Feeding and Swallowing

Developing feeding skills is a necessary part of a child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Children begin learning these skills as soon as they’re born, and by the time they’re three, most have skills comparable to an adult’s.

A lot happens in those first three years – children learn to deal with a variety of shapes, tastes, and textures, from liquids to purees and then to solids. They go from fingers to utensils and eventually learn to feed themselves with no help.

Some children embrace variety, but more often children go through a phase, long or short, when they can be described as picky eaters. But when is it a phase, and when is something behind the phase that’s a real issue? Some children have an extremely limited group of acceptable foods. Some don’t eat enough to maintain a healthy weight. Some have trouble with particular textures of foods, and aren’t eating solids yet when by their age they should be. If mealtimes are stressful at your house because of feeding-related issues, we can help.

What are feeding and swallowing impairments?

Feeding impairments are difficulties related to eating and/or drinking. They may be caused by a behavioral issue, or a sensory or medical issue. When a child has a feeding impairment, mealtimes can be discouraging or frustrating for everyone in the family. The child may need specialized intervention to succeed at mealtimes.

What are the signs of a feeding and swallowing impairment?

Signs of a feeding impairment include a child refusing food, eating very few foods, or gagging or choking on specific foods, as well as difficulties with chewing or swallowing, evidence of gastrointestinal problems or reflux, and limited weight gain or poor nutrition.

How will therapy help?

Depending on the issues the child is having, feeding therapy may consist of position or posture changes, oral motor exercises related to feeding, use of alternative utensils based on the child’s individual needs, changes in textures or temperatures of food, and food chaining (building on a child’s food preferences) to expand a child’s food repertoire.



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