Feeding Disorder Therapy, Swallowing Disorder, & Oral Aversion

Disorders that involve feeding and swallowing consists of the inability to gather food in the mouth to chew or swallow properly. A child that cannot chew properly, close the lips to keep the food from falling out, and swallow normally may have a disorder that needs to be treated.

A swallowing disorder or dysphagia can be diagnosed if it occurs within the three phases of swallowing;

  • Oral: Chewing, sucking, or moving food into the throat
  • Pharyngeal: Beginning to swallow and closing off the airway
  • Esophageal: The food passing from the throat to the stomach through the esophagus

Symptoms

There are several symptoms associated with feeding and swallowing disorders, some of which you may not directly associate with the issue. Here is a sample of the more common symptoms;

  • Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
  • Refusing liquid or food
  • Body stiffens during feeding
  • Takes long periods of time to feed
  • Gagging or coughing during meals
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Low weight gain or growth
  • Repeated respiratory infections

There are other symptoms as well, but these are the most common. Because of this, a child that suffers from feeding and swallowing issues that may also include oral aversion become vulnerable to poor nutrition, dehydration, respiratory issues, aspiration, and feelings of embarrassment when eating with others.

Diagnosis

It all starts with the parents who notice one or more of the symptoms listed above. However, the proper diagnosis should come from the pediatrician who is alerted to the symptoms as reported by the parents. In addition, the speech language pathologist who specializes in this type of treatment may also diagnose the child.

  • Medical history
  • Seeing the strength and movement of the muscles involved
  • Looks at the behavior, posture, and oral movements during feeding
  • Performs specific tests

The tests include swallowing food with barium so that it can be seen on the x-ray. Plus, a lighted scope through the sinus cavity to view the throat during swallowing. There may be other therapists including physical and occupational along with the physician, dietician, nutritionist, or developmental specialists.

This is because the issue may include the posture, medical status, muscle development, and overall intake. A proper evaluation will lead to the right treatment for your child.

Treatment

After diagnosis, the treatment will depend on the issues that are discovered. This means that your child may undergo one or more of the following treatments;

  • Direct feeding therapy
  • Changes in nutrition
  • Different food temperature
  • Changes in texture of the food
  • Changes in posture or position
  • Medicine to combat reflux
  • Behavioral modification

In addition, the child may be sent to other professionals that may include a dentist or psychologist to help with the therapy. If feeding therapies with SLP are recommended, it may include improving muscle tone, tongue movement, chewing, accepting different foods, better coordination, understanding the difference of textures and thickness, and so forth.

Every child will undergo individual symptoms that are unique to their feeding, swallowing, or aversion issues. However, there are several standard treatments that work for most situations.

Consult with an Expert Speech or Occupational Therapist