balanced meal. Children can send their “chow” to their parents, who then receive an email with what their child has chosen to be a healthy choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with the menu, recipe, shopping list and coupons."  Event though the focus is on calorie control (rather than gaining weight, which is what many of our picky eaters need to do:), I still think this site is a really fun way for kids to get involved in planning and cooking meals with their parents. :)

Here are some fun, food themed apps available for advices and Android:

Cookie Doodle
Cookie Doodle - Shoe the Goose
Cake Doodle
Cake Doodle - Shoe the Goose
More Toast
More Toast! - Maverick Software LLC
Faces iMake-Premium
Faces iMake - Right Brain Creativity - iMagine machine LLC
More Sundaes
More Sundaes! - Maverick Software LLC
Fruit Ninja
Fruit Ninja HD - Halfbrick Studios
Food Processing
Food Processing HD - Chillingo Ltd
Cupcakes!!! - Halcyon Creations LC
More Pizza
More Pizza! - Maverick Software LLC
Charlie Wonders Milk
Charlie Wonders Milk - LBS Wireless
ABC Food
ABC Food - food words with pictures, sounds and videos for kids. - Peapod Labs LLC
Ice Cream Parlor
Ice Cream Parlor HD - David Tillotson

*There are COUNTLESS food-themed apps in the app store so you should definitely search on your own to find many more not listed above. :)

#3 Teaching Kids and Families About The Eating Process

In feeding therapy, we often use techniques to help children understand the mechanics of chewing and swallowing.  Technology can be a great supplement to teaching the science of eating!

Kids Health: The Digestive System
The Kids Health web series (including Kids health Classroom, a great source for theme materials and printouts on nutrition across childhood) is a great tool for parents and kids to explore a variety of healthy topics, including good eating and nutrition.  The Digestive System section also helps kids understand what happens in their bodies when they chew and swallow foods, and what happens when their tunnies hurt.

The Digestive System (Interactive eBook)

Other Great Web Resources for Learning about the Human Body

#4 Tracking Calories and Food Range

Keeping a food diary of mealtime scheduling, foods eaten, and amounts/calorie  and nutrition counts of foods eaten is a large part of a comprehensive feeding therapy plan.  These tech tools can help therapists and parents with this part of the process.

Calorie Count website and Calorie Counter App Calorie Counter' - About, Inc

My Fitness Pal  website and App Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal HD - MyFitnessPal.com

Mint Nutrition App Mint Nutrition - Mint Apps

SuperTracker  (a free  online tool on MyPlate.gov)

#5 Navigating Special Diets and Food Allergies
Many of our kids with feeding aversions, especially those on the Autism Spectrum, may suffer from extreme food allergies, intolerance, or sensitivities.  This can compound feeding therapy even further.  Here are some tech tools to help support your picky eater on a special diet.

App Advice App List: Cooking for Special Dietary Needs
This is a fantastic app list from App Advice that focuses on Apps related to special diets.  It includes databases of foods containing certain, common allergens, and even offers some apps with recipe builders based on allergy-free food choices.

FAAN App list for Food Allergy Apps
Another great app list, this one is allergy focused from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

Kids with Food Allergies Foundation (App and site)
This site focuses on food allergies related to kids and also has a companion, mobile device app, bringing this info to families who may not have Internet access outside of that on their smart phones.

#6 Mealtime Schedule and Planning

Food On the Table
A website and companion app that helps families plan meals and save money on groceries.

Food Planner App FoodPlanner - Prolog Inc.

Parents Connect App List for Meal and Menu Planning
A great app list that is full of meal planning apps to organize busy parents.

*In addition, many of the websites mentioned above in this post have meal planning and recommended feeding/eating schedules for kids of various ages.

#7 Rewarding and Reinforcing 
Keeping mealtimes positive is an important part of learning to eat new foods.  Verbal praise and rewards are some of the many tools we can use to support kids with feeding difficulties,  These tech tools can help us reward kids for trying their best at mealtime and can also keep mealtime tasks more visual for those who need a little more support to get through the hard stuff.

Working4 App Working4 - Pyramid Educational Consultants, Inc

iReward App iReward - Grembe Inc.

Choose my Food (an App in progress)

First Then Visual Schedule App First Then Visual Schedule - Good Karma Applications, Inc

#8 Getting Specific Questions Answered: Blogs About Feeding Therapy and Related Topics

Food for Tubies
An insightful and informative blog targeted to parents of children who are fed through a G-tube (or another variation thereof), specifically those following a slenderized G-tube program.

Food Chaining
A really great blog on food chaining for children with sensory feeding aversions.

Feeding Therapy Help
A Q & A blog with specific tips and strategies and a forum to ask questions.

Feeding Therapy/Oral Motor on Pinterest 
Using Pinterest to obtain information can be great for visual learners, especially those who aren't sure what they're looking for.  Here is a great pin board related to feeding and oral motor therapy, including tools and ideas for DIY's.

The Tender Foodie
Lots of information here on feeding and allergy related issues for children on the Autism spectrum.

