Eating Problems

Eating disorders - particularly amongst young children - have been the cause of many sensationalist headlines in recent years – with many people believing that we now have an entire generation of children who are obsessing about their food and their body image. We also have children who have no real concept of healthy food intake and exercise who are overweight.

The truth is that some amount of self-criticism is normal. However, when a child becomes obsessed about food or develops patterns of destructive behaviour centred around food, then it’s time to seek help. This can be both in terms of over eating, under eating and faddy eating.

Eating disorders can impact many aspects of a child’s development and quality of life, impacting on their learning, cognition, language acquisition and behaviour, as well as putting a huge amount of strain on family relationships.

Eating disorders and other medical conditions

Children with Prader-Willi Syndrome develop an unhealthy obsession with food and may have a seemingly insatiable appetite. Professional support, a strict diet, cognitive behavioural techniques and behaviour analysis for both the child and family can help a child with this condition to maintain a healthy weight.

Other conditions such as autism, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and acquired brain injury (ABI) can all lead to eating issues and obsessions with food, or with one particular food. Some children may become obsessed with an eating routine which, if broken, can lead to tantrums and aggression.

What causes eating disorders?

The causes of eating disorders are complex and varied. Some children develop an eating disorder as a way of controlling their environment. For a child who feels that life is chaotic or out of control, an eating disorder is a way of regaining that sense of control.
Family breakdown, bullying or anxiety may also trigger an eating disorder. Any dramatic change in your child’s weight, or a sudden preoccupation with food is a clear indicator that something is wrong.

Helping your child with an eating disorder

If you are concerned about your child’s physical health, it is essential that you consult your GP at the earliest opportunity. Physical symptoms will need to be stabilised to ensure the safety of the child. Once this has been achieved, there are a number of treatments available to bring the eating disorder under control, in particular Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA).

NETwork Interventions has years of experience of dealing with both neurologically induced eating disorders and those with cognitive and behavioural causes. Starting with a detailed assessment of your child and their environment, we will pinpoint the ‘triggers’ that are causing or perpetrating the disorder, and guide and support your child and family to tackle them.

We also support you as parents, and the wider family, providing the professional guidance and support you need to find a way forwards. In fact, working with the whole family - and not just your child in isolation - is one of the reasons we believe our interventions are so successful.

Verbal Behaviour

Children who become preoccupied with food and/or body image often have unvoiced worries and anxiety that manifest in the form of eating disorders. Your child may struggle to label what is going on inside of him or her, or in their environment, and is there is a struggle in this skill area it is essential that we teach this. By teaching your child to vocalise these anxieties and label (tact) what is going on, their pattern of behaviour can gradually be altered to incorporate a healthier attitude to food and anything else that is going on in their world.

If the child is being bullied, they may become withdrawn and their social skills begin to be impaired. If allowed to continue for too long, this can result in isolation, depression and increased anxiety, self-perpetuating the probability of the child returning to a destructive pattern of eating and body image worries. By freeing up this ‘social skills blockage’, VB can prevent a child from becoming withdrawn and uncommunicative and prevent a lapse back into a destructive cycle of obsessive behaviour.

Often children are unable to express their concerns if they are non-vocal or have limited language either in every area or in certain areas. We can equip family members with the skills to teach missing language skills, establish good eating routines for their children and to teach motivation to expand eating repertoires.

Did you know?

NETwork Interventions has seen time and time again that eating disorders in children are nearly always the results of missing skills from social to communication to academic. Equipping a child with those skills is the most effective way of overcoming an eating disorder.

The next steps...

Contact us today to find out how NETwork is helping families and schools like yours.  For more information and resources please get in touch with us.

"Our son was diagnosed with Asperger’s aged 7; NETwork Interventions spent a day observing him at school and at home and quickly identified the skills he was lacking – skill deficits that we - and others working with our son - had not picked up on. NETwork Interventions trained us to help our son learn those missing skills. The results have been remarkable – he no longer cries about going to school, his concentration and behaviour are much better and he is far less likely to alienate others by the things he says. Thank you."
Parent in Surrey

"It is always a pleasure talking to Lu and Shelley - we think they are superstars!"
C & C, Ottawa

"We started an informal intervention for our 18 month old last week, Zack. Lu came for an observation around a month ago. This was followed by Shelley spending two days with our family last week. Our 18 month old had three signs and plenty of motivation and social intent, but no requests for items or people. He had a few unintelligible requests for activities and just sounds or unintelligible words for when he labels things. We have done our research. As professionals in the field of child development and with ASD and ADHD in our extended family, we know that it is better to act earlier rather than later. We didn’t want a heavy or burdensome programme for reasons of time, of finance and also of emotion. Admitting there may be a problem is actually very difficult. Last week was extremely draining emotionally in this capacity. We know that prevention is necessary as there is no firm cure and we can’t take the risk of not intervening and waiting another six months as our GP and Paediatrician told us. Shelley came to the farm with us, came swimming with us, to the park and to granny and grandpa’s home with us. She did day to day life with us such as bath time and bed time. The first day Shelley watched what life was like for me, balancing home, children, marriage and work. Life is hectic. The second day we swapped roles and she put recommendations in acting as I would and then supported me to implement it. She is coming back on Thursday to see how we are getting on and she is returning with a new schedule for me after going away to analyse it these last few days. We are absolutely thrilled with Zack’s progress already. His Gymboree teachers commented on his language ‘explosion’. His aunty, who does not know that we are running this intervention, commented on how much Zack is talking this week. I am confident that within a few months, Zack will not have a spiky developmental profile and it looks as though he will have even more skills than his peers at this rate. This is fun and I am so grateful to Shelley, Lu and Ruth who, together, have created the ‘perfect programme’ for us."
Luke, Louise, Lyndsay and Zack, Surrey, England

"This week I have been feeling very defeated with my son changing campuses at school. At the end of my call with Shelley I was filled with hope again. That is why I love our calls. Not simply because of the work with my son, but because Shelley always helps me to see a way forward. "
Gem, Brisbane

"I have had previous counselling for over two years but left because of no progress. I am finding the experience with Liz different in a very positive way. After just four sessions I am seeing great progress."
M, London

"The observation and assessment period that NETwork complete at the beginning is difficult to understand at the outset, but it turns out that it is an intricate process that [does] indeed find the issues to work on and subsequently address and resolve."
Mum, Quebec

"Dillan had significant behavioural issues and received a very late diagnosis of NVLD when he was 9 years old. This diagnosis did little to help our family. Louise quickly and efficiently set up a programme for our teenage son which rapidly identified his strengths and weaknesses. Shelley taught us and his teachers how to best address these, including language deficits which had previously remained unrecognised, Louise’s team worked within our budget, working hours and extensive travel commitments, working closely with school and our local authority to ensure everybody was on board and funding accessed. At times it felt as though Louise was coordinating a small army. Additional support of parent-counselling through Louise’s team proved invaluable, even though we were originally a little sceptical. It most likely made the difference between success and failure in our ability as parents to sustain a positive family unit whilst implementing the programme. We worked with NETwork Interventions for just under one year."
Dr Edwards, North London

"We would like to say a massive thank you for your hard work during the 2 day assessment. We are so grateful and highly impressed with your level of knowledge, confidence, professionalism as well as the kindness and respect shown to our family. Now, we really believe there is light at the end of the tunnel."
Monica, UK

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