Speech-Language Institute Client Feature: Tobi

SLI Client Feature: TobiFamilies of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are often concerned about their child’s mental and physical development - including diet and speech growth. For Tobi Acevedo, a two and a half- year old diagnosed with ASD, “picky eating” has become much more problematic as he continues to grow. “We always knew Tobi was very special, but when he stopped meeting his developmental milestones at seventeen months of age, we decided it was time to intervene and find him help,” said Nina Windle, Tobi’s grandmother.


As Tobi’s speech decreased minimally and his feeding habits changed without reason - a refusal to eat meat and other foods he typically enjoyed - his pediatrician suggested an early intervention program with frequent speech, occupational, and physical therapy sessions. After discovering the specialized feeding program offered at the Speech-Language Institute of Salus University (SLI) in Elkins Park, Tobi’s family became even more determined to put him on the right treatment path.

SLI Client Feature: Tobi - Feeding TreatmentsFeeding issues are fairly common in children with ASD, and the approach at SLI is a sensory-oral feeding style of treatment than a behavioral method. “We offer food in a way that children can explore it with all of their senses in order to gain confidence to taste it, eat it, and swallow it,” said Susan DeMilia, MA, CCC-SLP,  clinical educator and pediatric feeding specialist at SLI. Snacks range from creamy vanilla pudding to salty cashews and cheese puffs, which allow Tobi to explore tastes and textures in order for feeding to become less strange and traumatic. “The overall goal of our feeding program is to introduce the idea of eating in a non-forceful, social driven environment,” said DeMilia.


A portion of Tobi’s treatment is dedicated to a small feeding group, which allows for close interaction and a different style of learning.  According to Karly Kriger, a speech-language pathology student assigned to the case, Tobi benefits from interacting with other children who also have sensory issues. “Tobi is a visual learner - being around other children with sensory issues helps him learn the behavior of eating,” said Kriger, who is thrilled with Tobi’s progress so far. 
SLI Client Feature: TobiAccording to Kriger, goals for Tobi include maintaining eye contact, trying foods of different consistencies, engaging in sensory activities, and interacting for at least 50% of the time during each session. “I feel great about our feeding therapy,” she said.  “We don't want him to associate food or feeding time with a negative or pressuring experience, so we present the food in different ways and let him decide what he wants to touch or try.”


According to his grandmother, Tobi is making great improvements with his language and feeding therapy at home. “I understand this is not an easy road to travel down, but I’d like to help him in any way I can, which means continuing speech and feeding treatments at the Speech-Language Institute,” said Windle.  “I’m more than happy to have found a thorough, individualized program so close to home.”

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