A Short Guide to Dysphagia in Autistic Children

Eating, drinking, and swallowing are essential for sustenance and healthy growth. Although it is a natural act for many people, children with autism may find it a challenge. Dysphagia can affect people of all ages, and the severity of the condition can differ depending on the child. For some children, it can mean issues with swallowing certain food items. On the other hand, other children may not be able to swallow at all. When left untreated, dysphagia can lead to severe health problems. Here is a short guide to dysphagia in children with autism.

Dysphagia and Autism

Dysphagia is a medical term that describes someone who has difficulty swallowing. Children with autism and learning disabilities are more likely to experience coordination and sensory motor difficulties, and this can affect the way they consume food and drink. Children may develop certain eating behaviors due to emotional and sensory dysregulation, and this can affect the way they approach food. In turn, this can have an impact on how they swallow and digest food and drinks. Dysphagia can lead to poor oral health, general health, and nutrition. It can also cause respiratory and behavioral difficulties.

How to Help Children with Dysphasia

Children with autism could experience oro-motor movement difficulties when swallowing food and may feel anxious around mealtimes. Some children stuff their mouths full of food and try to swallow prematurely. This can make swallowing difficult, and it can lead to choking. Not to mention, some liquids may cause aspiration (when food and drink enter the lungs accidentally). Ultimately, this could result in pneumonia.

Make Food More Palatable with Food Thickeners

Food thickeners can be added to thin fluids to modify the texture. SimplyThick is a thickener that comes in gel form, and it can be added to hot and cold fluids. This gel does not form lumps in liquid, and it does not continue thickening once mixed into liquid. Instead, it helps thicken fluids to make them easier to swallow.

Consider the Cutlery

The shape, size, and color of cutlery can make a huge difference to how a child approaches their food. In some instances, children can be encouraged to eat properly if they are given modified cutlery. Not to mention, some children on the spectrum may find certain colors too stimulating to use.

Optimum Eating Position

When it comes to eating and drinking, the optimal position is when an individual is sitting upright at a table. When feeding a child, their head should never be tilted back, and they should not be reclined in a reclined position.

Foods That Are Difficult to Swallow

When it comes to dysphagia, certain foods are more difficult to swallow than others which makes them more likely to cause choking or aspiration in children. These include skin on certain vegetables and fruits, fibrous, stringy textures such as celery and green beans, and foods that have mixed textures like chunky soup. In addition, crunchy food and doughy food also pose a higher risk to children.

This is a contributed post and therefore may not reflect the views and opinions of this blog or its author. ☺

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