What is the SOS Approach Feeding Difficulties
By Brenna Hicks

True or false? The #1 priority of the human body is eating.

Well, believe it or not that statement is FALSE. Breathing is actually the 1st! Our bodies require good oxygenation, and without it our bodies actually close our airway briefly between each swallow. The 2nd priority is postural stability! Promoting good seating during mealtimes means 90 degrees at the ankles, knees, and hips. And the 3rd priority is, you guessed it! Eating! We must first establish good breathing and postural stability prior to addressing the task of eating!

True or false? Eating is instinctive.

This statement is also FALSE. Research from Dr. Kay Toomey shows that eating is only considered instinctive during the first month of a child’s life. We have what are called primitive motor reflexes such as: root, suck, swallow that assist in feeding and become integrated around 5 or 6 months. After this time, feeding becomes a learned behavior that encompasses motor skills.

Shockingly these are just 2 of the 10 myths that Dr. Kay Toomey and her multidisciplinary team have uncovered when working with children who experience feeding difficulties. These myths, as well as more information about others can be found at their website listed below.

SOS is an acronym for Sequential Oral Sensory. The SOS Approach to Feeding is an evidence-based approach to help children and adolescents develop a positive and enjoyable experience with food and is used both nationally and internationally by various healthcare professionals. This program was developed by Dr. Kay Toomey who is a Pediatric Psychologist and has dedicated the past 30 years to researching and treating children with feeding problems.

As an SOS trained therapist, I can help to assess and further develop intervention strategies to help expand your child’s diet who may be experiencing difficulties with feeding. According to Dr. Kay Toomey’s research, there are approximately 25 steps to feeding for a child who is typically developing and at least 32 for those with feeding difficulties. I understand that having a “picky eater” or “problem feeder” can be an emotional and challenging experience because eating is in fact not “easy”. This child-directed and family-centered approach has been successful for so many and I would be happy to provide any further information!

Free resources for parents can be found on their website:


Some helpful topics include:

  • Red Flags
  • Picky Eaters vs. Problem Feeders
  • Understanding When Children Won’t Eat
  • Top 10 Myths of Mealtimes
  • Feeding Development Milestones
  • Introduction to the SOS Approach to Feeding