Oral Motor & Feeding

"Lauren has been our son's therapist through several challenges, including feeding therapy, swallow studies, the transition from g-tube to oral feedings, a tongue tie procedure, and speech delays. She thoughtfully planned appropriate activities to make the best use of our therapy time, and she educated and encouraged us in working with our son at home. Her willingness to work hard and her commitment to see our son be successful helped him reach several milestones. We're grateful for Lauren's impact on our son's development. "  - Denise - Central, SC


What are some signs or symptoms of feeding and swallowing disorders in children?

Children with feeding and swallowing problems have a wide variety of symptoms. Not all signs and symptoms are present in every child.The following are signs and symptoms of feeding and swallowing problems in very young children:

  • 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
  • gurgly, hoarse, or breathy voice quality
  • frequent spitting up or vomiting
  • recurring pneumonia or respiratory infections
  • less than normal weight gain or growth
Completed 02/11/2017 with  Autumn Henning, MS, CCC-SlP

Completed 02/11/2017 with  Autumn Henning, MS, CCC-SlP

What are feeding and swallowing disorders?

Feeding disorders include problems accepting foods or liquids, chewing it, or swallowing it. For example, a child who cannot completely close her lips to keep food from falling out of her mouth may have a feeding disorder.

Swallowing disorders, also called dysphagia (dis-FAY-juh), can occur at different stages in the swallowing process:

  • 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 (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

“It is particularly thrilling to have a child come to our office eating solely by mouth after being transitioned from a g-tube while in Lauren’s expert care.”
— -Kathy Crytser, RD, LD - Ferlauto Center for Complex Pediatric Care

What causes feeding and swallowing disorders?

The following are some causes of feeding and swallowing disorders in children:

  • nervous system disorders (e.g., cerebral palsy, meningitis, encephalopathy)
  • gastrointestinal conditions (e.g., reflux, "short gut" syndrome)
  • prematurity and/or low birth weight
  • heart disease
  • cleft lip and/or palate
  • tongue/lip tie
  • conditions affecting the airway
  • autism
  • head and neck abnormalities
  • muscle weakness in the face and neck
  • multiple medical problems
  • respiratory difficulties
  • medications that may cause lethargy or decreased appetite
  • problems with parent-child interactions at meal times