Eating and drinking
Our speech and language therapists support children with eating and drinking needs. We work alongside our occupational therapy and physiotherapy colleagues to make sure children and young people have the equipment and recommendations they need in place to be able to eat and drink safely and enjoyably, wherever possible.
On this page you will find links and resources about weaning, supporting sensory feeding needs and when to refer to our services for specialist support.
Children often start to move from drinking milk to eating solid foods around six months of age. This process is called weaning. Some signs that show children are reading for weaning include:
- sitting independently and holding their head up
- eye/hand to mouth coordination
- swallowing tastes of food rather than spitting it out
For more information and ideas on how to start weaning, see the NHS Start4Life website:
Support sensory feeding needs
Children with sensory feeding needs can have difficulties with trying new textures, gagging on new textures or moving on to lumpy or solid foods when weaning. A lot of these needs can be supported by helping your child to explore foods using their other senses such as sight, smell, sound and touch. This will help prepare them for what the food will feel like in their mouth.
See our fun with food handout and links for further information and advice about activities that can help.
You can also find out more about how to support fussy eaters by watching the following workshop:
- Having fun with food tips
- Parents and caregivers - SOS approach to feeding
- Parent workshop - when children won't eat - free 2 hour webinar (sosapproachtofeeding.com)
- ARFID Awareness UK
- New, free sensory play toolkit for professionals and parents from leading ARFID researchers. (arfidawarenessuk.org)
- Sensory play toolkit
Food and drink textures
Following assessment, if we recommend your child needs a certain texture of food or their drinks to be thickened in order to swallow them safely, we will provide you with an eating and drinking passport. Your child’s passport will clearly explain what foods and drink they can have and how these may need to be modified. As a service, we use the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI) when describing different textures and thickness. IDDSI was created to make sure everyone is using the same descriptors.
Think a referral might be needed?
Some children may need specialist support from a speech and language therapist or occupational therapist. Check below before deciding whether or not to make a referral.
Referrals need to be considered for children showing the following signs:
- arching or stiffening of the body during feeding (affecting feeds)
- irritability or lack of alertness during feeding
- long feeding times (more than 30 minutes)
- difficulty chewing
- difficulty breastfeeding
- coughing or choking during meals
- food or liquid coming out of the mouth or nose
- difficulty coordinating breathing with eating and drinking
- gurgly, hoarse, or breathy voice quality
- frequent spitting up or vomiting (in combination with other signs)
- recurring pneumonia or respiratory infections
- less than normal weight gain or growth (in combination with other signs)
We are commissioned to provide a service to children and young people with eating and drinking difficulties related to neurological developmental disorder only. However we can offer advice on some sensory eating and drinking strategies and put you in touch with other services that can help through our Therapy One Point.
If you would like more information about referral, follow the links below. Remember you can ring and speak to a therapist on our Therapy One Point: 0300 123 2650, if you need to discuss a possible referral.
Children's Integrated Therapy Service
Speak to the team for