Children can have difficulty with feeding for a variety of reasons. Common reasons are structural, physiological, sensory, or behavioral in origin. Oral structures such as a cleft palate, high arched palate, or short frenulum can cause feeding difficulties. Physiological difficulties cause children to have difficulty moving food around in the mouth, chewing or swallowing. Sensory processing issues can cause a child to be averse to certain textures or colors. Some feeding difficulties have multiple causes.
Feeding therapy can be beneficial to individuals who struggle with the following:
- Limited or poor oral intake
- Food refusal
- Slow or inadequate weight gain/failure to thrive
- Problems tolerating tube feedings
- Suspected or known aspiration or difficulty protecting airway
- Sensory difficulties (negatively affecting feeding or mealtimes)
- Swallowing and chewing difficulties
- Lack of texture advancement
An occupational or speech therapist will evaluate a child by performing assessments, making observations, and asking a variety of questions including the child’s medical history. The interview portion of the evaluation allows the therapist to learn more about development and symptoms, strength and coordination of the muscles involved in all aspects of eating, and behaviors observed during feeding.
Parent input is an important part of the process and can help our therapists determine feeding priorities for the child, such as tolerating especially difficult textures, decreasing anxiety surrounding food and meal times, and ways to make family meals easier.