One last note:   One of my favorite, simple tech tools to use for feeding therapy:  a web cam!  Video modeling and feedback is a wonderful tool to help kids conquer their fears and put themselves out their at mealtimes!  Videos are also a great way to track progress!

What technology do you use to support your picky eater?


Software & Online Games for Children with Visual Impairment

Not everyone has a mobile tablet (iPad, Android tablet) and for some kids with special needs, especially those with visual impairment, tablet activities may not be the best choice for all occasions.  Personal computers are readily available in many classrooms and homes and there are lots of great software programs out there for kids with special needs!  I often hear parents and professionals say "Why would I spend $200.00 on a software program when I can get an App for $2.99?".  This is true, many of these software programs require a bit of an investment.  however, more often than not, the programs available will grow with your child and can be used across his or her development.  Furthermore, the development of these products involves extensive educational research and product support and in my opinion, that often justifies the cost!  Lastly, for kids who use switches, personal computers offer a much wider variety of educational programs and games than mobile devices.  Here are a few resources to find software and online activities/games that can be used on laptops or personal computers for children with a variety of special needs, including visual impairment: (PS:  Some of these are free!! :)


7-128 Software for Blind & Visually Impaired Kids
This company makes simple, low cost games that you can download directly form the site or obtain on a CD.  The games were developed to be accessible to children with special needs at a variety of ages and stages.  The company uses an accessibility rating system that is helpful when choosing the right program(s) for your child.  There is also some free stuff on the site, definitely worth checkin out!

Inclusive Technology
This company offers a variety of accessible software for entertainment and education and also has some great Apps for iPad and Android tablets.  Many of their software programs and apps are also switch accessible.

Intellitools Products
A great source for educational programs like the Intellitools Classroom Suite.  This company also offers an activity exchange area where users can share the activities they have created for Intellitools programs.  One of the things that makes Classroom Suite a great tool is your ability to create custom activities for your child's needs.  They also have a braille learning program, IntelliBraille.
Free trials are available for download on the company's site.

Laureate Products
These programs focus on language and communication development.

Softtouch Products
Switch accessible programs for cause-effect learners and academic subjects (reading, match).

There is also a great list of Switch Accessible Software at Marblesoft

Online Activities

Focus on literacy with activities for kids at all stages of reading development.

Free online games from cause and effect to problem solving.  Most games are switch accessible and all visually simple with high contrast.

Symbol World
Online newspapers for kids and adults using symbols to enhance literacy.  Free to access and the site offers accessibility settings like high contrast and large print.  Unfortunately, no voice output yet. :( But they're working on it.  Read more about it here.

Another symbol-based newspaper with a variety of reading levels (even appropriate for really young children).  This one is subscription based and comes with companion activities in each issue.  Also has voice output :)

Fun learning games for tots and preschool kids.

Looking for resources for older children and teens?
For some great resources for teens and adults, visit Wonder Baby's list!

What software and online activities do you enjoy?


7 Great Resources for (Gently) Used Assistive Technology!

There is no question that the iPad has brought much more affordable learning and communication technology to children in need.  With this awesome gadget, we can now offer voice output communication for a mere fraction of the cost of dedicated AAC devices.  However, for some kids with special needs, dedicated AAC devices may be more appropriate for long term language growth and communication development.  This necessity comes with a hefty price tag as many dedicated AAC devices cost thousands of dollars and are not fully covered by private medical insurance.  For those children with medical coverage that reimburses for these systems, the assessment and application process can be effortful and time consuming for the parents and team supporting the child, at times resulting in denials from funding sources.  And lets not forget that just because the iPad and other tablets are much less expensive then these dedicated systems or a personal computer, doesn't mean that all families are able to meet the financial requirements that arise in setting up an iPad communication system.   A family can expect to spend $1000.00 or more when you consider the base price of the tablet, protective gear, audio gear, apps, access supports like switches and switch interfaces-the list could go on and on!  So what options are available for families who just can't meet the iPad price tag or for kids that truly need a dedicated system at a significantly lowered price?

Here are a few great resources to help you find used and donated (i.e., lowered cost and free) assertive technology (AT), including communication devices, mobility equipment, and mobile technology.  
  1. Pacer Center: Champions for Children with Disabilities
  2. Get AT Stuff 
  3. AbleData Classifieds
  4. Tech ACT Projects   (resources by State)
  5. Pass It On Center  (resources by State)
  6. Apple Store (Refurbished and Clearance Center)  Apple has a section of their online store that is dedicated to selling used/refurbished and clearance technology, including iPads
  7. Used iPads on Amazon
Do you have a source for affordable AT that you'd like to share?  Do you have equipment that you'd like to donate to a child in need?  Contact SNEAK or post in the comments below.

If you want to continue the discussion on the technology divide, please comment below or join our chat at SNEAK Freestyle Forum.

Disclaimer:  I checked out the above resources to the best of my ability and each seems legitimate and responsible when it comes to assuring the quality of goods being sold as well as the honesty of those selling them.  Please be aware when purchasing equipment and other products for third party sellers that you are not familiar with as their is always risk involved.  I have never purchased from any of the above links and therefore cannot fully endorse the safety of shopping through these sources.