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Feeding and Swallowing Disorders

What are Feeding and Swallowing Disorders?

A child with a feeding disorder may have difficulty gathering and coordinating food in preparation to suck, chew or swallow. They may  take a long time to eat or avoid eating certain foods or textures all together.


Swallowing disorders, also known as dysphagia, can happen during the different phases of the swallowing process. 


Our Boca Raton Speech Therapist Can Help!

The three phase of feeding and swallowing disorders are described below:


  • Oral phase – sucking, chewing, and transferring  food or liquid into the throat.

  • Pharyngeal phase – starting the swallow and squeezing food down the throat. The child needs to close off his airway to keep food or liquid out. Coughing or choking can occur if food goes into the airway.

  • Esophageal phase – opening and closing the esophagus, or the tube that goes from the mouth to the stomach. The esophagus squeezes food down to the stomach. A child may throw up a lot if there is a problem with the esophagus.

What are the Signs of a Feeding or Swallowing Disorder?


  • Arches their back or stiffens when feeding

  • Cries or fusses when feeding

  • Falls asleep when feeding

  • Has difficulty breastfeeding

  • Has trouble breathing while eating and drinking

  • Refuses to eat or drink

  • Eats only certain textures

  • Takes a long time to eat

  • Has difficulty chewing

  • Coughs or gags during feeding

  • Drools 

  • Liquid comes out of nose or mouth

  • Gets stuffy during mealtime

  • Has a gurgly, hoarse, or breathy voice during or after meals

  • Spits up or throws up a lot

  • Is not gaining weight or growing


What are the Causes of Feeding or Swallowing Disorders?

  • Cleft Lip or Palate

  • Autism

  • Cerebral Palsy

  • Prematurity

  • Sensory Issues

  • Behavioral Problems

  • Head and Neck Problems

  • Muscle Weakness in the Face or Neck

What is the Treatment for Feeding and Swallowing Disorders?

A swallow study may be necessary to determine if your child is swallowing safely. Oral motor exercises to improve strength and motility as well as reducing  anxiety towards mealtime, and using a hierarchy to increase acceptance of avoided foods or drinks may be completed during therapy.

Our South Florida Pediatric Speech Therapists treat disorders of feeding and swallowing. 

If you would like to schedule your child for an evaluation please contact us here.

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