All SLP’s are able to treat feeding difficulties/dysphagia as is it within their scope of practice, but a feeding specialist has chosen to pursue additional education on the topic of feeding and swallowing. This additional education is in the form of continuing education classes as well as certifications for specific therapy approaches including, SOS approach to feeding therapy, TalkTools Oral placement therapy, and many others. In addition, feeding specialist typically carry a caseload with the majority of patients being treated having feeding difficulties/dysphagia as opposed to speech-language disorders, allowing for maintenance of skills learned at trainings through frequent implementation of techniques.
SLP’s and OT’s both work on feeding skills; however there are several differences in how this is targeted in therapy. OT’s have specific training working in sensory processing difficulties for the entire body, while SLP’s are trained to treat sensory processing difficulties as it relates to feeding. If your child has global sensory processing difficulties and/or is delayed in self feeding skills (i.e- using a spoon or fork) an OT would be the best professional to begin therapy. SLP’s target sensory processing difficulties as it relates to feeding only and also address oral motor delays or weakness contributing to feeding difficulties. SLP’s are trained to evaluate the structures and functions of the mouth as it relates to feeding and speech. In certain cases it is appropriate for both an OT and an SLP to treat a child who has feeding difficulties.
The initial evaluation will involve receiving a case history from the caregiver regarding feeding history and overall development and then a therapist watching your child eat a variety of foods and drink from a variety of cups. Different techniques may be trialed during the evaluation to slowly improve your child’s feeding. Depending on the diagnosis, ongoing therapy will work on improving oral motor strength through oral motor exercises or compensatory feeding strategies, expanding your child’s diet through small changes to his or her current diet, or increasing intake by accommodating your child’s strengths while challenging them in a positive manner to expand their current diet and skills.
Yes, after the evaluation you will immediately be sent home with strategies to use to begin improving your child’s feeding skills. After each therapy session, as your child’s skills improve and his/her needs changes, adjustments will be made to the home program for ongoing practice at home.
Every child is different and there is no set timeline for therapy or an expected rate of progress. One thing to keep in mind is that progress is not always consistent.