After completing a feeding evaluation, I will often recommend occupational therapy. Occupational therapy’s, or OT’s, role in feeding/swallowing therapy is not widely understood. Without both services working together, a child may not make any or adequate progress in feeding therapy.
Speech therapy’s role in feeding/swallowing includes, but is not limited to: screening and evaluating a child’s oral motor abilities (i.e. how the muscles/structures used to eat are working), how these muscles are utilized in the eating process (i.e. are they able to effectively suck, bite, chew, swallow, etc.), and swallowing saftey with various textures and consistences. Treatment of feeding/swallowing includes, but is not limited to: remediation of oral motor weaknesses and/or incoordination, modification of textures, modification of presentation of food, and family training.
If a child has oral muscle weakness they likely have weakness in other areas of their body. This may negatively impact their ability to sit up for safe administration of food and/or use fingers or utensils to bring food to the mouth. OTs can help remediate muscle weaknesses, motor coordination, and modify positioning for increased support. If a child has the physical ability to eat, but refuses certain textures, the child likely has sensory processing difficulties. OTs are the sensory experts and work together with the speech therapist to reduce or eliminate sensory aversion. This is necessary so that the child can meet caloric and nutritional needs.