Grant funds study of food selectivity in children

headshot of michelle suarez

Dr. Michelle Suarez

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation has awarded a grant of more than $56,000 for a study of treatment of children with food selectivity. Dr. Michelle Suarez, assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy, will lead the project, which begins July 2016.

Dr. Suarez is already involved in the Finicky Feeders program at the Western Michigan University Pediatric Occupational Therapy Clinic. This project and grant are an extension of the work she has pursued over the last five years.

Children with food selectivity often have unpleasant physiological responses and severe, disruptive behavior when presented with non-preferred foods.  It can be a challenge for the child and for the whole family at mealtime.

The study will use a multi-component treatment protocol to increase the number of healthy whole foods in the diet of food selective children, which would improve nutrition and simply make family meals better. The grant will fund a full-time occupational therapist to oversee the study. OT students will be able to observe and work with the occupational therapist throughout the yearlong study.

"I think it's a great opportunity for students to get one-on-one time with an OT professional," said Dr. Suarez. "Their other level I placements are supervised by WMU faculty, but this will give them a chance to see an occupational therapist work at this level. It should help our students' skills progress quickly."

Both the new study and the Finicky Feeders program are located in the Marion R. Spear OT Clinic, which is part of WMU's Unified Clinics. While the new study will only include subjects with developmental disabilities, the Finicky Feeders program is open to children with a variety of medical diagnoses. Both programs are accepting new clients/subjects.

For more information, contact the clinic at (269) 387-7074 or by email at