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Pediatric Swallowing Disorders & the SLP

June is dysphagia Awareness Month. What is dysphagia you ask? Dysphagia is the clinical term for "swallowing disorder" and presents in both the adult and pediatric populations. The treatment for pediatric dysphagia is completed by a speech-language pathologist with specialty training and experience in treating pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders. The term dysphagia is as unfamiliar to individuals I speak with, as the knowing that there is a treatment for this disorder.  It has been reported that 25%-45% of typically developing children demonstrate feeding and swallowing problems (Arvedson, 2008) with the prevalence increasing to 30%-80% for children with developmental disorders (Arvedson, 2008)

What is the difference between a feeding disorder and a swallowing disorder? A very simplified way to delineate between these types of feeding difficulties is to consider where the difficulty is presenting. A child who demonstrates difficulty getting food from the plate to their mouth exhibits a feeding disorder, whereas a child who struggles getting food safely from their mouth into their digestive system presents with dysphagia. 

It is reported that the prevalence of pediatric dysphagia is increasing due to improved survival rates of children born prematurely, with low birth weight, and with complex medical conditions (Arvedson, 2008; Lefton-Greif, 2008). Feeding and swallowing difficulties must be identified and treated as soon as possible for the greatest success of a child. If you have any concerns with your child’s abilities or behavior during meal times, seek out the advice of your pediatrician, and schedule an appointment for an initial feeding/swallowing evaluation. 

At Play Works, feeding and dysphagia therapy goals are identified and established based on our thorough evaluations. All therapy is individualized to meet the needs of each patient and their family.  Our therapy sessions are conducted with each individual's needs in mind therefore fostering maximum potential. Parents are encouraged to participate in the sessions as appropriate. Home carryover and practice suggestions are offered after each session in an effort to support success across environments. We work closely with each family to ensure that their individual goals are addressed. We truly value each family's feedback, and make it a priority to develop close partnerships with our parents. 

Sarah McDonnell MA, CCC-SLP