Untitled-1_home header copy
LetsEat_Website_home part 1 copy-11

Let’s Eat Feeding Therapy is a Newcastle-based private practice specialising in paediatric feeding intervention service for babies and children from birth to adolescence. Founder and speech pathologist Valerie Gent understands that feeding difficulties in babies and children can be stressful for parents as well as their child. The goal of Let’s Eat is to empower the family to be able to understand and respond to the feeding difficulties their child may present with.

Feeding is a complex interaction between behaviour, medical, environment, sensory and developmental skills. We strongly believe in working together with families, doctors, and other therapists to ensure a multi-disclipinary focus with assessment and therapy for children with feeding difficulties.

Speech Pathologists, Valerie, Ashleigh, Laura and Melissa are specialised in assessing and treating babies and children with a range of feeding and swallowing difficulties including difficulties with breast or bottle feeding, transitioning through solids, gagging on lumpy foods or finger foods, general refusal of specific food types, fussy eating, or behavioural challenged related to eating meals, and more.

Our practice can work with you and your family to develop feeding programs according to the needs of your child. We are happy to work with what you would like – blocks of short intensive weekly sessions, fortnightly sessions or review programs as you need it.

We look forward to working with you!

LetsEat_Website_home part 1 copy-10

Hi, my name is Valerie, I started my practice, Let’s Eat! Paediatric Speech Pathology at the beginning of 2013 to be able to offer a private specialised feeding service for babies, toddlers and children with feeding difficulties. I have extensive postgraduate training in paediatric feeding (including the basic and advanced SOS (Sequential Oral Sensory) feeding program as well as many other certified feeding programs including Ellyn Satter, Melanie Potock, Broccoli Camp, Gen Jereb, Oral facial training (Kristie Gatto), trust based model with eating Susanne Evans Morris, Get Permission Approach with Marsha Dunn Klein, Sensational Mealtimes with Gillian Griffiths and Denise Stapleton and the Circle of Security. I absolutely love what I do!

Private practice gives me the flexibility with raising a family. My husband and I moved from Sydney to Newcastle 12 years ago and now have 2 Novacastrian boys. We love living in Newcastle and hope to be here for a long time.

Here’s a little bit about my experience:

I graduated 18 years ago with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Speech Pathology) at the University of Sydney in 2002.  Since then, I have worked in NSW Health (Sydney Children’s Hospital and John Hunter Children’s Hospital including the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and outpatient feeding clinic) as well as in disability services (Sylvanvale Handicapped Children’s Centre, Cerebral Palsy Specialist team at SCH), in the United Kingdom and  in private practice in Sydney.

Through the years, I have had both additional postgraduate training and clinical experience in:

– Extreme picky eating difficulties in children

– Autism Spectrum Disorders and related feeding concerns

– Medical conditions such as gastro-esophageal reflux, brain injuries, cleft lip and palate conditions, cerebral palsy, chromosome deletions and syndromes as well as premature babies who have resulting feeding difficulties.

–  Sensory Processing difficulties (including oral sensory defensiveness) that impact on feeding difficulties

– Paediatric videofluoroscopy (swallow study) and Cervical Auscultation

Feeding is a complex interaction between behaviour, medical, environment, sensory and developmental skills. I strongly believe in working together with families, doctors and other therapists to ensure a multidisciplinary focus with both assessment and therapy for children with feeding difficulties. In commitment to this, I am also “Circle of Security” (attachment based) trained (2018).

Over the years, I have also lectured for the University of Newcastle in paediatric feeding and worked in specialist multidisciplinary drooling/saliva management clinics.

In 2021, I started my Masters of Medical Research through Griffith University with a research study in ASD and feeding, this means that I don’t have a clinical caseload with Let’s Eat for now as all therapists working under me receive weekly 2-3 hour supervision sessions with me so I am still involved with client planning and care.

In June 2021, I published a preschool kids book called “But I’m NOT Hungry for my Dinner” with illustrator Kirrili Lonergan. The book and illustrations have been honoured by receiving a responsive evidence based feeding “tick” from the Ellyn Satter Institute (ESI) with their seal of approval.

Finally, I am a co-Director of “Feeding Therapy Australia”, a professional development company aimed at training allied health professionals in Feeding Therapy – https://feedingtherapyaustralia.com.au/

Ashleigh, originally from the Central Coast has just moved from the Northern Territory to Newcastle. In Katherine, she was working with children and adults in feeding and communication delays.

Ash’s passion as a Speech Pathologist has always been in babies and children. She is an experienced therapist in fussy eating, the transition to solids and oral motor development in a range of children both in urban and remote settings.

Ash has a strong work background in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She believes in working with clients and families to celebrate and build on their strengths.

Ashleigh is fun, enthusiastic and a team player, your child will adore her and you will be impressed with her feeding skills and knowledge. We are so happy to have her on our Let’s Eat Speech team.

She lives at home with her husband and 2 adorable cat-babies. Ashleigh is currently on maternity leave in 2022.

