Offering diagnosis and treatment of communication, hearing, and swallowing disorders
Published: Aug. 8, 2008
Updated: Nov. 3, 2011
A pediatric feeding disorder refers to a condition in which an infant or child fails to consume enough nutrients to promote growth.
It is a condition that interrupts normal and/or safe eating. These problems can include difficulty eating certain foods, avoiding foods, food entering the airway instead of the stomach (aspiration), or an inability to eat by mouth.
Feeding disorders are a fairly common problem in infants and toddlers. However, it is most common in children with developmental disabilities.
Feeding difficulties are often associated with medical diagnoses that impact the way the brain, lungs, heart, muscles, or stomach and intestines work.
Common risk factors include:
The following symptoms may indicate the presence of a feeding disorder:
Feeding and swallowing abilities can affect a child’s health, growth, and even relationships with caregivers that develop during mealtimes. Early or delayed introduction of solid foods and active food refusal may cause child and parental anxiety during meals.
Children have developing brains that are learning to eat and swallow. If there is a problem with that development, therapy should begin right away to take advantage of this period of brain development.
Behaviors associated with mealtimes can worsen as a child gets older.
The goal of a pediatric feeding evaluation at Duke is to provide comprehensive evaluation and treatment planning for children who have problems with feeding and growth due to medical or behavioral difficulties.
A member of the speech pathology team will work with each child and family to address the multiple factors involved with eating. Individualized family education and training are provided.
During your children’s feeding evaluation:
The feeding program offers outpatient feeding services with a speech therapist. The goal of outpatient therapy is to meet children’s needs not only by addressing the oral-motor, sensory, swallowing, and dietary needs, but also by helping caregivers develop and implement an effective home-based feeding program.
The frequency of treatment and disciplines involved are based on the child’s specific needs.
Many times, patients live a distance from Duke, but require the specialty care and expertise offered by the feeding program.
In these instances, an initial evaluation is completed at Duke and the family or local therapist can return to Duke for consultative services on an "as needed" basis.
Children and families may not require consistent feeding services or they are unable to find feeding services near their home. These families can come to Duke as needed for additional recommendations, to progress their feeding plan, or for specialty needs.
To schedule an evaluation, contact Duke Speech Pathology and Audiology at 919-684-3859.
A prescription from your physician will be requested indicating the need for feeding evaluation or treatment. A prescription can be faxed to our office at 919-668-2741. When we receive the prescription, we will call you to schedule an appointment.
After an appointment has been made, a questionnaire and food diary will be mailed to the family to be completed prior to the evaluation appointment. Caregivers and other professionals are welcome to attend the evaluation.
Please bring the utensils, foods, and drinks the child currently uses on the day of the appointment.