Feeding and Swallowing

Feeding and swallowing therapy is provided by speech-language therapists.  A feeding disorder may be indicated when an individual is unable to pick up food and chew or swallow it, or completely close his/her lips to keep food from falling out.  Swallowing disorders (dysphagia) can occur at any point in the swallowing process:

  • oral phase – chewing and moving food or liquid in the throat
  • pharyngeal phase – starting to swallow, squeezing food down the throat and preventing it from entering the airway and causing choking
  • esophageal phase – relaxing and tightening the openings at the top and bottom of the esophagus and squeezing food through esophagus into the stomach

Pediatric feeding and swallowing therapy assessment by a speech-language pathologists is comprised of the child’s medical history, development and symptoms.  The swallowing muscles are checked for strength and movement and the child’s behavior and oral movements while eating and drinking are observed.  Special tests such as modified barium swallow and endoscopic assessment may also be used.

Treatment for children varies depending on the causes and symptoms of the swallowing problem.  Medical intervention, nutritional changes, directed feeding, postural changes, are just a few.  The speech-language pathologist may also introduce therapies to improve chewing, improve sucking or drinking skill, increase tongue movement, and strengthen the muscles of the mouth.

In adults and the elderly, there are many illnesses that can lead to feeding and swallowing problems.  The most common include stroke, surgery for head/neck cancer, head injury, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis and dementia.

The speech-language pathologist will make an assessment and recommendations relating to the consistency of diet, posture of the person while swallowing, and exercises to improve movement of the face, tongue, lips and larynx.

Further information on the treatment of feeding and swallowing disorders can be found when you consult with a registered speech-language pathologist.

Specific Techniques


Select a region to view to corresponding Feeding and Swallowing professionals operating there: