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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.

All of the Speech Pathologists on the team 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!

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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, Responsive Feeding Pro team 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 14 years ago and now have 2 Novacastrian boys. We love living in Newcastle and hope to be here for a long time.

I graduated 20 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 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.

In 2023, I completed my Masters of Medical Research through Griffith University with a research study exploring feeding difficulties in autistic children. As the practice owner, I don’t have a clinical caseload for now as all therapists working in my team receive weekly 2-3 hour supervision sessions so I am still involved with client planning and care.

Finally, I am a co-Director of Feeding Therapy Australia, a professional development company aimed at training allied health professionals in feeding therapy. We regularly run Postgraduate workshops and masterclasses for professionals in Australia and worldwide.

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. Ash joined our Let’s Eat! team in 2021. She lives at home with her husband, little baby girl and 2 adorable cat-babies. Ashleigh is back working in the team 2-3 days/week from February 2023.

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, Autism, FASD, and genetic syndromes. I am ADOS-2 trained (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) and passionate about helping autistic children.

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

  • Infant Feeding Postgraduate 2 day Workshop, Feeding Therapy Australia 2023
  • The Get Permission approach to anxious eaters and anxious mealtimes, Marsha Dunn Klein 2021
  • Breastfeeding, practical strategies for clinical practice with Sherrian Price, Newcastle Baby Settling 2021
  • Accidental Counsellor Training 2021
  • ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder), Melanie Potock 2020
  • Feeding Therapy: Your Tools to success, Feeding Therapy Australia 2020
  • “Feeding, it’s not just about swallowing”, Melanie Potock 2020
  • Sequential Oral Sensory Program (SOS) 2017
  • Paediatric Feeding and Swallowing Education (PFASE) 2017
  • 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.

After 6 years of working and traveling 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, not-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 has trained under Val in the Let’s Eat! Feeding certification training program. She has also completed post-graduate feeding training in:

  • Infant Feeding Postgraduate 2 day Workshop, Feeding Therapy Australia 2023
  • Paediatric Feeding Learning Framework, QLD Health 2022
  • Postgraduate Feeding Program, Feeding Therapy Australia, 4 day workshop 2022
  • Paediatric Feeding Masterclasses, Feeding Therapy Australia 2022
  • Sequential oral sensory protocol (SOS) program, Dr Kay Toomey 2021
  • Melanie Potock ARFID workshop, 2021

Mel joined our Let’s Eat! Clinic in 2022 and works Monday-Wednesday as a mobile-based therapist. 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.

Ell (short for Eleanor) is a Speech Pathologist with a point of difference, she has personal experience with neurodiversity and understands the importance of family-centered practices at a much deeper level than most clinicians. Ell went to the University of Newcastle with Saffron which means that the two friends are now in the same workplace together resulting in a clinic that is filled with laughter and camaraderie that helps all families and children feel welcomed.

Ell has a strong background in multidisciplinary teamwork, she has worked for a non-for-profit organisation in the NDIS space with children on the Autism Spectrum, Fetal Alchohol Spectrum, and children with a range of special needs. Ell has also worked as a support worker in her university days and is very knowledgeable about using AAC communication with children.

Fun Fact about Ell? She was the School Captain in Year 12! But now, she likes nothing better than to maintain a healthy work-life balance with arts and crafts in her spare time. When not at work, you might bump into Ell at the Art Gallery or a local art market with friends or hidden somewhere with a good book.

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

  • Infant Feeding Postgraduate 2 day Workshop, Feeding Therapy Australia 2023
  • Cervical Auscultation, Dr Thuy Frakking and Dr Kelly Weir 2022
  • Traffic Jam in my brain, Genevieve Jereb, Sensory Tools Australia 2022
  • Postgraduate Feeding Program, Feeding Therapy Australia, 4 day workshop 2022
  • Paediatric Feeding Masterclasses, Feeding Therapy Australia 2022

Ell joined our team in 2022 and works Monday-Thursday, 8am-6pm in our Lambton Let’s Eat! Clinic.

Liz has moved to beautiful Newcastle to join the Let’s Eat Team at the beginning of 2023. Initially from Central West NSW, Liz completed a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) at the University of Wollongong and then a Master of Speech Language Pathology at the University of Sydney. Liz has been lucky to have worked in a few different parts of Australia including the ACT, Central Australia and Far North QLD. These work opportunities, along with Liz’s love of travel, have allowed her to meet people from all walks of life with different lived experiences.

Liz brings an open and non-judgement attitude to her work and understands that as therapists we need to listen to each individual child and family’s needs in order to provide the best care possible.  

Liz gained her paediatric feeding experience working in Community Health roles in the ACT and Queensland, where she worked alongside other health professionals including dietitians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and medical professionals to provide comprehensive care to her clients. Liz has also completed the following post-graduate feeding training:  

  • Feeding Therapy Australia Postgraduate Infant Feeding two-day Workshop (June 2023)
  • Feeding Therapy Australia Masterclasses (March 2023)
  • Sarah Starr paediatric feeding assessment and intervention two-day workshop
  • Paediatric Feeding Learning Framework (PFASE), QLD Health
  • Ankyloglossia (tongue tie) Speech Pathology Australia online workshop

Liz is currently working Wednesday – Fridays, and will be heading off on maternity leave in October 2023. We wish her all the best and look forward to her return in 12 months time.

Beatrice joined the Let’s Eat! team in January 2024, she is a mum of 2 young girls and became a speech pathologist after working as a disability support worker for 5 years.

Beatrice graduated in 2023 and after supporting her own children with their feeding development, came to deeply understand the importance of helping parents feel heard and understood.

Beatrice has completed training with Val through her business Feeding Therapy Australia and has achieved postgraduate training in the following feeding courses:

  • Feeding Masterclasses (Feeding Therapy Australia)
  • Paediatric Feeding Learning Framework, QLD Health
  • Postgraduate Infant Feeding Workshop (Feeding Therapy Australia)
  • Postgraduate Paediatric Feeding Workshop (Feeding Therapy Australia)

Originally from England and soon to be a proud Australian Citizen, Beatrice is passionate about empowering parents and working with them to help build their children’s feeding skills.

Sarah joined the Let’s Eat! team in October 2023 and has a broad range of experience as a senior speech pathologist across both health and private practice.  Sarah is another University of Newcastle graduate and has been practising as a speech pathologist since she graduated in 2004.

Sarah has completed training with Val through her other business Feeding Therapy Australia and completed a number of other postgraduate feeding courses as follows:

  • Postgraduate Paediatric Feeding Workshop (Feeding Therapy Australia)
  • Picky Eaters vs PFD vs ARFID (Dr Kay Toomey)
  • Feeding & Swallowing Disorders in Infancy: Optimising Breastfeeding Success.
  • Cervical Auscultation in Paediatric Dysphagia Management.
  • Paediatric Feeding Education Program (Sarah Starr and Melissa Parkin)

Sarah also has extensive experience in speech and language difficulties and in 2021 gained her Hanen Certification (It Takes Two to Talk and More than Words). She has attended professional development in speech sound disorders, voice disorders and completed sensory specific workshops.

Sarah’s passion is working with babies and toddlers who have feeding difficulties in a multidisciplinary team. She is both personable and organised and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our team. Sarah is currently working on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and when not at work, is busy being a mum of 2 young boys.