Feeding Therapy

Eating is a complex skill that involves the whole body work together to ingest, swallow, and digest foods for nutrition. These challenges are often associated with medical complexities, oral motor delays, sensory feeding difficulties, and behaviors that may lead to disruptive mealtimes. Difficulties with eating may lead to poor weight gain, limited diet or intake, delayed development, and loss of general health and growth.

At High Hopes Development Center, our team offers medical, oral-motor, sensory, and behavioral-based feeding evaluations and therapy for children whose congenital/acquired medical issues or delays affect feeding. Our therapists will work with both you and your child, using specialized training and experience, to improve your child's feeding abilities.

Children who may benefit from feeding therapy may demonstrate:

  • Difficulty with chewing foods

  • Refusal to accept certain textures

  • Decreased interest or motivation in eating

  • Avoiding, gagging, or sensitivities to certain textures

  • Dysphagia, children with a history of aspiration or swallow dysfunction

  • Delayed oral motor feeding skills

  • Vomiting associated with eating by mouth

  • Difficulty with transition from tube feedings to oral feedings

  • Failure to thrive

  • "Picky eaters" with a very limited diet and variety of foods

Our clinicians are trained in:

  • Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) Approach to Feeding

  • Food Chaining

  • Beckman Oral Motor Approach

  • Pediatric Massage Therapy

  • Myofascial Release (MFR)

  • Lactation Counseling

  • Neurodevelopmental Treatment (NDT) of feeding

  • TR-eat Model

  • Additionally, our team remains up to date on evidenced-based research practices and continuing education

The most common causes of feeding and/or swallowing difficulties include:

  • Complex medical conditions related to heart, lung, and gastroesophageal systems

  • Oral motor and sensory feeding issues

  • Structural or craniofacial abnormalities

  • Neuromuscular disorders

  • Prematurity

  • Developmental disabilities

  • Social emotional and environmental factors

  • Food allergies

The signs and symptoms of pediatric dysphagia (swallowing/feeding disorder) can vary from child to child, but they often include:

  • Refusals of foods based on type, texture, or appearance

  • Limited acceptance of foods

  • Distress associated with food, such as turning away, facial grimacing, splayed hands or crying

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Noisy or wet vocal qualities during or after feeding

  • Recurrent respiratory illnesses

  • Trouble managing secretions, such as drooling or salivating, unrelated to teething

  • Coughing, choking or gagging before, during, or after swallowing

  • Inability to chew foods that are texturally age-appropriate

  • Overstuffing of food

  • Difficulty breathing while eating

  • Crying at mealtimes

  • Limited responsiveness while eating

  • Dehydration

  • Prolonged feeding times

  • Frequent constipation

  • Poor weight gain or persistent weight loss

  • Vomiting or spit up associated with feeding

Based on the problems your child is having, the goals of feeding therapy will be:

  • Enhancing the strength and coordination of your child's oral motor skills

  • Increasing variety of intake

  • Increasing comfort level when eating a variety of foods

  • Strengthening head and trunk control to aid in movements of mouth, chest, and abdomen to provide optimal support for breathing, eating, and swallowing

  • Minimizing food or drink refusals and aversions

  • Making eating more enjoyable for you child and your family

  • Decreasing the risk of aspiration