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A Guide for Parents of Children with Swallowing Difficulties

As a parent, seeing your child struggle with swallowing can be an incredibly stressful and worrying time. Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, can impact children of all ages and can be caused by a variety of factors, including neurological or developmental disorders. Coping with dysphagia can be challenging, but there are strategies and resources available to help parents manage the condition and improve their child’s quality of life.

Modifying the Texture of Foods

One of the most common strategies for managing dysphagia in children is modifying the texture of foods. This can involve pureeing, chopping, or mashing foods to make them easier to swallow, as well as reducing the risk of choking or aspiration. It’s important that you work with a healthcare professional to determine the best texture to suit your child’s individual needs.

Practicing Swallowing Exercises

Another thing that can be incredibly helpful for children with dysphagia is practicing swallowing exercises and techniques. The techniques are used to strengthen the muscles used to swallow and can help them to improve their control. Some exercises even include swallowing small amounts of food and liquids, while specialist equipment is required for others. A specialist will advise on what exercises are appropriate and safe for you to practice effectively at home. 

Using Food Thickeners

Food thickeners can be a helpful tool for parents of children with dysphagia. Thickeners such as SimplyThick Nectar thickener are substances that increase the viscosity of liquids and can be added to a variety of foods and beverages, such as soups, purees, and juices. They work by altering the texture of food and making it easier to swallow and control in the mouth. 

There are two main types of food thickeners: starch-based and gum-based. Starch-based thickeners, such as cornstarch or potato starch, are commonly used in cooking and baking to thicken sauces. Gum-based thickeners, such as xanthan gum or guar gum, are derived from natural sources and offer several advantages, such as increased stability over a wide range of temperatures and pH levels, as well as improved mouthfeel and texture.

Working with Healthcare Professionals

Managing dysphagia in children requires a multidisciplinary approach that involves working with a variety of healthcare professionals, such as speech therapists, registered dietitians, and pediatricians. It’s important to get expert guidance on how to modify your child’s diet and eating habits to ensure they are getting all the nutrition they need. This is especially important during their early years. Dysphagia can increase the risk of malnutrition and so must be monitored extremely carefully.

Coping with dysphagia

Coping with dysphagia can be challenging, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Many resources and support systems are available to parents of children with swallowing difficulties. It’s a good idea for parents to join a support group to meet with other parents also struggling with dysphagia. Sharing your worries, experiences, and wins can boost morale and help you to take care of your own mental health. With the right approach and support, parents can help their children manage dysphagia and improve their quality of life.

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