What is a swallowing disorder?
Swallowing disorder refers to the inability to safely maneuver liquid and food from the mouth to the stomach. Swallowing challenges can take place in three stages: oral (mouth), pharyngeal, and esophageal. Having a swallowing disorder could cause weight loss, the airway to be blocked, or aspiration resulting in pneumonia.
The phases of swallowing:
- Oral Phase – Sucking, 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 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 causes a swallowing disorder?
A swallowing disorder can be due to physical/structural causes, oral-motor skills, neurologic disorders, medicinal treatments, or connective tissue diseases.
How do I know if my child is developmentally delayed?
Warning signs that your child may have difficulty swallowing/eating include: choking while eating, weight loss, excessive drooling, keeping food in their cheeks for an extended period of time, change in voice while eating, or resistance to eating.
How can I help treat my child’s swallowing disorder?
Watching your child struggle with eating and/or swallowing can be stressful and upsetting. If your child is demonstrating feeding issues, or the warning signs above, a swallowing disorder evaluation by a speech-language pathologist may be warranted. An evaluation may include referrals for specific medical tests or referrals to allergists or ENTs. Treatment for a swallowing disorder is dependent upon the phase of the swallow in which the child is experiencing difficulty. Having a safe swallow is a first priority, and oral-motor skills are commonly addressed to help the child swallow correctly
Our approach at North Shore Pediatric Therapy
At North Shore Pediatric Therapy, our therapists work with children who have a swallowing disorder to help them achieve safe swallowing and feeding habits. A variety of techniques and exercises are used based on each individual child’s needs.