Clear, practical advice on daily living equipment for young people
Eating and drinking are activities that many people take for granted, however they are very complex processes that involve the use and coordination of many muscles. If your child has difficulty eating, a referral should be made for a feeding assessment (RCSLT, 2013). Usually a speech and language therapist trained in the area of feeding and swallowing will conduct the assessment.
Some children with eating difficulties need a modified consistency diet to assist with chewing and/or swallowing. Changing the food's texture causes different responses in children and can make a difference in your child's ability to manage food in their mouth. When changing food texture, therapists typically begin with a texture that is easiest for the child to manage (Can Child, 2003).
There are four main categories of food texture/consistency:
Food textures can be modified by preparing the food more, adding more fluid, cooking for longer, straining and using thickening agents. When altering consistencies of food, individual foods should be kept separate for both flavour and appearance. Note that mixed consistency foods (e.g. soup with vegetables) can be challenging, because your child must be able to handle the liquid and the solid.
Liquids also vary in consistency:
Thin liquids are often the most difficult to swallow because they move very quickly and so require very good oral control to keep them in the mouth and to control how they move back to be swallowed. Thicker liquids have more mass, shape and tend to move more slowly - this can compensate for weakened oral skills and sluggish swallow movements. However they may not be as thirst quenching and are often more filling than thin fluids.
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