Food is important for a child’s health, growth, and overall development. But children with dysphagia (swallowing disorders) can have trouble eating and drinking enough for their age. If your child is struggling with swallowing food or drinks, our caring feeding therapists are here to help. Keep reading to find out what dysphagia is, why it should be addressed, and how it can be handled with pediatric feeding therapy.

What Is Dysphagia?

Dysphagia is an umbrella term for difficulty with swallowing food or drinks. The type of swallowing disorder a child has depends on which area of their body the disorder occurs. These areas are:

  1. The mouth – trouble chewing food into small enough pieces due to poor oral motor control, or the ability to coordinate the movements of the jaw and tongue to chew effectively.
  2. The throat – disorders with the act of swallowing itself, which involves the tongue pushing food or drinks to the back of the throat and the voice box closing so the food can move down into the esophagus.
  3. The esophagus – conditions that affect the ability of the esophagus to push food down into the stomach completely or in a timely manner.

Common Signs of Dysphagia or Swallowing Disorders

Your child may have dysphagia if they:

  • Experience pain when they swallow
  • Tend to eat cautiously
  • Arch or stiffen when nursing
  • Drool excessively
  • Have a hoarse voice
  • Tend to throw up after eating or drinking
  • Frequently get respiratory infections
  • Aren’t gaining enough weight
  • Complain that food feels stuck in their throat or chest
  • Often cough, choke, or gag on their food or drinks

Causes of Dysphagia

Dysphagia can be caused by a variety of conditions including:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Premature birth
  • Cleft lip or palate
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

How Dysphagia Can Impact a Child’s Growth

Children with dysphagia can experience severe medical complications such as dehydration, malnutrition, and aspiration (getting food or drink into their lungs). This is because this condition makes eating a variety of nutritious foods and drinking plenty of water extremely difficult. That’s why early intervention is vital for your child’s quality of life.

How Can Feeding Therapy Improve My Child’s Swallowing?

Our pediatric feeding therapists have tons of experience treating swallowing delays and disorders. We use proven therapeutic exercises, techniques, and activities to help children build their swallowing skills and confidence for successful feeding. We can also give you tips and activities you can do at home with your child to help them continue working on their swallowing skills between therapy sessions. With our one-on-one treatment and your support, we can work together to help your child overcome dysphagia.

Benefits of Pediatric Feeding Therapy for Dysphagia

If your child has dysphagia, feeding therapy can give them incredible benefits like:

  1. Reduced fear or anxiety at mealtimes
  2. Increased nutritional intake
  3. Better weight gain for healthy development
  4. Stronger feeding skills
  5. More confidence in social situations involving food
  6. Improved quality of life

Schedule Your Child’s Evaluation

Pediatric Therapy Partners has clinics in Bossier and Shreveport, LA, to meet your family’s needs. All you have to do is call us at (318) 746-1199 or fill out the contact form below and our Intake Coordinator will help you schedule your child’s speech therapy evaluation.

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