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The SOS approach to eating for fussy eaters

SOS stands for Sequential Oral Sensory. Many parents of fussy eaters would also like to believe that this stands for “save our souls”!

This approach to eating was first developed by an American Psychologist as a family-centered approach to assessing and treating picky eaters. Developed as a therapy based approach more than an educational session, parents and children are expected to receive hands-on interaction with foods during each session. As this is a therapy approach, progress towards eating is documented at each session (There are up to 32 steps to eating!), and kids are not expected to eat the foods during session times. The aim of these therapy sessions is for the kids to LEARN about the foods. SOS Approach to Eating therapists have been trained to ensure that whilst children learn about new foods, they are still kept comfortable with minimal stress responses, and to recognise and deal with these cue responses from the children. Constant stress at mealtimes will only lead to negative associations between meal times and food. Providing a variety of foods in-home and during sessions are also key to a child’s progress up the hierarchy to eating. For these sessions to yield high success rates, sessions are recommended weekly, and usually run between 6-12 sessions. Expect session to run between 40-60 minutes long.

A common myth is that when a child is growing as per the growth charts, he/she is healthy and assumed to have no feeding issues. Many parents of fussy eaters will attest to this. Growing as per growth charts only means that the child is receiving adequate calories for growth. Fussy eaters may not necessarily be consuming a wide variety of foods from the different food groups appropriate to age. This creates undue stress on parents but also results in a child deficit in nutrients. Our therapy sessions will help your child pick up the skills to eating through play or observation (depending on the age of the child).

Is your child appropriate for this approach to eating? (He/she might be if any of the following are present):

  • Ongoing poor weight gain or weight loss (failure to thrive)

  • Ongoing choking, gagging or coughing during meals

  • Inability to transit to puree meals by 10 months of age

  • Inability to accept solid table foods by 12 months of age

  • Inability to transit from a baby bottle to an open cup by 16 months of age

  • Still stuck on purees by 16 months of age

  • Aversion or avoidance of all foods in specific texture or food groups

  • Consuming less than 20 food items, especially if foods are being dropped over time with no new foods replacing those lost

  • An infant who cries and arches at most meals

  • Meals are a battle

  • Constantly feeling like your child is difficult to be fed by anyone


The SOS Approach to Feeding is a private session and you will not require a referral to book an appointment.

In-home sessions are recommended as the dietitian will be able to assess the eating environment and give recommendations as to how the environment may be improved to help with your child’s eating. If this is not possible, in-clinic sessions are also available.


For more information make an appointment today, or please call (08) 6162 2616 

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