Posted on November 28, 2011

5-year-old overcomes eating struggles

by Molly Cartwright

Like many kids, Cerelle is a bit of a picky eater. She loves to eat cake and ice cream, but won’t eat salty foods, such as French fries.

For Lynn and Pat Pohl, Cerelle’s parents, the fact she wants to eat at all is something to celebrate. For the past 4 years Cerelle has been unable to eat anything but baby food.

Since she was a baby, Cerelle’s feeding issues made her unable to eat without gagging or vomiting. She has also suffered from speech, hearing and sleep issues. At first, however, her pediatrician’s office wasn’t aware that feeding therapy programs existed. Because her feeding issues weren’t being addressed, Cerelle continued to struggle. Yet her parents remained determined to find help for their daughter.

Last March, Cerelle entered the Pediatric Feeding Program at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital where she finally began to overcome her challenges.

For 4 months, occupational therapist Ellen Rosevear taught Cerelle how to eat. Because Cerelle had always been afraid of food, she had a lot to overcome. Ellen eventually gained Cerelle’s trust and showed her that food didn’t have to be scary.

“Food was always a horrific thing for her,” Lynn said. “She was always scared of food. Ellen went through a variety of things to make her not afraid … it really did help to take her fear away that the food wasn’t going to hurt her.”

Lynn, Pat and their other children, Letti, Rhiannon and Canaan (Cerelle’s twin brother), were equally important for Cerelle’s rehabilitation. They introduced Cerelle to new foods and encouraged her to be a good eater.

“All the kids would clap for her when she did something good,” Lynn said.

For years, the Pohls had encountered obstacle after obstacle when it came to finding help for Cerelle. Now that she’s thriving, they are just thankful that the answer to her problem was out there after all.

“Who knew it was in our backyard?” Lynn said.

Today, Cerelle is eating everything from chicken and rice to milk, and she continues to improve. She recently passed another milestone – eating at a restaurant with her whole family for the very first time.