Understanding the Role of Paediatric Dietitians in Australia
All children need a nutritious, balanced diet for healthy growth and development. Healthy eating habits help growing minds and bodies get the nutrients they need at the right times and in the right amounts.
If your child has a disability or developmental delay, it may be harder for them to get the nutrition they need to thrive. Paediatric dietitians work with children from birth to adolescence who are experiencing concerns related to diet, feeding, and eating. They support children and families by providing evidence-based eating advice and help for managing diet-related conditions. A paediatric dietitian can also support your family with feeding and mealtime issues.
What is dietetics?
Dietetics is the study of how food and nutrition affect human health and wellbeing. Dietitians are university-qualified allied health professionals. They undertake extensive training in body function and how diet affects health. They also study conditions and illnesses that can affect how the body uses food to stay healthy and which may put people at risk of nutritional problems.
Some dietitians have a special interest in working with kids. A paediatric dietitian is an expert in the nutritional needs of children and adolescents. They may complete additional training in this area or have on-the-job experience supporting children with dietary issues related to things like medical conditions and disability.
In Australia, dietitians can choose to gain accreditation with Dietitians Australia – the national organisation that represents the dietetic profession. To achieve accreditation, a dietitian must hold recognised university qualifications. This sets dietitians apart from nutritionists, who may or may not have this level of education. Dietitians who achieve accreditation are known as Accredited Practising Dietitians, or APDs.
APDs take a personalised approach, designing dietary plans, education and therapies on a case-by-case basis. Along with your child’s nutritional needs and goals, they will consider your family’s circumstances and preferences. This might include things like cultural or spiritual practices that influence what you eat.
How can a paediatric dietitian help my child?
Building healthy eating habits in childhood creates a foundation that can help your child have better lifelong health and wellbeing. For children with disability, getting support to help them eat well if needed is an important part of early intervention. Expert advice and dietary interventions developed by a clinical dietitian can help your child flourish.
A dietitian might help your child or young person to:
eat to support optimal growth and development
eat a wider variety of healthy foods
overcome food aversions and picky eating
manage food intolerances and allergies
build a positive relationship with food and eating
build a positive relationship with food and eating
take part in family mealtimes
manage food-related gut symptoms
eat to promote physical and mental health
understand and take responsibility for their nutrition needs.
How paediatric dietitians work with children and families
Dietitians use a range of strategies based on evidence about diet and health. A paediatric dietitian can support your child by:
- assessing their health and nutrition needs
- providing tailored nutrition advice and support
- designing an eating plan to address their condition or feeding concern
- educating you about healthy eating and food preparation
- providing advice about grocery shopping and reading food labels
- offering education and support for restrictive or fussy eating
- addressing barriers to eating or drinking
- helping you develop positive mealtime routines
- providing support for tube or enteral feeding
- designing a texture-modified diet to reduce choking risk.
At Active Ability, our paediatric dietitians use their skills and knowledge to help children achieve the best possible health, independence and quality of life. We focus on supporting children and young people with intellectual disability, neurological/neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, and mental health conditions.
Our paediatric dietitians work closely with your child and family to help you set realistic and achievable goals.
Signs your child could benefit from seeing a paediatric dietitian
Every child needs a healthy diet to grow and thrive. Your child may benefit from support from a paediatric dietitian if they have:
- a disability or developmental delay that affects their ability to choose or eat healthy foods
- gut symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea or bloating
- disordered eating behaviours
- issues with weight management
- growth faltering (also known as failure to thrive, slow growth or poor growth)
- fussy, picky or restrictive eating habits
- problem feeding behaviours
- poor appetite
- mealtime challenges
- difficulties with breastfeeding
- the need for enteral or tube feeding.
Which conditions can a dietitian help with?
Paediatric dietitians work with children who have a wide range of health, medical and developmental concerns. These include:
- Genetic conditions that affect feeding and eating behaviours (such as Down syndrome and Prader Willi syndrome)
- Neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder
- Gastrointestinal conditions such as coeliac disease, reflux, constipation or irritable bowel syndrome
- Hormonal conditions such as type 1 diabetes
- Nutrient deficiencies such as deficiency of iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin D
- Nood allergies or intolerances
- Cystic fibrosis
- Eating disorders
Dietitians often work with other healthcare professionals to provide holistic care tailored to each person’s needs. At Active Ability, our children’s dietitians collaborate with our paediatric physios and exercise physiologists to help your child reach their goals.
We’ll also work in partnership with other members of your healthcare team, such as your GP, child health nurse, paediatrician and any other health professionals involved in your child’s care.
Where do paediatric dietitians work?
Paediatric dietitians can be found almost anywhere where there are children who need their services. They work in public and private hospitals, private practice, schools, government, and community settings.
Most dietitians work in clinical roles seeing people with diet-related concerns. Paediatric dietitians also work in research, policy development, media, advocacy and managerial positions. For example, they might do research looking at how dietary therapies affect children’s health outcomes. Or they might work in government departments designing policies for healthier school canteens. You might see them in the media talking about things like healthier school lunchboxes.
The experienced children’s dietitians at Active Ability offer a mobile service. We can see your child and family wherever is most suitable for you. Most often this will be at your home. It might also be at your child’s daycare centre or school.
How much do paediatric dietetic services cost?
The cost of seeing a dietitian will depend on your needs. Typically, you can expect to pay between $50 and $150 for a dietetic consultation. Rates may be higher for home visits or specialised services.
If you have NDIS funding, children’s dietetic services can be orgainsed under the ‘Improved health and wellbeing’ and ‘Improved daily living’ categories of your NDIS Capacity Building budget.
At Active Ability, we believe in helping you get the most benefit from your NDIS funding. That’s why we have a ‘no travel charge’ policy.
Questions to ask a paediatric dietitian
How much experience do you have working with children?
Do you focus on a particular area of practice, such as working with kids with disability?
Have you seen children who have similar concerns to those of my child?
What do I need to have ready for our first appointment (eg medical history, test results etc)?
How much will the appointment cost and what are my funding options?
Do you visit my location?
How long will I need to wait to get an appointment?
At Active Ability, we understand you want to get support when you need it most. We do not have a waiting list, so you can get started with paediatric dietetics as soon as possible.
Our NDIS approved dietitians provide tailored nutrition assessment and advice for children with disability. We see families throughout Sydney, Wollongong and the Sunshine Coast. Our team has substantial experience working with children who have autism, an intellectual disability, neurological disorder or mental health condition.
Like to find out more? Contact our friendly team on (02) 91615887, firstname.lastname@example.org or via our contact form to discover how we might be able to help your child and family with expert dietetic support.
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