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What Are Feeding and Swallowing Disorders?


Feeding disorders are those that include difficulties in gathering food and in preparation to suck, chew, or swallow food. A child, who cannot keep her lips closed when attempting to chew, may present with a feeding disorder.


Swallowing disorders, also known as dysphagia, can happen during the different phases of the swallowing process and can have negative medical implications, such as pneumonia.

Oral aversion can occur due to many different factors, such as force feeding, discomfort when feeding due to allergy or acid reflux, because of negative feelings associated with feeding due to a traumatic experience, or sensory processing disorder. It is important to recognize that your child may not like every food or drink presented and may reject foods from time to time, which is different than oral aversion.

How Do I Know If My Child Has Feeding Disorders Or Oral Aversion?


Children with feeding disorders, swallowing disorders, and oral aversion may exhibit the following symptoms and if you notice any of these early signs, contact your child’s pediatrician immediately to make an appointment to assess for feeding disorders and/or oral aversion.

  • Poor suck-swallow reflex

  • Rejection of a nipple

  • Rejection of food or drink

  • Inability to bring food to the mouth

  • Trouble keeping food in the mouth

  • Trouble moving the tongue

  • Difficulty chewing food

  • Holding food in the cheeks

  • Long feeding times

  • Coughing while eating

  • Excessive drooling while eating

  • Gagging while eating

  • Vomiting while eating

  • Gurgly or hoarse voice while eating

  • Recurrent respiratory infections or pneumonia

  • Unwillingness to try new food

What Causes Feeding and Swallowing Disorders To Occur?

  • multiple medical problems

  • autism

  • nervous system disorders (e.g., cerebral palsy, meningitis, encephalopathy)

  • gastrointestinal conditions

  • prematurity

  • cleft lip and/or palate

  • head and neck abnormalities

  • muscle weakness

Feeding Disorders Treatment

When a child presents with feeding disorders, it is crucial to pursue early intervention and seek out a professional opinion to assess if there are associated medical implications. A collaborative team, which may consist of a pediatrician, speech therapist, occupational therapist, nutritionist and developmental specialist, will initially consult with the family, evaluate strength and mobility of the oral musculature, and conduct special swallowing tests, if necessary. Once your child is deemed to present with a safe swallow, Use Your Words Speech Therapy will offer pediatric speech therapy services to effectively address your child’s feeding and swallowing disorders.

Activities in speech therapy may include eating different textures of foods and liquids, creating a fun eating routine, or pairing more desirable foods with those that are less desirable. As your child becomes able to eat, chew and swallow a variety of foods and drinks, therapy will become more complex, with introduction of foods and liquids that are more difficult to chew and swallow.

Oral Aversion Treatment-

After a medical team provides adequate care and determines that your child presents with a safe swallow, effective oral aversion treatment can be implemented by our Speech therapist.  A dedicated speech-language pathologist will work to address your child’s oral aversions and will create interactive therapy games that aid in reducing anxiety toward certain foods, and using a hierarchy to increase acceptance of avoided foods or drinks.


If your child is living with feeding disorders. swallowing disorders, or oral aversion, finding a quality speech-language pathologist is a top priority. At Use Your Words Speech Therapy, our SLPs are experienced in treating a variety of speech-language disorders and do so with unparalleled skill and compassion.

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