Eating and drinking


Dysphagia describes eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties in babies, children, and young people.

It often occurs with other health conditions such as being born prematurely, having cardiac, respiratory, ENT, neurological, gastro-enterology problems or renal difficulties.

It can significantly impact on the child and their family’s quality of life and If not treated appropriately it can lead to other health complications and in worst cases can lead to serious respiratory illness, lung damage and death.

Improved nutrition and hydration have an impact on physical and mental wellbeing.

Some of the signs and symptoms of dysphagia you may see:

  • change in alertness around feed time, becoming sleepy, anxious, distressed
  • coughing or choking before, during or after food or drink
  • changes in colour, for example, going red or pale, blue tinges on the upper lip
  • changes in breathing – faster or slower than usual
  • sounds of breathing difficulty, for example, wheezing, gurgling or “wet” breathing
  • eye watering or widening, passive tears or crying, excessive blinking or grimacing
  • recurrent chest infections and/or pneumonia
  • difficulty with eating or swallowing age-appropriate food/liquid consistencies.

Additional signs:

  • becoming tired during a meal/lengthy mealtimes
  • difficulty in maintaining/achieving a safe position for eating and drinking
  • deteriorating physical health
  • deteriorating condition of teeth and mouth
  • weight loss.



Children’s Integrated Therapy and Equipment Service - to access our service please visit our Accessing our Children's Integrated Therapy Service page, contact our

Therapy One Point
0300 123 2650

or complete an online enquiry form.


If your child meets the criteria for an assessment they will be individually assessed by a qualified dysphagia trained Speech and Language Therapist. An initial telephone appointment will be arranged and the therapist may ask you to send videos of your child eating and drinking for further assessment. Face to face appointments will be provided if needed following this.


Having assessed your child’s difficulties and needs your therapist will agree with you on strategies or techniques to improve your child’s swallow safety or oral skills development. This may involve changing the consistency of foods or liquids, advice on positioning, advice on pacing, advice on utensils, practising skills safely and/or signposted to a workshop or training. If your child has an unsafe swallow it may be necessary to consider other ways of feeding such as tube feeding into the nose or tummy. We will always work as part of a multi-disciplinary team to ensure the best outcome for your child.

Creating positive mealtimes

Further links

For more information on sensory processing please visit our Sensory processing page.

Children's Integrated Therapy Service

Speak to the team for
more information.

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