What is the SOS Approach to Feeding?

Posted by

Breanne Haeger, MOT, OTR/L

Time to read

3 minutes

Have you heard of the SOS Approach to Feeding? The SOS (which stands for Sequential Oral Sensory) Approach to Feeding is a framework for approaching picky eating that was developed by pediatric psychologist Dr. Kay Toomey. Feeding challenges have been around for a very long time, and this framework is based on high-quality research and over 30 years of clinical experience working with children with feeding difficulties!

SOS feeding therapy

The Goal of the SOS Approach

The goal of the SOS Approach to Feeding is to help kiddos develop a healthy lifelong relationship with food. This is done through a thorough oral-motor assessment by an SOS-trained therapist, careful consideration of when and how to introduce new foods, and keeping in mind unique individual factors impacting the child. It focuses on treating the whole child by taking into account the child’s organ systems, muscles, sensory processing, learning style and cognition, development, nutrition, and environment (SOS Approach to Feeding, 2020). 

Uncovering the Why

SOS-trained therapists believe that children struggling with eating know their bodies best, and the child knows when a certain food isn’t working for their bodies, even if they don’t know why! This may be because of allergies, intolerances, sensory difficulties, or because they don’t have the oral-motor skills necessary to manipulate the food. It’s the therapist’s job to uncover the underlying why and to build skills to make this food less intimidating and more fun for the child.

Feeding therapy SOS

The SOS Approach to Feeding

The SOS Approach to Feeding offers a structure for working through difficulties with food. This is hugely based on something that they developed called the Steps to Eating. The SOS Approach and the Steps to Eating are all about increasing a child’s comfort with food by helping them become more familiar with the different properties of food in a play-based, low-stress environment

The Strategy

Children need to first become comfortable with being in the same room as new food, then with being at the same table as a new or scary food in order to tolerate it. An SOS-trained therapist will work with your child to interact with the food in some capacity. This might look like poking it with a fork, stirring it with a spoon, or using a food chopper! The next step is to become familiar with the smell of the new food. After this, getting used to the new food looks like touching it with fingers, hands, the body, and eventually, the mouth! This leads to the next step- taste! Many times, as children smell and touch new foods, they naturally become curious and end up tasting them! They may spit it out, and that’s okay! It’s all part of the process of learning about the new food. The final step is eating, and this is where the therapist will work with your child to chew and swallow the new food

Sequential Oral Sensory

Working with an SOS-Trained Therapist

SOS-trained therapists can work with your child to move up the steps to eating foods that are difficult for them! This process can take time, but research continues to show that children who go through the SOS Approach to Feeding and work with an SOS-trained therapist will have a better relationship with food in the future. The SOS Approach is fun, low-stress, and has so much research to back it up! If you have a selective little one when it comes to eating, we’re so hopeful that there are better and brighter days ahead with the SOS Approach to Feeding.

Having Milestone in Your Corner

Many of our speech and occupational therapists here at Milestone Pediatric Therapy are trained in the SOS Approach to Feeding. If you’re curious to know more about the SOS Approach to Feeding, check out their website, and if you think that your child would benefit from working with one of our amazing SOS-trained feeding therapists, book a FREE consultation with us today!