Feeding Therapy

Feeding therapy

Having a child with a feeding disorder can be very distressing to a caregiver.  Feeding issues are complex and there are several factors that may impact a child’s feeding success.  The primary goal of feeding therapy is for the child to be able to safely maintain adequate nutrition and hydration with an age-appropriate diet.  It is also important to consider that the muscles used in feeding and eating are the same muscles that we use to speak.  Children who have feeding disorders may “miss out” on early oral sensory motor experiences which can impact their expressive language development and speech intelligibility.

Warning signs of a possible feeding disorder may include:

  • reduced or limited intake
  • food refusal
  • choking or gagging with certain tastes or textures that may interfere with nutrition
  • disorders of oral motor structure or development
  • weight loss/failure to thrive
  • negative meal time behaviors
  • difficulty advancing to textured foods
  • difficulty advancing to cup drinking and straw drinking
  • consistent and/or excessive drooling not associated with teething

 Prior to initiating a feeding evaluation or therapy any underlying medical problems possibly associated with feeding difficulties should be addressed.  These may include but are not limited to respiratory, cardiac or gastrointestinal issues (ie. gastroesophageal reflux).


A speech language pathologist who specializes in treating children with feeding and swallowing disorders can evaluate your child and will:

  • ask questions about your child’s medical history, development and symptoms
  • look at the strength and movement of the muscles involved in eating, drinking and swallowing
  • evaluate the child’s sensory and motor response to a typical feeding situation
  • observe the child eating to see their overall behavior, posture and oral movements during eating and drinking

If the therapist has concerns based on the child’s history or observed during the evaluation, a modified barium swallow study may be warranted to rule out aspiration of any food or liquid.  A modified barium swallow study takes place in radiology and involves the child eating and drinking barium during an x-ray video.


Based on the evaluation, therapy will be in an individual or group setting based on what would be most beneficial to your child.  Therapy will emphasize the importance of parent/ caregiver education and establish a home program which will encourage carry-over of skills at home and support optimal progress. 

Goals that may be addressed in therapy include:

  • improving oral motor skills using various therapeutic approaches including oral exercises and sensory stimuli
  • decreasing texture aversion and normalizing oral sensitivity
  • increasing the variety of textures and tastes of foods the child accepts
  • improving cup and straw drinking skills
  • developing oral skills necessary for spoon feeding and chewing solid foods

If you have additional questions or concern regarding a child who may possibly have a feeding disorder, please contact 205-638-9149 and ask to speak with a speech-language pathologist.