Dysphagia

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What to expect

Dysphagia

What is dysphagia?

Dysphagia is as a difficulty with swallowing and being able to eat and drink safely. Our speech and language therapists will provide support, advice and treatment programmes for children with dysphagia to help them eat and drink as safely as possible.

Stages of the normal swallow

The normal swallow can be broken in to three different stages:

The Oral Phase

The oral stage involves preparing the food to be moved into the throat via sucking and chewing.

The Pharyngeal Phase

The pharyngeal stage involves the initiation of the swallow, the food travelling down the throat and the airway being closed off to prevent liquid or food going in to the airway (aspiration).

The Oesophageal Phase

The oesophageal phase involves the muscles relaxing and tightening to help the food travel through the feeding tube (oesophageus) and then into the stomach.

Dysphagia can occur at any of the three stages of swallowing and can affect a childs health and nutrition if not dealt with appropriately.

What are the symptoms of dysphagia in children?

The symptoms of dysphagia in children are different to that of adults, symptoms can include:

  • Getting irritated or lacking alertness during feeding.
  • Stiffening of the body during feeding.
  • Refusing to eat or drink.
  • Recent pneumonia or respiratory problems.
  • Being specific about what types of texture of food they eat.
  • Getting irritated or lacking alertness during feeding.
  • Gurgly, breathy or hoarse sounding voice.
  • Vomiting and spitting out food regularly.
  • Getting irritated or lacking alertness during feeding.

What causes dysphagia in children?

Dysphagia can be caused by a number of problems or conditions. Causes of dysphagia can include:

  • Neurological
  • Psychological
  • Physical (related to surgery)
  • Respiratory

How is dysphagia diagnosed in children?

Dysphagia is identified by a medical team of professionals. It is the responsibility of the speech and language therapist to assess, treat and give a diagnosis of dysphagia.

A full assessment will be carried out by a speech and language therapist when giving a diagnosis of dysphagia. An initial assessment will include:

  • A review of the childs medical history and notes.
  • A case history gathered from the parents on the childs development and symptoms and any concern they may have.
  • An oral-motor assessment, which involves assessing the strength and movement of the muscles involved in the swallowing process.
  • A mealtime / feeding observation.
  • Assessment of the childs feeding abilities.
  • More detailed assessments (if appropriate) including; videofluoroscopy, where a child is X-rayed whilst eating and drinking, and an endoscopic assessment, where a lighted scope is inserted via the nose so the speech and language therapist can view the childs swallow function.

How does speech and language therapy help dysphagia?

The speech and language therapist is the key member for managing a child with dysphagia. The speech and language therapist is involved in the assessment, diagnosis and management of dysphagia.

The type of management plan given will vary depending on the specific needs and abilities of the child and also their family. The main focus of speech and language therapy will be to have the child eating and drinking as safely as possible, preventing the risk of aspiration and helping the child to meet their nutritional status.

The speech and language therapist will work closely with family members, doctors, nurses and the dietician when managing a child with dysphagia.

What would speech and language therapy treatment for dysphagia involve?

The speech and language therapist will carry out a detailed assessment to determine if a child has dysphagia and also the severity of their difficulty. Following an initial assessment the speech and language therapist will create an individualised treatment plan to meet the specific needs and abilities of the child and their parents / carers.

The speech and language therapist will provide advice and support for the family and other professionals on diet modification plans, techniques and strategies and education on the signs of aspiration. In more severe cases where a child is not safe to swallow any food or drink at all, the speech and language therapist and other team members will advise on an alternative feeding plan.

After an initial assessment speech and language therapy treatment may include:

Specific treatment will include eating, drinking and swallowing management.

How do I arrange a speech and language therapy assessment?

To arrange an assessment with one our speech and language therapists please email office@slt.co.uk or call 0330 0885 643.

Summary

Dysphagia is as a difficulty with swallowing and being able to eat and drink safely. Our speech and language therapists will provide support, advice and treatment programmes for infants and children with dysphagia, to help them eat and drink as safely as possible. If you feel you may benefit from a speech and language therapy please email office@slt.co.uk or call 0330 0885 643.


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To speak to a Speech and Language Therapist or to book an appointment, call us on 0161 883 0111 or email office@slt.co.uk

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