Pediatric Feeding and Swallowing Therapy: A Guide for Parents

Does your child have trouble chewing, swallowing, eating certain textures, or gaining weight? Pediatric feeding disorders affect up to 80% of children with developmental delays.

Since feeding and nutrition impact so many aspects of growth and health, it’s essential to address issues early on.

Read below for an overview of pediatric feeding therapy and swallowing therapy.

Signs of Feeding or Swallowing Concerns

Many families tolerate minor feeding quirks as part of the toddler or preschool experience.

But certain red flags require an evaluation, including:

  • Difficulty transitioning to solid foods
  • Gagging or choking episodes
  • Long mealtimes or mealtime battles
  • Extreme picky eating
  • Food refusal or fear of new foods
  • Failing to gain adequate weight
  • Recurring respiratory illnesses
  • Excessive drooling or reflux

An assessment determines the underlying cause and appropriate interventions to help your child eat safely and sufficiently.

Causes of Pediatric Feeding Disorders

A variety of anatomical, sensory, motor, and behavioral factors can disrupt feeding skills.

These include:

  • Low muscle tone impacts chewing
  • Tactile sensitivity
  • Oral motor deficits
  • Coordination problems
  • Structural anomalies like clefts or airway issues
  • Developmental or autism spectrum disorders
  • Pain while swallowing
  • Food allergies or GI conditions

When multiple doctors haven’t been able to pinpoint a medical explanation for feeding struggles, turn to pediatric feeding therapy services.

The Feeding Therapy Process


First, an occupational or speech therapist performs a clinical swallow study and thorough feeding evaluation assessing ability, challenges, and diet.

Based on the findings, the therapist crafts an individualized treatment plan targeting areas of difficulty through play-based exercises and sensory strategies to expand food acceptance.

The goals of feeding therapy often focus on:

  • An increasing variety of food tastes, colors, and textures
  • Building skills like chewing, biting, or straw drinking
  • Improving coordination of suck/swallow/breathe pattern
  • Decreasing sensitivity to food properties
  • Fading tube feedings or transitioning to all oral eating
  • Resolving mealtime behavior problems
  • Achieving adequate nutrition and weight gain

With weekly therapy over months guided by a compassionate feeding specialist, children make tremendous strides in eating different nutritious foods.

Restore Your Child’s Mealtime Peace

If you have concerns about your child’s feeding development, swallowing difficulties poor weight gain, or speech therapy, call us today.

Our speech and occupational therapists use sensory strategies and play-based techniques to turn feeding from a battle into a pleasant experience.

With greater abilities and acceptance, your child will thrive.