The Children's Institute Blog

Proper Nutrition Impacts Behavior and Development

Posted: Feb 09, 2016 by The Children's Institute

Good nutrition leads to better health. And for children with multiple developmental delays and/or complex behavioral challenges, a customized nutrition plan can make a long-lasting impact on progress and growth. The physicians of Developmental Pediatrics at The Children's Institute of Pittsburgh use a unique multi-level diagnostic approach to find the causes of and plan successful treatment strategies for developmental and behavioral disorders in infants, children and teens. A thorough evaluation of individual biomedical, environmental and situational influences helps the team to diagnose underlying medical issues and create an individualized care plan. A careful examination of diet and nutrition is a key component in this analysis.or children with multiple developmental delays and/or complex behavioral challenges, a customized nutrition plan can make a long-lasting impact on progress and growth.

When nutritional deficits are identified, Developmental Pediatrics physicians engage a multidisciplinary team of nurses and therapists to provide dietary and nutrition treatment through further evaluation and counseling.

This team may include:

Behavioral health therapists
Occupational therapists
Physical therapists
Speech language pathologists.

Multiple therapeutic interventions may be used to address biomedical, physical and psychological issues involving diet and nutrition that affect development and behavior. And each family's values, culture, beliefs and other life circumstances are considered throughout the treatment process.


By exploring biological systems at the cellular level through blood and other laboratory testing, Developmental Pediatrics practitioners determine root causes for many developmental delays and behavioral challenges. Deficits of minerals or vitamins can be adjusted with dietary supplements. And complex allergies may be identified that can be impacted through food restrictions (gluten free or casein free) or other dietary changes.


Therapies can help improve function in children with feeding and swallowing issues, while assisting family members and caregivers with dietary adjustments to ensure they are receiving the best nutrition possible. Addressing fine motor skills and the coordination of smaller muscle groups in the arms and hands promotes self-feeding and independence.


A positive relationship between a child and food impacts physical development and behavior. The process often begins at the beginning - teaching the child how to sit at the table during mealtime. Children and families learn how to effectively cope with food aversions, special diets and allergy concerns. School consultation services related to food and nutrition may also be provided.

For infants, children and teens with developmental delays and behavioral challenges, Developmental Pediatrics provides a variety of medical and therapeutic resources to promote each child's further integration into family, school and community. This multidisciplinary, integrative and completely individualized approach to care offers effective treatments, including dietary and nutrition support. For more information about Developmental Pediatrics, contact us at 412.420.2400 or visit

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