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Children with Difficulty Eating

Early neglect can mean fewer opportunities to develop oral-motor skills.

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Some CiC may have difficulty with the physical aspects of eating and lack some oral motor skills like chewing, sucking, and swallowing. This is through unhealthy practices that put them at risk of delayed or abnormal development and those include:

  • babies being fed through bottle teats with extra-large holes in order to speed up the feeding process. These babies generally develop the skills needed to prevent choking, but they may not develop a strong, efficient sucking pattern
  • babies being transitioned very early from bottles to cups, further decreasing opportunities to develop sucking
  • transitioning of babies in care to solid food that is often bland and with very little texture. As a result, the children have limited opportunities to further develop the muscles of their speech articulators (tongue, lips, cheeks, jaw). When introducing solid foods, include a mixture of finger foods, mashed and chopped foods. When solid foods are first introduced at around 6 months of age, babies are more likely to try and accept new foods
"Be patient, seek out the advice of a professional. Consider talking with the child’s designated nurse if your child is having trouble with new food textures.”
Foster Carer

Common symptoms of oral-motor disorder include:

  • an open-mouthed posture with a protruding tongue lacking tone
  • a messy eater who has difficulty managing a variety of textures
  • difficulty chewing harder foods
  • delayed speech sound acquisition with difficult to understand speech

Carers concerned about the children’s oral motor skills should contact their health visitor or GP who can link them with a specialist service if appropriate, such as a speech-language pathologist, for an examination.

The professional can provide suggestions for improving the strength and coordination of the muscles needed for speech and feeding, or provide on-going therapy to help with overcoming these difficulties. Speak to the child’s designated nurse or GP for referral and further information.         

Adapted from

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