Here’s a little bit about my experience:

I graduated from The University of Newcastle with a Bachelor of Speech Pathology (Honours) with First Class Honours in 2014. At the end of my degree, I was awarded the 2014 Faculty Medal for outstanding academic achievement.

I was also placed on the faculty commendation list at the University of Newcastle in both 2012 and 2013 in recognition of outstanding academic achievement.

After I finished University, I moved with my husband to Western Australia where I worked in the Autism Association of Western Australia for 19 months. In this position, I worked with children aged between 2-7 years diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) within a transdisciplinary team.

In 2017, we moved to the Northern Territory where I started working as a Speech Pathologist across the lifespan with both children and adults. This was a busy caseload of up to 100 clients.

My role included engaging culturally responsive speech pathology services for clients with developmental delays, disabilities and aged care needs across the life span, including travel to remote communities.

Alongside my Speech Pathology colleague, I established and developed the Katherine Region Diagnostic Clinic. This was the first of its kind for the region and focused on multidisciplinary developmental and diagnostic assessment for a range of children presenting with features of Global developmental delay, ASD, FASD and genetic syndromes. I am ADOS-2 trained (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) and passionate about helping children with ASD.

As a feeding speech pathologist, I have completed post-graduate training in

  • The Get permission approach to anxious eaters and anxious mealtimes, Marsha Dunn Klein 2021
  • Breast feeding, practical strategies for clinical practice with Sherrian Price, Newcastle baby settling 2021
  • Accidental Counsellor training 2021
  • Melanie Potock, ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) 2020
  • Feeding Therapy: Your Tools to success, Feeding Therapy Australia 2020
  • Melanie Potock, “Feeding, it’s not just about swallowing” 2019
  • Sequential Oral Sensory Program (SOS) 2017
  • Paediatric Feeding and Swallowing Education (PFASE) 2017
  • And mentored by Val in my previous job 2018-2019

I have also completed numerous training courses in Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Programs through the Department of Health as well as other courses focusing on FASD and trauma. As a certified practising Speech Pathologist, I am PECS trained, Key Word Sign (Makaton) trained and have completed further training in sensory processing through the Autism Association in Western Australia.

Saffron is also from the Central Coast, similar to Ashleigh, she trained in Speech Pathology (honours) at the University of Newcastle and even went to the same selective high school as Ashleigh! Saffron has a strong background in dysphagia (swallowing difficulties) and acute feeding. She has worked in multidisciplinary teams in hospitals and aged care on the Central Coast to support adult swallowing and communication skills.

Her love of all things feeding both in adults and children led her to our team. Her clinical skills with adults means that her knowledge of cranial nerves and neurology involved in feeding is an asset to our team especially with babies and children who have chewing and swallowing difficulties.

When not at work, Saffron enjoys playing with her dog on the beach and exploring Newcastle restaurants with her friends. A self-proclaimed foodie, Saffron has travelled extensively and loves eating multicultural cuisine. Her favourite countries to visit include Sweden, India and Mexico.

Saffron has trained under Val in the Let’s Eat! Feeding certification training program. She has also completed post graduate training in:

  • Paediatric Feeding Masterclasses, Feeding Therapy Australia 2022
  • Ankyloglossia (tongue ties) censensus webinar, 2022
  • A-Z National Tour, IDDSI Framework, fussy eating, medication adminstration in babies and children, Speech Pathology Australia, 2022
  • Paediatric Feeding Learning Framework, Queensland Health, 2022
  • Talk Tools, Feeding First conference, 2022
  • Working with people at the end of their life, Speech Pathology Australia 2021
  • Lee Silverman Voice Therapy Certification, 2021

Saffron has joined our team in 2022 and works Tuesday-Friday, 8am-6pm in our Lambton Let’s Eat! Clinic.

After 6 years working and travelling overseas with her family, Melissa is coming home to Newcastle. And we are more than thrilled to have her join our Let’s Eat! Team. She brings a wealth of experience in children aged 0-18 with complex needs across health, non-for-profit organisations and private practice.

Melissa worked in the Rehab team with Val at NSW Health in complex disability care teams many years ago. So complex cases, multidisciplinary teams and communicating to support children is something Melissa does naturally.

Melissa graduated 20 years ago and has done multiple postgraduate training courses in paediatric feeding including the Postgraduate Feeding Program, Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) program, Melanie Potock ARFID and Feeding workshops, Ellyn Satter Feeding webinars as well as lots of online feeding workshops and webinars in the UK and USA.

Mel is passionate about building attachments with kids and families. She strongly believes that therapy should be woven into everyday routines. Feeding should be fun and not a chore!

Mel started in February 2022 (3 days/week) in the Let’s Eat! Team: Monday (clinic) and Tuesday-Wednesday (home visits). When she is not working, she is running around being a busy mum of 3 kids. She has traveled for so long that it’s nice to finally slow down in beautiful Newcastle.