ADHD Diagnosis ADHD Diagnosis

Feeding & Swallowing Disorders

Siskin's team of pediatricians, feeding specialists, and speech-language therapists
can diagnose and treat feeding and swallowing challenges in children.

What are feeding and swallowing disorders?

A pediatric feeding disorder (PFD) is a condition of impaired oral intake that impacts a child’s medical status, growth and nutrition, social and skill development, and daily family functioning. Feeding disorders are different than common feeding challenges in young children that are typically short-lived and do not impact the child’s overall growth and development. For children with more significant PFD, the child may not consume enough volume or variety of food/drink to gain weight and sufficient nutrition for proper growth and development.

Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, is a condition characterized by challenges in any part of the swallowing process, including the oral phase (taking food or liquid into the mouth and chewing), the pharyngeal phase (moving the chewed food through the throat), or the esophageal phase (transferring food into the stomach). While dysphagia is not exclusive to children, it is estimated that 25-45% of typically developing children have some form of dysphagia. This number is even higher among children with neurological disorders, such as cerebral palsy, and developmental disorders, such as autism. Similarly to feeding disorders, dysphagia can have a huge impact on a child’s quality of life, including proper nutrition and hydration, social opportunities, and independence.

What do feeding and swallowing disorders look like?

Feeding and swallowing disorders share many symptoms, including:

  • Eating or drinking very little and not enough for weight gain; concerns about growth
  • Eating only certain food types or textures
  • Difficulty sucking, chewing, or swallowing during feeding
  • Challenging mealtimes including tantrums, gagging, choking, coughing, or vomiting

Children with PFD may also depend on gastrostomy (g-tube), nasogastric (NG-tube), or supplemental drinks when safe for oral feeding. Other potential signs of dysphagia include:

  • Slow or inefficient feeding
  • Frequent respiratory infections (dysphagia increases the chance of food or liquid aspiration, which can increase the likelihood of respiratory problems)
  • Arching or stiffening of the body during feeding
  • Excessive drooling

The Feeding Matters Infant and Child Feeding Questionnaire may help you identify if there are potential areas of concern to discuss with your child’s pediatrician. Find an abbreviated version of the questionnaire on page 7, or access the full version here.

Who diagnoses feeding and swallowing disorders in children?

A feeding or swallowing disorder diagnosis is usually the result of collaboration between your child’s primary care provider and team of feeding specialists, including speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, pediatric gastroenterologists, and behavioral analysts. Depending on the diagnosis, your provider will recommend feeding therapy, occupational therapy, or speech-language therapy. If your child has an autism diagnosis, they may also benefit from applied behavioral analysis, or ABA, therapy.

Get a Diagnosis at Siskin

At Siskin, we understand how feeding and swallowing challenges interact or co-occur with other health or developmental challenges your child may be facing. Our caring team of specialists will ensure your child receives the highest-quality care, offer resources to the family throughout the process, and develop an individualized treatment plan for your child. If you live in the Chattanooga area, ask your child’s provider about a referral to Siskin today.

Make a Referral