Professional, non-quacky pediatric nutritionists on the Central Coast?
June 30, 2011 12:52 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine is looking for someone (ideally a professional someone) to help deal with her 6-year-old son's eating issues. What sorts of professionals are best suited to addressing this sort of thing? Is she likely to find what she is looking for locally (she lives in central California)?

Okay, so my friend's kidlet is a very VERY picky eater. He's on the autism spectrum (but very verbal, etc.) where I know this sort of thing is very common (being on the spectrum myself, I can recall many a dinnertime battle growing up), but the problem is that whenever you mention autism these days, suddenly everyone and their uncle claims to be an expert and starts telling you to try this or that supplement, special diet, etc., even when there is no actual scientific support whatsoever for their assertions.

SO, what I am looking to do is find out if there's a direction I can at the very least point my friend in. Her kid's eating issues are quite a bit more extreme than mine were (in the sense that while I had very strong texture aversions I still liked a reasonable variety of foods), to the point where she's concerned that (a) his diet isn't sufficiently balanced, and (b) if he had any food intolerances (e.g., lactose or gluten or whatnot) they'd currently be impossible to diagnose with an elimination diet given the extremely narrow range of stuff he'll actually eat in the first place.

My current inclination is to suggest a pediatric nutritionist and/or a doctor who has experience with eating disorders in young children (as my friend's kid's food issues seem intense enough to at least brush up against that category). But I unfortunately have no clue how one might go about identifying such a person, or in particular identifying such a person that would be accessible to someone living in the Central Coast area.

Needless to say, I've tried googling, but nothing really promising came up. Thus, I would be very interested in learning of any professionals that might not be a pediatric nutritionist *in name* but who have the relevant expertise/degree and who have no patience whatsoever with quackery. As in, nobody who's going to insist she infect her kid with a tapeworm to "remove toxins" or anything along those lines, just good, solid, medically-sound guidance regarding diversifying the diet of a boy who dislikes the vast majority of foods. Thanks!

[also, note that I am not looking for suggestions here re. foods to try giving to the kid -- my friend has tried LOTS of very creative ideas in this department to no avail, and really and truly wants some professional guidance at this point.]
posted by aecorwin to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I know someone in my area who helps kids with autism or other sensory integration issues, and she often address eating problems like this one. She is an occupational therapist that specializes in children. My kid has different issues, but she has been very helpful with those. You might try to see if there's a similar occupational therapist in your friend's area.
posted by sunchai at 1:15 PM on June 30, 2011

Try to locate a feeding clinic in your area. These are multidisciplinary clinics that address exactly what you're describing. The typical format would be an evaluation by folks from a variety of specialities including a dietician to evaluate what their nutritional needs are, a physician who can evaluate for medical issues, a behavioral psychologist/therapist who can work with the family to develop a plan for treatment, and a speech/language pathologist who can evaluate for swallowing issues. Feel free to meMail me if I can be of any help locating someone close to you.
posted by goggie at 1:16 PM on June 30, 2011

sunchai: Ooh good call on the occupational therapist idea. I will certainly try that as a search term and see what comes up (and again, this is for a friend, and I don't live in exactly the same area she does; I'm further north).

goggie: Wow, I hadn't even heard of a "feeding clinic" until now, thanks for the suggestion! I don't know if there's one within easy reach of my friend but that sounds perfect.
posted by aecorwin at 1:24 PM on June 30, 2011

Ellyn Satter's work on eating competence may at least relieve some of the pressure she must feel.
posted by liketitanic at 1:24 PM on June 30, 2011

I would add an ENT. Mr. Llama is a picky eater -- they didn't figure out why until he was in high school when he went to a specialist. It turned out he can't really smell much so the things that he can tolerate are a fairly narrow set of tastes and a narrower set of textures.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:46 PM on June 30, 2011

If your friend is in the San Luis area, she might join this local mom's forum and then ask for nutritionist/ped recs there, there's a great wealth of info in the community....

SLO County moms
posted by snowymorninblues at 4:30 PM on June 30, 2011

Goggie has a great summary of what a feeding clinic involves. My son attended one here in Minnesota. Our results were not spectacular but they were able to coax him up from 2 foods to about 20. We may try the clinic again next year. The OT also greatly helped him with some other sensory issues. (Tactile)
posted by Malla at 6:36 PM on June 30, 2011

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