What is Dysphagia?
Dysphagia is a swallowing disorder often associated with chronic or acute medical conditions that affect the central nervous system. Dysphagia is more commonly diagnosed in the elderly, however infants and children may also present with this disorder based upon the severity of the primary neurological insult. Individuals diagnosed with this disorder may demonstrate challenges getting ready to eat, chewing their food and appropriately swallowing their food. The disorder directly impacts the preparatory, oral, pharyngeal, and esophageal phases of eating; therefore, individuals with the condition may have various weaknesses extending from their mouths down to their stomachs.
What are some symptoms of the condition?
Dysphagia is often a side effect of various neurological disorders, so it is important that your child be diagnosed fully, as soon as possible. In terms of his swallowing problems alone, your child may present stiffening of the body and increased irritability when eating, as well as weaknesses managing food and liquids in his mouth. Children with dysphagia may cough and gag during meals and demonstrate difficulties chewing and coordinating breathing while eating. Over time, your child may also develop aversions to various textures of food, and he may refuse to eat or drink things he once enjoyed.
How does the condition progress?
Individuals with the condition lose the skills to eat and swallow as they once could. As a result, the individual is at an increased risk for malnourishment, dehydration, aspiration, and pneumonia. While the severity of the disorder may vary from patient to patient, all individuals with dysphagia have poor oral, pharyngeal, and esophageal functioning.
How can I help treat my child’s condition?
Treatment for dysphagia varies based on the age of the individual, as well as the severity of the cause and symptoms of the disorder. A speech-language pathologist plays an important role in teaching your child to feed and swallow as he once could. Your child’s previous medical history, nutritional information, and current level of functioning will be assessed in order to create a functional plan for him. Prior to starting treatment, your child may need to undergo an endoscopy to further evaluate his condition and the path for improvement.
Our Approach at North Shore Pediatric Therapy
At North Shore Pediatric Therapy, we use a multisensory approach to therapy. Our speech-language pathologists work with a feeding and swallowing team to maximize treatment strategies for your child. An occupational and/or physical therapist, nutritionist, and neuropsychologist will also evaluate your child in order to provide the most comprehensive treatment plan available. Our speech-language pathologists will focus on increasing oral-motor functioning as well as improving your child’s ability to tolerate various foods and liquids to ensure safety while eating and swallowing. When appropriate, feeding programs such as the Sequential Oral Sensory Approach to Feeding (SOS) may be used in combination with traditional dysphagia treatment methods to increase your child’s ability to tolerate and manage an increased variety of foods.