Does your child…
- Have a limited diet?
- Resist trying new foods?
- Gag at the site or smell of food?
- Get upset when presented with new foods?
- Gag or vomit while eating?
Utilizing the SOS steps to eating may be a great tool to help your child with eating!
What are the SOS steps to eating?
The Sequential Oral Steps (SOS) to eating uses multiple steps to encourage tolerance to and engagement with foods. This approach is great for picky eaters and children with oral sensory aversions. The program works up numerous steps to encourage a child to engage with food. These steps include: tolerate in space, interact with, smell, touch, taste, and lastly eat. These steps allow a child to become more confident and comfortable with engaging with foods without the pressure of eating. This drastically reduces nervousness around eating and improves tolerance to exploring foods with the goal of increasing your child’s food preferences.
How Can you Utilize The SOS Steps to Eating?
First and foremost, begin by stating that the expectation of the activity is going to be engaging with the food as they are comfortable with and that they WILL NOT have to eat anything. Never force your child to do something they are not comfortable with. If they begin to show distress, back up a step or give them a break with preferred food and if they become increasingly distressed, terminate the activity and try again later. Ultimately, we want to reduce negative experiences around food in order to prevent further disinterest in exploring foods. After this is established, begin by working up the SOS steps using the following tips in a playful manner
- Tolerate in Their Space: First, reduce the overwhelming nature of exploring a new food by presenting a small amount of one new or non preferred food on a solid-colored plate in their space.
- Interact With: With the small amount of food, MAKE IT FUN and grab some small plastic toys and allow them to have their toy “eat” the food.
- Smell: Then, encourage your child to smell the food. Ask them how it smells (ex. Sweet, salty, etc.) and if it is a big smell or a little smell. To promote interest in this step, have their toy “smell” the food first.
- Touch: Next, allow your child to “poke” the food with a fork/spoon or have their finger “jump” on the new food. If they tolerate this, begin having them work the food closer to their mouth such as having the food “crawl” up their arm like a caterpillar, “paint” their lips like lipstick, make a mustache on their upper lip, kiss it goodbye, and/or brush their teeth with the food.
- Taste: Afterwards, encourage your child to lick the food, make teeth marks in the food, and/or blow rockets with the food. To blow rockets, have your child place the food in their mouth and blow it into a designated bowl or napkin. These methods will encourage your child to taste the food in a less stressful way.
- Eat: Then, start by offering small (pea size) amounts of the new food. If they begin to show distress after beginning to chew it, allow them to spit it into a napkin. Lastly, encourage your child to take tiny bites and work up to taking more age-appropriate size bites as tolerated.
If you would like more information on how to apply the SOS steps to eating or would like more feeding tips and tricks, contact your child’s feeding therapist!