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Dysphagia is a difficulty in swallowing that is passing food from the mouth through the oesophagus and into the stomach safely. This can be acquired after a neurological incident such a stroke or head injury; congenital in premature babies or children with neurological conditions.
It is important to get an assessment from a speech therapist so that they can evaluate which food and liquids can be swallowed safely in order to receive adequate nutrition.
Oro-motor and sensory difficulties
Oro-motor or Oral-motor refers to the movement of the muscles on the face i.e. lips, tongue, jaw.
Sensory issues could either be hypersensitive, hyposensitive or mixed sensitivities to touch, texture, taste, size and temperature.
Having weak or underdeveloped oro-motor muscles and/or sensory issues can impact a person’s ability to chew, eat and drink. This could be present in children or acquired after a neurological incident. This may result in behavioural feeding difficulties, picky eating and under nourishment .
Talk Tools Programme
The talk tools oral placement therapy is a structured programme that provides assessment, treatment and management of the speech and swallowing musculature, be it motor or sensory difficulties.
Through this programme, both children and adults would be able to improve their strength, mobility and coordination of speech and swallowing muscles to improve articulation and swallowing abilities.
Children could present or develop behavioural feeding difficulties for a number of reasons. It could be connected to oro-motor/sensory difficulties, limited exposure to a variety of foods at a young age, anxiety connected to food or around mealtimes and even allergies.
Useful strategies to help manage feeding difficulties:
- Eat at regular times.
- Sit down and eat meals together.
- No distractions e.g. no use of iPads / phones / TV during the meal.
- Encourage your child to self feed using fingers or cutlery.
- Praise your child’s effort to try new foods and self feed (even though they may make a mess).
- Avoid snacking on junk food in between meals.
- Offer a choice of foods on the plate.
- Try plating technique – offer more of the food they like and a small amount of food you would like them to try. Over time as they get used to the ‘new’ food, you can increase this.
- Make a visual chart of ‘foods I like, foods I don’t like, foods I may want to try’, and encourage your child to touch / smell / lick/ bite the ‘try’ foods – document how they felt about it.
- Encourage your child to choose recipes online that they would like to try as a family.
- Get your child involved in cooking e.g. washing rice / veggies, stirring.