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Just Take a Bite: Easy, Effective Answers to Food Aversions and Eating Challenges! Paperback – January 1, 2004
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"This talented team has a blockbuster book . . . as they offer a positive program to help those who are struggling at least three times a day with the serious problem of food aversion and food sensitivity."
Temple Grandin, Ph.D.
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At the time of writing this review, I have a two-year-old boy in feeding therapy. Contributing to his feeding problems are sensory issues, airway issues, reflux, and an oral motor delay. I read these books looking for support in standing up to doctors who’ve been pressuring me to use methods I’m not comfortable with, and for strategies I can implement at home to improve the carry-over of feeding therapy skills.
JTaB is written by a behavioral therapist and an occupational therapist. HYCEPE is by a family doctor and a speech pathologist. All four specialize in pediatric feeding disorders. The books cover much of the same information, share some guidelines, and both have suggested activities in the second part of the book.
While HYCEPE is clearly written for parents, JTaB is targeted towards both parents and therapists. It’s a bit more technical, which I like but others might not. There is more detailed information on sensory and oral-motor development. HYCEPE has some of the same information but it’s jumbled up with tidbits like this: “Family meals are a time to pass on family stories, traditions, and culture – and to laugh and spend enjoyable time with your children.” That’s nice, but it has nothing to do with my son’s eating problems. I prefer JTaB’s more to-the-point approach.
Both books agree that coercing a child to eat is counterproductive, but HYCEPE takes this to an extreme. They have two full chapters about avoiding even a hint of pressure, as well as constant warnings throughout the rest of a book, and they seem to think that pretty much every attempt to get a child to engage with food is pressure. Here’s an example from the section called “Play with Your Food”: “Playing a game with the agenda of increasing your child’s comfort with food can backfire.” Huh? If increasing my child’s comfort with food is not my “agenda” then why am I even reading this book?
They go on to advise, “At the first sign of anxiety or resistance, let it go and move on to an activity she enjoys.” I understand where they’re coming from if working with a neurotypical picky child with a sensitive temperament (one of the authors has a child like this). However, their strategy would not work for my son, who is predominantly *under*sensitive and whose food aversion has more to do with feeling unsafe with food than feeling pressured by adults. I spent months making different foods available on his tray, day after day, with no pressure to touch or eat them. He made no progress during that time.
The approach in JTaB is more compatible with the SOS (Sequential Oral Sensory) approach which my son’s feeding therapist uses. Although HYCEPE apparently considers it too coercive (they don’t name SOS but they describe the process), the child is never punished, bribed, or forced to do anything. He is taken to the edge of his comfort zone to look around, but is not pushed past the edge. HYCEPE would prefer to leave a child in the middle of their comfort zone and wait for them to venture out. Again, that may work with a typical child, but those who’ve had their feeding development stalled by medical problems or disabilities need a more hands-on approach.
Although as I said JTaB is more on the technical side, the authors acknowledge parents’ emotions around their children’s eating in a very validating way. I felt supported in my choice to keep mealtimes a positive experience. The book helped me create a more structured and supportive mealtime schedule/routine which really seemed to help my son. I also realized that some of his issues I thought were motor-based are actually proprioceptive.
A final note on layout. HYCEPE is a standard sized book with standard type. JTaB is textbook sized with double spaced lines and lots of white space on each page, which makes it easy to highlight or take notes in the margins. The information in JTaB is clearly organized and easy to refer to, with charts and tables.
If you have an older child whose pickiness is behavioral/temperamental and not complicated by developmental or medical problems, HYCEPE will probably be more helpful. If your child has developmental delays, sensory or oral-motor issues, or GI problems, you’ll probably get more from JTaB. I fall into the latter category.