Feeding problems as a result of a neurological condition
Neurological conditions can have many different effects on the child’s eating, drinking and swallowing ability, due to the changes in the brain. Difficulties with motor movement, sensory functions and cognition can all affect feeding.
Our speech and language therapists can work with children with neurological conditions to ensure their feeding is safe and effective and to allow them the best opportunities to thrive.
What are feeding problems as a result of a neurological condition?
Neurological conditions occur when there are changes to the brain, spinal cord and nerves surrounding them. There are many conditions that occur due to changes of the nervous system. These changes can lead to many problems, including difficulties with eating, drinking and swallowing. Children with neurological conditions may have problems with the movements of the muscles responsible for swallowing, have sensory needs and have changes to cognition that may all affect aspects of feeding.
The severity of the feeding problem will depend on the neurological condition and the individual.
What causes a feeding problem as a result of a neurological condition?
Depending on the neurological condition and the area of the nervous system the condition has affected, depends on the feeding problem your child may have. Neurological conditions can cause changes to the motor movements of the muscles used for swallowing. This can cause difficulties at any stage of a swallow, including chewing the food to pushing it down the throat. Changes to the child's sensory functioning caused by a neurological condition may cause feeding problems such as not being able to taste food, or control the food in the mouth. Neurological conditions may also cause changes to the child's cognitive abilities, this may affect the child’s ability to feed and conventions around feeding.
What feeding problems caused by neurological conditions can speech and language therapy help with?
Children with feeding problems as a result of a neurological condition may experience many problems with their feeding that speech and language therapy can help with, including:
- Oral-motor difficulties and difficulty controlling food in the mouth or chewing.
- Difficulty tasting the food and feeling the texture.
- Difficulty knowing when to eat e.g. feeling hungry or full.
- Unsafe or ineffective swallow (dysphagia).
- Memory and attention difficulties affecting feeding.
- Physical difficulties - being unable to hold knife, fork, cup etc.
- Discomfort when feeding due to physical changes.
- Recurrent chest infections or pneumonia.
How can SLT for Kids help a child with feeding problems as a result of a neurological condition?
Speech and language therapy has several benefits for a child with a feeding problem as a result of a neurological condition, including:
- Increased range and strength of oral motor movements.
- Increased desire to eat and drink.
- Improved swallow function.
- Managed cognitive effects to help eating.
- Prevention of pneumonia and chest infections.
- Reduced anxiety and stress around mealtimes for child and parent.
What would treatment for a child with feeding problems as a result of a neurological condition involve?
Speech and language therapists use various treatment and assessments to treat a child with a feeding problem as a result of a neurological condition, including:
- Thorough and detailed assessment of eating, drinking and swallowing ability.
- Discussion with parents and carers regarding their goals and concerns.
- Goal setting alongside child and parents.
- Therapy exercises to strengthen motor movements.
- Identifying unsafe swallow and preventing this.
- Recommending particular thicknesses of fluid or textures of food if necessary for safe swallow.
- Strategies to help your child with feeding.
- Advice and education on neurological condition and the function of the swallow.
- Counselling services to support the parents and families.
- Referral to other health professionals if this is necessary or beneficial for the child.
How do I arrange an assessment for my child with feeding problems as a result of a neurological condition?
To arrange a speech and language therapy assessment for feeding problems as a result of a neurological condition with one our speech and language therapists please call 0330 088 2298.
Neurological conditions are caused by changes to the nervous system. This can cause many different difficulties with a children’s feeding, depending on the severity and location of the damage to the nervous system. Speech and language therapy can help children with feeding problems cause by a neurological condition to develop the skills for a safe and effective swallow and reduce anxiety surrounding meal times.
If your child has a feeding problem as a result of a neurological condition and you think they would benefit from seeing one of our specialist paediatric speech and language therapists, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0330 088 2298.