Feeding Therapy for Dysphagia
Feeding therapy is an effective way to treat dysphagia (dis-FAY-juh), which is the medical term for someone who has difficulty swallowing food or liquids. There are a number of reasons that may cause someone to have difficulty swallowing. Dysphagia may be a result of developmental issues, nerve and muscle damage or malformation, reduced saliva and/or related medical issues, or physical obstructions.
Ensuring a Successful Feeding Therapy Program for All Phases of Dysphagia
S.M.I.L.E.S.’s feeding therapy services focuses on all phases of Dysphagia:
- Oral Phase
Sucking, chewing, and moving food or liquid into the throat.
- Pharyngeal Phase
Starting the swallowing reflex, squeezing food down the throat, and closing off the airway to prevent food or liquid from entering the airway (aspiration) or to prevent choking.
- Esophageal Phase
Relaxing and tightening the openings at the top and bottom of the feeding tube in the throat (esophagus) and squeezing food through the esophagus into the stomach.
Feeding Therapy & Play Therapy
In order to successfully engage in a feeding therapy program, it is imperative to have a child’s full trust and willingness to participate. In order to achieve this, we implement "play" therapy as part of our feeding therapy program. Play therapy is an activity performed with or without food, depending on the child’s level of fear or discomfort.
Focusing on a Positive Feeding Experience
In order to not lose any potential gains made during a feeding therapy program, we cautiously encourage children to progress through trials and feeding therapy sessions in ways that are not overly stressful to them. It is essential that children leave feeding therapy sessions on a positive note in order to ensure steady progress, which is why it’s important to not push too hard when it comes to feeding therapy goals, but just enough to overcome their challenges and get over their fear of eating.
Behavioral Issues and Concerns
Issues concerning behavior are viewed as a symptom and not a cause of feeding issues; and therefore is not the primary focus for a successful feeding therapy program. It is only when the underlying cause of dysphagia is discovered that we can truly begin to successfully work towards reducing unwanted behaviors/fears associated with feeding/swallowing. We do not hesitate to refer children to physicians/specialists who we feel can be of great benefit, as the child’s well being and progress is the utmost priority to us.
Allergies and The Healing Process
S.M.I.L.E.S. is very passionate about healing children from the inside out, and we are well versed in all nutritional and allergic aspects of foods. Our ultimate goal for children engaged in our feeding therapy program, is to ensure they continue to eat wholesome and nutritious food that will nourish the body and brain after successfully graduating. This goal is only achieved by starting the feeding therapy program with a healthy repertoire of foods.
Program Implementation for Newborns & Infants
It is our opinion that breast feeding is the best option for the nutritional and oral development of newborns and infants. S.M.I.L.E.S. works with new moms in developing proper breast feeding/latching techniques, especially with children who have special needs. In situations where breastfeeding is not a possibility, we will advise on which products and methods are the best for your child’s overall nutritional needs and health. We can also assist in transitioning infants from breast/bottle to baby foods, solids and table foods, to ensure optimal nutrition and transition.