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Feeding, Swallowing and Oral- Motor

Feeding and swallowing disorders can occur at different stages of the swallowing process:

  • Oral phase- sucking, chewing, and moving food or liquid into the throat

  • Pharyngeal phase- starting the swallow, squeezing food down the throat and closing off the airway to prevent food or liquid from entering the airway (aspiration) or to prevent choking.

  • Esophageal phase- relaxing and tightening the openings at the top and bottom of the esophagus and squeezing food through into the stomach.

 

What are some signs and symptoms of feeding and swallowing disorders in children?

  • Arching or stiffening of the body during feeding

  • Irritability or lack of alertness during feeding

  • Refusing food or liquid

  • Failure to accept different textures of food (e.g., only pureed food or crunchy cereals)

  • Long feeding times (e.g., more than 30 minutes)

  • Difficulty chewing

  • Difficulty breast feeding

  • Coughing or gagging during meals

  • Excessive drooling or food/liquid coming out of the mouth or nose

  • Difficulty coordinating breathing with eating and drinking

  • Increased stuffiness during meals

  • Gurgly, hoarse, or breathy voice quality

  • Recurring pneumonia or respiratory infections

  • Less than normal weight gain or growth

 

What does treatment involve?

Treatment varies depending on the cause and symptoms of the feeding or swallowing problem.  Treatment may involve the following:

  • Medical interventions (medicine for reflux)

  • Direct feeding therapy designed to meet individual needs

  • Nutritional changes (e.g., different foods, adding calories to food)

  • Increasing acceptance of new foods or textures

  • Behavior management techniques

  • Referral to other professionals such as a psychologist or dentist

 

The focus on intervention may include the following:

  • Increasing oral muscle strength 

  • Increasing oral tongue movement

  • Improving chewing

  • Increasing acceptance of different foods and liquids

  • Improving sucking and/or drinking ability

  • Coordinating the suck-swallow-breath pattern (for infants)

  • Altering textures and liquid thickness to ensure safe swallowing

 

What causes feeding disorders?

  • Nervous system disorders (e.g., cerebral palsy, meningitis, encephalopathy)

  • Gastrointestinal conditions (e.g., reflux, "short gut" syndrome)

  • Prematurity and/or low birth weight

  • Heart disease

  • Cleft lip and/or palate

  • Conditions affecting the airway

  • Autism

  • Head and Neck abnormalities

  • Muscle weakness in the face and neck

  • Multiple medical problems

  • Respiratory difficulties

  • Problems with parent-child interactions at meal times

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5305 West Village Parkway Suite 9
Rogers, AR 72758
479-401-2077
justkidsspeechtherapy@gmail.com