Creating positive kai times together

Introduction to Nourish

Welcome to the very first Nourish blog.

The aim of these blogs is to provide Nourish Nuggets, in easy-to-read and digestible pieces of information.

I should start by introducing myself. My name is Rebecca Barnard, I am an Occupational Therapist, Feeding Specialist, and Director of Nourish.

After completing my Bachelor of Occupational Therapy at Otago Polytechnic, I moved to Australia to begin my career working in Community Paediatrics supporting children with a range of diagnoses and daily challenges. I came across one family in particular, (who will stick with me forever) who’s number one goal was feeding. This young boy was 7 years old, had an extremely restricted diet, limited to chicken nuggets, hot chips, and a few varieties of crackers. I was immediately curious, as to how his feeding challenge started but also what I could do to help this family. This prompted me to research and learn everything I could about feeding because I wanted to help and obviously, was interested in food. After working with this young boy for a few months, we were starting to see progress. He was eating cucumber, sweet potato, bread, pancakes, muffins, pasta (to name a few). It was exciting to work with him each week and see what new foods and things we could achieve. I was fortunate enough to fall into a role at a specialized private practice feeding clinic, learning from the best and expanding my knowledge in feeding therapy, at the same time growing my passion for the area.

Being a HUGE foodie myself, getting to work with food, play with food and eat food on a daily basis, was heaven. The real reward for me came from seeing my clients develop the same love and interest in food, expanding their diets, and creating positive mealtimes.

Thanks to a global pandemic (which shall not be named), a push to return home to New Zealand was on the cards. I began looking into job opportunities in feeding therapy because clearly, I had found my passion and my calling in life. However, to my disappointment, there were not only no jobs in feeding therapy but no places for families to attend feeding therapy.

Introducing Nourish, an Occupational Therapy and Feeding Therapy service for children and whānau based in Christchurch, New Zealand.

We provide assessment and intervention (therapy) for children with paediatric feeding challenges, ARFID, and generalized limited diets. For caregivers, we are here to support, give advice, meet you where you are, and walk down the long road to creating positive mealtime changes for your whānau.

Every whānau, child, and approach is unique and individualized, we want to know and acknowledge your story in order for us to apply the best approach for you.

We incorporate knowledge and experience from Occupational Therapy, Feeding Therapy, Child Development, and Neuroscience into our approach with each child and whānau. As we are trained in a range of feeding therapy approaches, we tailor each one to your needs. This can mean trial and error, but we are a team in this, solving the puzzle that is feeding challenges.

A unique difference for us is that we work in your home, where your mealtimes occur. Why? So often I would see children in the clinic, they would learn a new food, great! But then they would go home and refuse to eat that food, simply because I taught them the food in the clinic, not at home in their own environment. Being able to support you in your home environment is a real advantage in helping to set up mealtimes and engagement with food for success in the long term.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and I encourage you to contact us if you have any feeding challenges or concerns:

  • Challenging eating patterns including refusing new foods, repeating preferred foods, and preferring the same textured and coloured foods. 
  • Restrictive and selective eating.
  • Refusal and behavioural challenges towards new and preferred foods.
  • Sensory processing difficulties related to the touch, smell, and/or taste of new foods.
  • Feeding challenges associated with developmental diagnoses, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Global Developmental Delay (GDD), genetic conditions, etc. 
  • Children/adolescents with food-related anxiety, impacting and restricting their food choices. 
  • Children/adolescents who have experienced trauma (developmental and medical) impacting their mealtimes, food choices, and ability to eat. 
  • Food refusal subsequent to prior nasogastric tube feeding and/or NICU admission during early years. 
  • Medical complications (gastroenteritis, reflux) or surgical intervention resulting in food refusal. 
  • Restricted diets, a result of allergy complications. 
  • Caregiver support with managing the impact of the child’s challenges on their own mental wellbeing. 

We are here to support, to guide, to acknowledge the challenges, to help with working towards creating positive kai times for you and your whānau

Rebecca Barnard