Responsive Feeding Therapy: Values and Practice

Lead authors: Katja Rowell MD, Grace Wong MSc, RD, CEDRD-S, Jo Cormack, MA MBACP, 
Heidi Moreland, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-S, CLC

Early Contributors: Jenny McGlothlin, MS, CCC-SLP, CLC, Jennifer Berry, MS, OT/L

Introduction


This document offers a philosophical and clinical framework for Responsive Feeding Therapy (RFT). It is applicable to practitioners working in pediatric feeding as well as with food avoidance in adolescence and adulthood from multiple fields, primarily speech language pathologists, dietitians, psychologists and therapists, occupational therapists, primary care providers, and community nurses.

 

The RFT approach and respective values build on a body of research from the field of pediatric feeding and related areas of study. This includes, but is not limited to, responsive parenting, humanistic psychology, attachment theory  and interpersonal neurobiology, theories of development, Self-determination Theory (SDT), and trauma physiology. 

 

In addition to helping clinicians understand and implement RFT, this framework provides a foundation for researchers to contribute to the empirical evidence base and improve clinical utility. 

 

While separated for the sake of clarity, the values listed in the RFT framework are interrelated. For example, skill acquisition must be grounded in the context of attuned relationships and individual autonomy. 

 

Definition

Responsive Feeding Therapy (RFT) is an overarching approach to feeding and eating interventions applicable to multiple disciplines and across the lifespan. RFT facilitates the (re)discovery of internal cues, curiosity, and motivation, while building skills and confidence. It is flexible, prioritizes the feeding relationship, and respects and develops autonomy. 

 

RFT Values

Autonomy, Relationship, Internal Motivation, Individualized Care, Competence

 

Autonomy  pertains to agency and respect for personal space and bodily integrity, enabling a person to be in control of their own actions 

 

Relationship refers to warm and attuned interpersonal connections

 

Internal motivation describes a desire to act that is self-driven rather than brought about by external forces

 

Individualized care refers to personalized interventions with a focus on the whole person, in the context of their families, communities and cultures

 

Competence means the individual’s perceived (as opposed to objectively assessed) sense of having sufficient skills to manage a situation

Selected Relevant Publications

"Responsive Feeding Therapy (RFT) is an overarching approach to feeding and eating interventions applicable to multiple disciplines and across the lifespan. RFT facilitates the (re)discovery of internal cues, curiosity, and motivation, while building skills and confidence.

It is flexible, prioritizes the feeding relationship, and respects and develops autonomy."

RFT Values

Autonomy, Relationship, Internal Motivation, Individualized Care, Competence

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