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Feeding and Swallowing Disorders

Childhood Feeding and Swallowing Disorders

Your child may have difficulty with the feeding or swallowing in different ways and at different points in the process. Perhaps your child has difficulty with the texture or feel of food on his or her fingers or maybe has difficulty getting food onto a spoon. The first example might have a sensory component and the second may involve motor planning.

A child can have difficulty with sucking, chewing or swallowing. Again, these stages of feeding and swallowing can have a sensory component and motor planning component, as well as possible muscle weakness or discoordination. Each stage is important for your child’s health.

Signs and symptoms of feeding and swallowing disorders in children

  • Arching or stiffening of the body during feeding
  • Irritability or lack o f alertness during feeding
  • Refusing food or liquid
  • Failure to accept different textures of food (e.g. only pureed foods or crunchy foods)
  • Long feeding time (e.g. more than 30 minutes)
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Difficulty breast feeding
  • Coughing and gagging during meals
  • Excessive drooling or food/liquid coming out of the mouth or nose
  • Difficulty coordinating breathing with eating and drinking
  • Gurgle, house or breathy voice quality
  • Frequent spitting or vomiting
  • Recurring pneumonia or respiratory infections
  • Less than normal weight gain or growth

As a result of these signs or symptoms, children may be at risk for:

  • Dehydration
  • Aspiration (food or liquid entering the airway)
  • Pneumonia or repeated upper respiratory infections which can lead to chronic lung disease
  • Embarrassment or isolation in social situations involving eating
  • If your child is having these kinds of difficulties, it is important to contact your pediatrician. Your Pediatrician can examine your child to address any medical reasons for the feeding difficulty, including possible reflux or metabolic disorders.

A Speech Pathologist or Occupational Therapist who has specialized training in treating children with feeding and swallowing disorders can evaluate your child. After a thorough evaluation, if your child does meet the criteria for a feeding or swallowing disorder, the Speech pathologist will develop a treatment plan and work with you to remediate your child’s disorder.

Contact our office if you would like to speak to a speech pathologist or occupational therapist with special training in feeding and swallowing disorders.

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