Feeding and Swallowing Disorders Therapy

Most people aren’t aware of the intimate connection between processing sounds and problems with feeding and swallowing. The development of feeding skills is an extremely complex process influenced by multiple anatomic, neurophysiologic, environmental, social, and cultural factors. Most children negotiate the necessary developmental sequence without significant difficulties.*

However, many children develop feeding and swallowing problems in infancy that can follow an individual throughout life resulting in inadequate nutrition that can affect growth and development.

If you have a child who is having difficulty eating or swallowing you’re probably concerned. You may even be panicked. He’s not  getting the nutrition he needs. He is not growing as he should. He’s falling behind. He’s being bullied. And you’re scared your child will never have friends or become a functioning adult. You’ve tried many things but nothing works. Nobody seems to know what you should do.

In very young children the signs of a feeding/swallowing disorder can be some or all of the following**:

  • Arching or stiffening of the body during feeding (infants)
  • Irritability or lack of alertness during feeding
  • Refusing food or liquid
  • Failure to accept different textures of food (e.g., only pureed foods or crunchy cereals)
  • Long feeding times (e.g., more than 30 minutes)
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Difficulty breastfeeding
  • 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
  • Frequent spitting up or vomiting
  • Recurring pneumonia or respiratory infections
  • Less than normal weight gain or growth

In older children the most common characteristics are:

  • A very limited food repertoire, usually containing high carbohydrates and sugar
  • Depression and/or anxiety issues
  • Difficulty socializing; has very few friends
  • Becomes easily frustrated
  • Problems with comprehension and ability to interpret what’s going on during conversations, especially on a phone

    Listen! The first thing you must understand is this is not your fault…and it’s not your child’s fault, either. It’s not a reflection of your parenting skills. Your child’s intelligence has nothing to do with it, and punishment is not going to help.

    Because the cause of feeding and swallowing disorders are very complex and often has physiological roots. By working closely with occupational therapists, pediatricians, dentists, and functional neurologists, the first step is to get to the bottom of what is causing your child’s problems. For example, it could be weak core muscles, a congested airway, neurological issues, or biomedical digestive issues such as an intestinal yeast problem.

    Once the causes are discovered, we apply proven methods that will create a sense of calmness in your child. This can include movement, breathing and stretching exercises or music that instills a sense of relaxation. You’ll be given a program that will help you create a calmer internal state for your child at home between therapy sessions.

    At this point we begin to help your child be friends with food, which will include:

    • Strengthening exercises for the mouth muscles
    • Tongue movement exercises
    • Improvement of the chewing process
    • Introduction of different foods and beverages
    • Correction of the sucking and/or drinking process
    • Adjusting the suck-swallow-breath pattern
    • Correct blocked or congested airways
    • Modifying the texture of foods and liquids to make them easier to swallow

    Many children have what is called a “reverse” swallow condition, which is often discovered by a dentist or orthodontist. We correct reverse swallowing using Swallowing/Myofunctional therapy that can:

    • Strengthen postural muscles and open airways for adequate nasal breathing
    • Diminishing or eliminating mouth breathing with behavior modification
    • CranioSacral therapy that can balance the palate and oral cavity with the cranium
    • Exercises to correct the deviate swallowing pattern
    • Incremental steps using behavioral modification to increase the frequency of the new swallowing pattern to become habitual in all settings

    At CTS Dallas, we are deeply knowledgeable and highly experienced in feeding and swallowing therapy. Moreover, we instill compassion, patience, and especially fun, into everything we to do to transform lives through speech-language pathology.

    So, take a breath and relax. You may have found the miracle you’ve been praying for.

    * http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/1945550

    ** https://www.asha.org/public/speech/swallowing/feeding-and-swallowing-disorders-in-children/