Does Your Child Appear to Have Feeding Difficulties?

Most children will go through a ‘fussing eating’ stage, but ongoing feeding difficulties can lead to serious health issues. Your child may find it difficult to swallow certain foods, may be sensitive to certain textures, gag while eating or generally have a tough time eating and swallowing what they need to stay healthy.

A Growing Understanding Speech Pathologists are trained in assessing, diagnosing, and treating feeding difficulties. We can work with you and your child to develop an understanding of the behaviours, muscles, nerves and processes that are required to work together for successful chewing and swallowing.

Our individualised therapy programs include ongoing parent support and education, and are specifically designed to:

  • Implement a thorough assessment of the specific feeding challenge.
  • Tap into your personal situation when it comes to feeding, your child’s interests, skills, and challenges to develop appropriate goals and help build confidence in this space.
  • Provide ongoing therapy and advice regarding positioning of your child during mealtime, the different methods of feeding and reducing aversions to certain types of foods.
  • Utilise games and play to help your child explore the characteristics of new foods and drinks.
  • Support parents and provide at-home activities to help introduce new foods and set up effective mealtime strategies.
  • Celebrate your child’s success and encourage ongoing exploration of food.

Feeding is a complex process which babies and children gradually learn over many months. They first learn to suck and then gradually learn to chew and swallow solid foods.

Children that have ongoing difficulties with learning this process are said to have a feeding disorder.

Feeding therapy refers to helping babies and children with a wide range of feeding and swallowing difficulties. These difficulties can occur for a variety of reasons, including structural issues, behavioural or psychological issues.

Speech pathologists are trained in assessing, diagnosing and treating feeding difficulties.

Feeding difficulties can have significant and long-lasting impacts if not addressed.

Socially, mealtimes may be lengthy and challenging if your child refuses foods or has difficulty feeding.

Nutritionally, your child may refuse to eat a wide variety of foods, which can impact their overall health, growth and hydration.

Medically, your child may experience respiratory infections as a result of food entering the airway, known as aspiration.

For most families, Feeding therapy will commence with a thorough assessment where we look at structural factors, including how your child is positioned during meal times, we examine your child’s oral structures and movements while eating and may look at the sensory factors of foods and obtain a detailed inventory of your child’s preferred foods.

This assessment helps to inform the goals associated with introducing new foods and how we can support you when it comes to mealtimes and at-home activities.

Feeding therapy can also involve face-to-face sessions where we introduce your child to a wider range of textures and tastes in fun ways. This could include ‘food play’ where your child is encouraged to explore the different characteristics of food, look at different temperatures of food and even encourage them to make simple treats themselves.

What to Look Out for with Feeding Difficulties:

  • Are you struggling to transition your child to solid foods?
  • Does your child gag when eating or have difficulties chewing and swallowing certain foods?
  • Does your child frequently cough after eating and drinking?
  • Does your child refuse food or have strong aversions to certain foods?
  • Does your child experience anxiety and exhibit challenging behaviours at mealtime?

Remember, every child develops at their own pace, but if you are concerned, talk to us today. Our friendly team of experienced speech pathologists are here to guide you through your concern and help you take the best next step.