ATLANTA (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) -- Even though there is a lot of concern about children in America eating too much, there are about five-percent of children who don't eat at all. It's a feeding disorder that usually comes about if a child had a medical condition when they were born that caused eating to be painful. Treatment can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but one psychologist is testing out an app that may help parents treat their own kids and save money.
It's not the typical way you feed a child, but five-year-old Salvatore Goduto isn't typical. He's been getting all his nutrition from boost protein drinks.
Damon Goduto, Salvatore's father says, "He would drink seven, eight of them a day and we'd sit down at meal time and try to force him to eat and he would chew the food and put it in his mouth but never swallow it. So then it would just stick in his mouth until she made him spit it out at some point."
Psychologists believe Salvatore began associating food with pain because as a toddler he had acid reflux.
Now his treatment consists of wiping a spoon of pureed food on his tongue and some positive reinforcement.
William Sharp, PhD, Behavioral Psychologist at Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta explains, "We might start with an empty or dry spoon and once the child is comfortable with us placing something in their mouth, we'll very gradually place more and more food on the spoon."
The Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta has a waiting list of 600 children who have some form of feeding disorder. Dr. Sharp is now testing out a new app called iEat.
Sharp says, "That will allow caregivers to take this technology that we built in house and start implementing it in the home setting."
Four-year-old Andrew was one of the first to use the app in the clinic. He's been on a feeding tube for most of his life. But for the past eight months he's been feeding on praise.
Amy Parmer, Andrew's mother says, "We didn't realize how far positive praise would go, and it did, it worked, it went from 10 bites, to 20, to 50, to, now we don't even count bites anymore."
As for Salvatore, just 10 days of treatment has him doing something he hasn't done in five years.
"He's now swallowing all of his bites within 30 seconds, 100 percent of the time," Sharp says.
Treatment for a feeding disorder can be as much as $1,500 a day for eight weeks. Sharp is now working with researchers at Georgia Tech to develop a version of the iEat app that parents can use at home.