Food Explorers is a pilot program of a modified SOS (Sequential Oral Sensory) feeding program trialled at Yarrabah School across three terms in 2019. It was instigated by two Speech Pathologists who have been trained in the SOS program. The program involved weekly group therapy sessions at school focusing on play-based exploration of food. The aim is to teach students to be able to eat any food by moving through the 26 steps to eating. Children are not force fed, and are praised for any interaction they do have with the foods presented.
Elements that remain the same as the traditional SOS program involve specific types of foods being presented in each session, the use of a food hierarchy (with a visual link between foods) and play-based activities. Elements that were different include parents not being able to participate in sessions (due to the school setting), limited attendance due to absence from school and the use of alternative modes of communication including signing and the Yarrabah School core vocabulary board with specially designed fringe vocabulary.
The pilot program included six kindergarten aged students and two school aged students (both of whom are PEG fed). All students showed improvements in pre- and post- assessment with five random foods, and a significant improvement in their ability to interact with food within and across sessions. Parents also reported improvements in interactions with foods at home, with many students independently trying new foods in the home environment. For example, a student who ate only seven foods prior to the program (all of which were crunchy carbohydrates) has begun to eat proteins (including chicken nuggets and scrambled eggs) at home. He also ate his birthday cake for the first time ever.
The Food Explorers program aims to roll out across the primary school of Yarrabah School to eligible students in 2020, as well as continuing in the kindergarten program.
The average food scores for a student across sessions. Maximum food score possible is 26. Initial food score is how the student interacted with a food independently when they were presented. Final food score is how the student was able to interact with foods with support during a session. Note the general upward trend for both.