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Feeding and swallowing (Dysphagia)

Eating and drinking difficulties occur when a child is unable to eat or drink appropriately for their age and stage of development.

Signs of Dysphagia can include coughing or choking when eating or drinking, bringing food back up, sometimes through the nose, or a feeling that food is ‘stuck’. Over time, Dysphagia can also cause symptoms such as weight loss and repeated chest infections.

The child or young person can show sensory feeding difficulties which means they find it difficult to tolerate a variety of tastes and textures, oral aversion; for example they do not like anything in or near their mouth or an unusual pattern of chewing and swallowing.

Children and young people with feeding difficulties may be seen by other health professionals such as Paediatricians, Dieticians, Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists. They can also have supplementary feeding via a naso-gastric tube.

Guidance and helpful information

If there is a concern regarding the safety of your child’s swallow then they should be seen by their GP as soon as possible. If you are concerned about  your child’s eating and drinking, then we may be able to help.  Please contact 0300 2470090 and ask to speak to the Duty Speech and Language Therapist (Available 9am-5pm Monday-Friday)

Support from your health visitor can be sought to help move a baby on through their weaning stages. However if a child is showing an unusual pattern of development then a referral onward to see a speech and language therapist would be appropriate so a tailored therapy approach can be given.

You can also try activities in the advice sheets to the right of the page with your child. This gives a list of soft foods you can try with your child, tips on messy food play and a food diary.

How we can help

Once your child has been seen by a Dysphagia Trained Speech and Language Therapist, they will make recommendations to support your child’s eating and drinking. These recommendations may include: messy food play; texture development; positioning of your child or the use of different utensils or ways of feeding.

How to refer

Visit the Single Point of Access (SPA) page for information on the referral process.

If you require further guidance and advice you can speak to a Speech and Language Therapist by calling the SPA on 0300 247 0090 (Mon – Fri 9-5pm).

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