How Speech-Language Pathologists Can Help Kids with Eating Difficulties

How Speech-Language Pathologists Can Help Kids with Eating Difficulties

Chewing and swallowing is a vital skill we all need to have in order to grow, develop and survive. But what happens when something goes wrong? At Lurie Children’s, Speech-Language Pathologists are specially trained to work with infants and children who have difficulty feeding and swallowing.

Clinical Feeding Evaluation

A clinical feeding evaluation takes place in an outpatient office, and a Speech-Language Pathologist will assess your child breast and/or bottle feeding, eating and drinking depending on the age and concerns. Many of the Speech-Language Pathologists on staff are dually certified as Lactation Counselors or International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and can help with difficulties related to latch, positioning and coordination during breastfeeding. We help babies who have difficulty transitioning from breast to bottle feeding, and also help babies who often refuse their bottles altogether.

Feeding Therapy

When children have difficulty adding solid foods to their diets or are picky eaters, feeding therapy may be recommended to help expand his or her diet. We use many evidence-based programs to encourage your child to taste new flavors and textures and add new foods to his or her diet. We work with parents and caregivers to encourage carryover to the home setting and to educate on topics related to developmental progression of solids, behaviors related to food acceptance and refusals and oral-sensory defensiveness. When appropriate, we provide strategies and exercises to improve oral motor strength and coordination. If your child is fed using a feeding tube (“G tube” or “NG tube”), we help to increase the amount of food they are able to safely take by mouth and decrease the need for supplemental tube feeding.

Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study

A videofluoroscopic swallow study is a procedure used to test children experiencing difficulties with feeding and/or swallowing. The swallow study is performed in the Department of Medical Imaging by a speech-language pathologist and a radiologist. Special equipment is used to provide a moving x-ray of your child’s swallow.

Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES)

A FEES study is another test of swallowing that may be recommended when there is concern for aspiration. A FEES study is completed with a speech-language pathologist and otolaryngologist (ear-nose-throat doctor). A very small camera is inserted through the nose to directly view your child’s throat and larynx when eating. The speech-language pathologist and doctor can see if and when aspiration occurs, and will make recommendations at that time. This test is completed in the otolaryngologist’s office and does not require the use of radiation.

Get Started

In many different specialty clinics at Lurie Children’s, speech-language pathologists work alongside physicians and other therapists. You may meet one of our feeding therapists in clinics including: Cleft and Craniofacial Clinic, NICU follow-up Clinic, FEES Clinic (Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing), VFSS (Videofluoroscopic Swallow Study), Aerodigestive Clinic, GI Feeding Clinic and Feeding/Nutrition Clinic. The variety of appointment types we offer help to best assess the needs of your child to recommend appropriate treatment options.

If you are a physician looking to refer, or if you are a parent and your child is referred for a feeding evaluation, our feeding specialists provide evaluations and therapy at several locations in the Chicagoland area. Members of our feeding team can be found at many of the Lurie Children’s outpatient sites including: Lincoln Park (Clark and Deming), Westchester, Northbrook, Grayslake and New Lenox.

About Pediatric Speech Therapy

The Department of Speech-Language Pathology at Lurie Children’s offers comprehensive and individualized care to children and adolescents with communication and feeding-swallowing disorders. As one of the Midwest’s major referral centers, we care for children with a variety of pediatric speech, language and feeding-swallowing disorders. Our clinicians evaluate and treat children at a number of outpatient centers in the metropolitan Chicago area. We also offer services to children during their hospitalization in most hospital units, including the neonatal intensive care unit and the Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit. Learn more at luriechildrens.org.

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