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Barnsley Children’s Speech and Language Therapy

Some speech and language therapists have extra training to help children with eating and drinking problems. This is also known as dysphagia (problems swallowing)

Children with dysphagia

Some children are at risk of having problems with their swallowing or eating and drinking. Children with the following difficulties may need to see a speech and language therapist:

  • children with physical difficulties
  • children with a diagnosis such as cerebral palsy, down syndrome or neurological difficulties
  • children who have been born prematurely (babies born early)
  • children who have developmental delay or learning difficulties
  • babies with heart, respiratory, gastrointestinal (stomach) or anatomy problems
  • children who have suffered a brain injury or stroke
  • children who have reflux

Problems children can have with eating and drinking

Children can have different problems with eating and drinking. Some of the challenges that children can have can be:

  • difficulties with co-ordination of their swallow
  • a swallow that is not safe
  • difficulties with latching when breast feeding or bottle feeding
  • difficulties with biting and chewing
  • difficulty managing food and drink textures that would usually be appropriate for their age or level of development
  • a dislike of all or some textures of food or drink (aversion) as a result of reflux or other medical problem

Some children can also have problems accepting new foods or can find mealtimes challenging. They may not need to see a speech and language therapist but families may need strategies to help make mealtimes easier. Some useful strategies and resources can be found on our helpful links page.

How speech and language therapists help

Speech and language therapists help children with eating, drinking and swallowing problems by:

  • assessing children’s skills with food and/or drink and work out if there is a problem
  • identifying children who are at risk of food going down the wrong way towards the lungs (aspiration)
  • recommending textures of foods and consistency of drink that children are safe to have
  • giving advice and activities to help children develop eating and drinking skills in a safe way
  • working with other professionals like doctors, dietitians and occupational therapists to give information about children’s eating and drinking
  • identifying children who need to go for extra tests such as videofluoroscopy (a moving x ray of the swallow)
  • writing clear feeding plans for children
  • providing training to families, schools and other professionals about eating and drinking so they can support children with eating and drinking problems

If you are concerned about your child’s eating, drinking or swallowing you can speak to a health professional such as the child’s health visitor, GP or doctor who may recommend that they are seen by a speech and language therapist.

More information about eating and drinking can be found on our helpful links page. It includes:

  • information on weaning and mealtime behaviour
  • the link to IDDSI (international dysphagia diet standardisation initiative). This is an international system we use to describe textures and consistencies of food and drink

 

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