Feeding & Swallowing Disorders

Feeding Disorders (Motor- and Sensory-based)

Feeding and swallowing disorders may be due to difficulties with the motor and/or sensory systems. Motor difficulties stem from problems with the structures of the oral mechanism (i.e., mouth, lips, tongue, and jaw). Feeding difficulties may affect both children and adults but are most obvious as a child strives to acquire new feeding skills or as a child or adult experiences a medical insult to the brain or nervous system. Some pediatric examples include infants who have difficulty latching onto a nipple, children who have difficulty chewing and breaking down solid foods into manageable pieces, children who use a “reverse” swallow, or children who have difficulty removing food from a spoon because of insufficient lip closure.

Sensory processing difficulties can negatively effect eating processes (e.g., being picky eater, especially regarding food textures; having abnormal responses to taste and smell). Some children may be predisposed to sensory-based feeding disorders. For example, children with a history of Broncho Pulmonary Displasia (BPD), cardiac defects, drug exposure, gastrointestinal diseases, prolonged periods of intubation or suction, or prolonged NG tube feeds may be at risk. The population of children with sensory-based feeding disorders often includes but is not limited to medically involved or “medically fragile” children.