Feeding and Oral Motor Therapy

Feeding disorders include problems gathering food and getting ready to suck, chew, or swallow it. For example, a child who cannot pick up food and get it to her mouth or cannot completely close her lips to keep food from falling out of her mouth may have a feeding disorder. Swallowing disorders can occur at different stages in the swallowing process.

Children with feeding and swallowing problems have a wide variety of symptoms. Not all signs and symptoms are present in every child.

The following are signs and symptoms of feeding and swallowing problems in very young children:

  • Arching or stiffening of the body during feeding
  • Failure to accept different textures of food (e.g., only pureed foods or crunchy cereals)
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Coughing or gagging during meals
  • Excessive drooling or food/liquid coming out of the mouth or nose
  • Increased stuffiness during meals
  • Frequent spitting up or vomiting
  • Less than normal weight gain or growth
  • Irritability or lack of alertness during feeding
  • Refusing food or liquid
  • Long feeding times (e.g., more than 30 minutes)
  • Difficulty breast feeding
  • Difficulty coordinating breathing with eating and drinking
  • Gurgly, hoarse, or breathy voice quality
  • Recurring pneumonia or respiratory infections

As a result, children may be at risk for:

  • Dehydration or poor nutrition
  • Aspiration (food or liquid entering the airway) or penetration
  • Pneumonia or repeated upper respiratory infections that can lead to chronic lung disease
  • Embarrassment or isolation in social situations involving eating

Oral motor therapy works on the oral skills necessary for proper speech and feeding development. These skills include: awareness, strength, coordination, movement, and endurance of the lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw.

If you suspect that your child is having difficulty eating one of our speech-language pathologists who specializes in feeding and swallowing disorders will evaluate your child and:

  • Ask questions about your child’s medical history, development, and symptoms
  • Look at the strength and movement of the muscles involved in swallowing
  • Observe feeding to see your child’ s posture, behavior, and oral movements during eating and drinking

Perform special tests, if neccessary, to evaluate swallowing, such as:

  • Modified barium swallow – child eats or drinks food or liquid with barium in it, and then the swallowing process is viewed on an X-ray
  • Endoscopic assessment – a lighted scope is inserted through the nose, and the child’s swallow can be observed on a screen.

Treatment varies greatly depending on the cause and symptoms of the swallowing problem and can include direct feeding therapy, nutritional changes, increasing acceptance of new foods or textures, changes in positioning, and behavior management techniques.

The focus of feeding therapy centers on making the muscles of the mouth stronger, increasing tongue movement, improving chewing, improving sucking and/or drinking ability, coordinating the suck-swallow-breath pattern (for infants) and if necessary altering food textures and liquid thickness to ensure safe swallowing.

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Client Testimonies

January 05, 2011

Posted by Sabrina

My two year old son went to the Children’s Center after spending a year at another therepy center. The first couple of weeks I saw a difference in my son. Dana, the Director, is amazing. She is not only a great speech pathologist but she also knows about other therapies. After a couple of visits she told me that my son was exhibiting immature hand posture and low muscle tone. She urged me to get an OT and PT evaluation. We found that my son was also significantly delayed in these areas as well. I went to see a Neorologist who within our 20 minute session diagnosed my son with Childhood Apraxia of Speech. I told Dana the diagnosis and without hesitation she STRONGLY disagreed. She then urged me to get an MRI. So I did just that and thank goodness we did. The MRI found a cyst in my son’s brain. The cyst was putting pressure on the brain stem and shifted the midline of the brain. This surgeons believe this may be the cause of my … to the Children’s Center after spending a year at another therepy center. The first couple of weeks I saw a difference in my son. Dana, the Director, is amazing. She is not only a great speech pathologist but she also knows about other therapies. After a couple of visits she told me that my son was exhibiting immature hand posture and low muscle tone. She urged me to get an OT and PT evaluation. We found that my son was also significantly delayed in these areas as well. I went to see a Neorologist who within our 20 minute session diagnosed my son with Childhood Apraxia of Speech. I told Dana the diagnosis and without hesitation she STRONGLY disagreed. She then urged me to get an MRI. So I did just that and thank goodness we did. The MRI found a cyst in my son’s brain. The cyst was putting pressure on the brain stem and shifted the midline of the brain. This surgeons believe this may be the cause of my son’s delays! It takes a lot of confidence and courage to tell someone not to go with what a neurologist says…most people would have found a new SP. Thank you Dana for advocating for my son. The world needs more professionals like you who care more about the patient and less about the financial benefit.


August 10, 2009

Posted by One Mom

“Our boys made great progress, the training you provided to us at the end as well as the feedback were really helpful. We would like to come back next year”


August 09, 2008

Posted by One Mom

“My son made great progress and is thriving in his new class. At the end of last school year it was recommended that he start this school year with a shadow, but now thankfully that is not going to be necessary. He is functioning well in a typical classroom without any additional support.”


November 19, 2008

Posted by One Mom

After originally starting my daughter with another therapy center (for her speech, or lack there of), I moved my daughter to Children’s Center for Therapy & Learning and couldn’t be happier with her progress. My daughter has been going to Children’s Center for just under a years time. The improvement we have seen is truly amazing. I have had parents at my daughters school approach me as well as her teacher to tell me how verbal she has become,how well her speech has improved etc…. The facility is always clean and inviting. The staff is professional and friendly.


August 28, 2008

Posted by One Mom

“The changes in my child were tremendous. I received a call from my child’s school this year and I was so worried that they were going to say something bad like last year. They asked me what I did this summer and I told them about your camp, they now want to see if you can come to my son’s school to work with the other children”


February 08, 2007

Posted by One Mom

“Children’s Center For Therapy & Learning … our 2-year-old was not talking at all and we have seen great progress since starting therapy here… a nice, spacious facility… a wonderful new therapy room has a great rock climbing wall and other exciting therapy tools… a warm loving …”?


April 07, 2005

Posted by One Mom

“Professional, team-approach services for all of your needs. Speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, tutoring, behavior intervention, psychotherapy. Warm loving environment. Knowledgeable staff. We have seen incredible results with our children’s speech.”


March 23, 2004

Posted by One Mom

Not doctor, but speech therapist. Excellent and reasonable.