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.