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Speech and Language

The Connection Between Swallowing Disorders and Communication Challenges

For young children suffering from swallowing disorders such as pediatric gastroesophageal reflux (frequent regurgitation) and oropharyngeal dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), feeding interventions can be beneficial. But care must be taken to ensure the right approach.

“Pediatric feeding disorders are often complex,” says Lindsay M. Stevens, MA, CCC-SLP, medical facilities manager at Healthier Thickening, “and should involve a team of multiple professionals from various disciplines.”

Reading the signs

Signs that feeding intervention might be warranted include foods or liquids entering the breathing tube, poor weight gain, vomiting, and stressful mealtimes as perceived by the caregiver. One of the most effective treatments for swallowing disorders is the introduction of a thickening agent like Gelmix Infant Thickener to the child’s food.

“Thickening feeds to reduce regurgitation and vomiting in infants is the preferred first-line therapy approach,” says Stevens. “Increasing the viscosity of the liquid by thickening helps to keep the food in the stomach and reduces the likelihood of the food moving from the stomach back into the esophagus.”

Additionally, thickening creates a denser bolus of food that moves more slowly to the throat. This enhances sensory input, which can benefit those suffering from dysphagia.

Thickening and communication

Swallowing disorders sometimes indicate communication difficulties, as they often involve weakness in the tongue, hard palate, lips, jaw, and cheeks, which can impact the ability to accurately produce speech sounds. “Treatment of swallowing disorders may focus on improving movement and strength of these parts of the mouth,” notes Stevens, “which may, in turn, facilitate oral sensory processing and movement skill for speech sound development and production.”

If a thickening agent is recommended by a pediatrician to address pit-ups or more serious swallowing disorders, choosing a healthy thickener is crucial, Stevens says. “Caregivers should select a thickener that has natural ingredients that have demonstrated safety of use.” Additionally, choosing a Thickener that is smooth, tasteless, and odorless will reduce the chances that the child will refuse the thickened food.

Stevens recommends the USDA-certified organic thickeners Gelmix Infant Thickener for breast milk and formula and Purathick Natural Thickener for hot and cold liquids. “Most thickening products contain corn starch and/or xanthan gum and include allergens that can be poorly tolerated,” notes Stevens. “Gelmix is free of arsenic, genetically modified ingredients, corn starch, xantham gum, and major allergens including gluten, corn, and soy. It’s the only USDA Organic, Kosher-certified thickener specifically designed for pediatric use in the USA.”

This content has been paid for by Parapharma Tech.

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