(Difficulty Swallowing)

Swallowing Disorders in Children
What are swallowing disorders?
  • Swallowing disorder is difficulty or inabilty to transport the food or liquid from the mouth, into the phraynx then into the esophagus.
  • Swallowing disorders can occur at different phases of the swallowing process
    • Oral phasesucking, chewing, and moving food or liquid into the throat
    • Pharyngeal phase – starting the swallow, squeezing food down the throat, and closing off the airway to prevent food or liquid from entering the airway (aspiration) or to prevent choking
    • Esophageal phase – relaxing and tightening the openings at the top and bottom of the feeding tube in the throat (esophagus) and squeezing food through the esophagus into the stomach.
What are signs and symptons of feeding and swallowing disorders in children?
(According to ASHA signs and symptoms of swallowing disorders in children vary from child to child.) 
  • Arching or stiffening of the body during feeding
  • 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 breast feeding
  • 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

If feeding therapy with an SLP is recommended, the focus on intervention may include the following: 

  • Making the muscles of the mouth stronger
  • Increasing tongue movement
  • Improving chewing
  • Increasing acceptance of different foods and liquids
  • Improving sucking and/or drinking ability
  • Coordinating the suck-swallow-breath pattern (for infants)
  • Altering food textures and liquid thickness to ensure safe swallowinG

Swallowing Disorders in Adults
What are signs and symptoms of swallowing disorders in adults?
  • coughing during or right after eating or drinking
  • wet or gurgly sounding voice during or after eating or drinking
  • extra effort or time needed to chew or swallow
  • Food or liquid leaking from the mouth or getting stuck in the mouth
  • recurring pneumonia or chest congestion after eating 
  • weight loss or dehydration from not being able to eat enough
If therapy is needed a Speech-Language Pathologist may suggest: 
  • specific swallowing treatment (e.g., exercises to improve muscle movement)
  • positions or strategies to help the individual swallow more effectively
  • specific food and liquid textures that are easier and safer to swallow

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