Swallowing problems in children
Kelly VanDahm is a pediatric speech-language pathologist at Cardon Children's Medical Center
Question: My child was refusing to eat so I took her to the doctor, who diagnosed a feeding or swallowing disorder, also called Dysphagia, and recommended I see a Speech Pathologist. What is Dysphagia and how will a speech pathologist get my child to eat?
Answer: Dysphagia can be a serious diagnosis. More than 60,000 Americans die annually from complications associated with dysphagia, which can occur at any time during a person’s life. Approximately 15 million Americans are diagnosed with dysphagia, so you and your daughter are not alone.
You were recommended a visit to a speech pathologist because your physician knows that they are experts when it comes to such issues as feeding and swallowing, as well as speech, language and voice deficits.
During your first visit, the speech pathologist will evaluate your daughter to pinpoint exactly where the problem arises when it comes to eating. Does she have trouble with chewing? Does she not like certain textures in her mouth? Does eating make her tummy or throat hurt? Does she cough when she drinks? After working through those, and other issues, they will work with your daughter to achieve better feeding skills or a “safer swallow”. This can be achieved through different feeding experiences, altering diet consistencies, changing positioning, specific exercises and compensatory strategies.
The goal of the speech pathologist is to achieve the safest swallow and regular feeding behaviors, while meeting your daughter’s needs with foods and liquids whenever possible.