10th Anniversary Reunion of the Cindy & Tod Johnson Center for Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program Celebrates 10 Years of Care

Patient families and staff joined St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children in celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Cindy and Tod Johnson Center for Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program, the only interdisciplinary feeding program in New York State that helps diagnose and treat feeding disorders.

The reunion was held in the new Patient Pavilion unveiled just a few days before and guests had the opportunity to venture out on guided tours to see the new state-of-the-art facility as well as the Feeding area which houses 12 feeding exam rooms, a feeding view room and a family lounge. St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children is a premier provider of post-acute pediatric care for children and families with special needs and the feeding program is one of many programs that help children manage their condition and heal and grow.

The celebrations took on a lighthearted note with grateful patient families reminiscing about their experiences at St. Mary’s, others sharing their stories of hope and success with one another and some even reintroducing their children to St. Mary’s renowned therapist who cared for them years ago.

Kids of all ages were kept entertained with cookie decorating and tattoo activities courtesy of Hunter College Hillel volunteers, and a magician who had lots of tricks up his sleeves.

The highlight of the program was a few touching words by Robert and Chiu Parrilla whose son Michael was born prematurely at 24 weeks and endured multiple complications, one of which was feeding. Michael was  diagnosed with failure to thrive, a condition which prevents children to take in, retain, or utilize the calories needed to gain weight and continue normal growth. St. Mary’s feeding therapists began working with Michael in June 2008.

“His progress was amazing and shocking. St. Mary’s staff truly worked magic and turned my son’s conditions around. Now we can’t get him to stop eating” said Robert.

Today, a six year old Michael, happy and healthy sat cross legged in front of the magician laughing and clapping his hands and having a great time.

The reunion marked 10 years of providing extraordinary care to children who otherwise may not have been helped. St. Mary’s feeding program began as a small program established to address an unmet need for interdisciplinary care for children with feeding disorders in NY State. Very quickly, the program earned a reputation among families and referring physicians for successfully treating children whose families came to St. Mary’s as their “last hope.”

“The remarkable outcomes we have witnessed are a testament to not only the dedication of the team of professionals that serve these children but the ability of parents/guardians to partner in their own child’s care, transforming their desperation into a tireless drive to learn the techniques necessary to promote growth long after they leave our program,” said Dr. Dawn Cuglietto, Director of the Feeding Program and Clinical Psychologist.

To date, the Center has evaluated over 450 children and graduated over 200 children from the intensive day patient program.

Experts estimate that nearly 25% of all children will develop a feeding disorder. The prevalence climbs to 80% in children with special healthcare needs and developmental delays. Feeding disorders occur when a child has difficulty consistently consuming nutrition by mouth to promote physical and cognitive growth.