A spotlight on feeding challenges

A spotlight on feeding challenges



Does your child experience challenges with eating, swallowing and getting the nutrition that they need? Feeding challenges can be extremely stressful for parents of children with disability and there is no one size fits all approach to help. It is about finding what works for your child and your family to ease the stress and help your child to get the nutrients that they need. Your child’s speech pathologist can work with you to recommend strategies to help.


What causes feeding challenges?

There are many varied reasons why a child with disability might experience challenges with eating, swallowing and getting the nutrition that they need. They may include:


  • Physical challenges
  • Developmental challenges
  • Sensory issues
  • Allergies and intolerances


Physical challenges

For some children, feeding challenges are caused by physical conditions such as:


  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Issues with nutrient absorption
  • Slow moving digestive system (dysmotility)
  • Chronic vomiting or reflux


Developmental challenges

Children might lack the necessary oral skills needed for eating. For successful eating a child must know how to move food around in their mouth to chew and break food down. They also need to be able to know how to handle different textures, flavours, shapes and sizes of food. These are developed skills and for some children they will need help and support to achieve this.


Sensory issues

Children may also experience sensory issues that make eating challenging. They may refuse foods with certain textures (such as soft, crunchy, dry or wet) because they find them distressing. Foods that are a certain colour may be challenging or your child may not be able to tolerate when foods with different textures are combined such as sauce on crunchy food.


Allergies and intolerances

Children with food allergies and intolerances may have a restricted diet that means it’s challenging for them to get all of the nutrients that they need to thrive.


What about tube feeding?

If your child is tube fed, your health team will support you to find the appropriate rate and volume of food that your child can tolerate to meet their nutritional needs. This can be a balancing act and it can take time and ongoing adjustments to get this right. Your child’s speech pathologist may assist you with appropriate referrals and liaise with the health team.


Further info

Our experienced speech pathologists are here to support children with eating and nutrition challenges and their families. Get in touch with the team today by calling us on 1800 XAVIER or visit our speech pathology page.