Infants or children with difficulty feeding and swallowing: children with a history of aspiration pneumonia, as well as those who have more typical difficulties, such as pickiness, food aversion, difficulty gaining weight, pocketing food, difficulties with chewing, challenges with cup drinking, or using a straw.
A comprehensive evaluation of oral motor mechanism, real-time observation of feeding and drinking of different textures and solid/liquid consistencies using a variety of cups and/or tools, behavioral observation, and parent interview.
Combination of strengthening exercises, diet modification, adaptive utensils and equipment, maneuvers to aide timing and strength of movements of feeding and swallowing, and exercises to improve strength and coordination of swallowing physiology during the stages of swallowing (oral preparatory, oral transit, pharyngeal, esophageal), sensory techniques, pacing.
Open Lines’ Pediatric Feeding & Swallowing Program
Mealtimes are often events rich with opportunities for connection, affection, and communication with your child. But when children struggle to eat and drink adequately, there can be a constant sense of worry about their safety, growth, and development. Furthermore, fear and anxiety may surround these experiences, which only makes these times more difficult.
Why Can’t My Child Swallow Food?
Some children experience a range of difficulties related to feeding and swallowing. Feeding and swallowing difficulties may occur when children or infants have difficulty forming an appropriate suck/swallow/breath pattern, adequately chewing food, and initiating and transporting food or liquid through the mouth and throat into the esophagus.
Infants and children with feeding and swallowing difficulties may experience the following issues:
- Difficulty gaining weight
- Problems staying adequately hydrated or nourished
- Consuming a limited range of food and/or liquid consistencies
- Food or oral aversion (i.e., “picky eater”)
- Challenges with managing food within the mouth
- Pocketing food in the mouth
- History of aspiration pneumonia or frequent lung infections
- Difficulties due to reflux
These symptoms can present themselves in many ways. A child may have difficulty chewing different textures, or they may cough or gag when trying to swallow. They may also have trouble breathing when eating or drinking or tend to cry at mealtimes. Children with feeding issues may also have lengthy feeding times, refuse certain foods or liquids, or show reduced responsiveness during mealtimes.
These difficulties can occur because of problems with neuromuscular strength and coordination, sensory issues, structural and anatomical differences, or as a result of medication side effects. They may also co-occur with many genetic syndromes, such as Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, or complex medical conditions. Difficulties can affect any stage of the chewing or swallowing process, from the initiation of the bite or sip, to the chewing or manipulation of food or liquid from the front to the back of the mouth and the stomach.
Pediatric Swallowing Therapy
At Open Lines, we recognize the gravity of feeding difficulties as well as the emotional strain that surrounds them. We are here to help improve your child’s feeding and swallowing skills with sensitivity and precision to help your family achieve all goals as quickly as possible.
Speech Pathology Swallowing Assessment
Every program begins with a detailed caregiver interview and individualized assessment. A licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) will also conduct an in-depth assessment of the muscles and structures involved in feeding and swallowing of consistencies expected to be tolerated at your child’s age.
Results of the evaluation will help your clinician determine which aspect of the feeding and swallowing process is affected (e.g., oral preparatory phase, oral transit phase, sensory factors that affect food preference and aversion) and the root cause of the issue(s). The assessment will help your clinician better understand your child’s unique strengths, needs, and goals.
How Does a Speech Pathologist Help With Swallowing?
Open Lines’ SLPs work with you to develop a customized plan of action that combines personally tailored exercises, compensatory strategies, adaptive equipment, and diet and environmental modifications to optimize your child’s feeding and swallowing development and success.
Every treatment plan integrates the most up-to-date, cutting-edge treatment techniques to engage your child within multisensory approaches, using fun activities to keep your child motivated so they quickly experience a successful outcome! Our team recognizes the importance of caregiver involvement for carryover of skills into everyday environments. Therefore, we provide training, education, and counseling for caregivers to ensure you feel comfortable and confident following through with recommendations at home. Treatment will help your child and family find joy in eating during mealtimes!
Treating Feeding and Swallowing Disorders at Open Lines
Contact Open Lines today by phone at 212-430-6800, by email at [email protected], or through our contact form. If you are ready to take the next steps in treating your child’s feeding or swallowing difficulties, request an appointment to discuss your goals and review our service options.