Sharing food and enjoying meal together are an important part of our culture. For people with dysphagia, or swallowing disorders, eating and drinking can be stressful, scary, and dangerous.
According to the Swallowing Disorders Foundation, symptoms of dysphagia include:
- coughing during or right after eating or drinking
- wet or gurgly sounding voice during or after eating or drinking
- extra effort or time needed to chew or swallow
- food or liquid leaking from the mouth or getting stuck in the mouth
- recurring pneumonia or chest congestion after eating
- weight loss or dehydration from not being able to eat enough
Speech-language pathologists can diagnose a swallowing disorder with the use of an endoscope (a lighted tube inserted through the nose, allowing the individual’s swallowing mechanism to be viewed on a screen). Another test, called a “modified barium swallow study,” requires the individual to eat or drink food with barium in it while being x-rayed, allowing the swallowing process to be examined. If these means are not available, a speech pathologist can also perform a bedside swallowing evaluation.
Some people have feeding difficulties that are not necessarily related to swallowing or dysphagia. They may need assistance getting the spoon or fork to their mouth, or they may have difficulty managing various food textures. A therapist can suggest strategies or tools to make the mechanics of eating easier and more efficient; a therapist can also explore specific food and liquid textures that are safer and more comfortable for the individual to swallow.
The TALK difference
“I would highly recommend Laura Smith and her services, which provided a program that was easy to stick to and got results. I could not go back to my old habits if I tried.”
Is therapy with Laura right for me?
Laura S. Smith, MS, is a certified orofacial myologist (COM) as well as a certified speech-language pathologist (CCC-SLP). She has an unparalleled depth of experience working with children and adults in both acute and clinical settings. In her earlier work, she performed numerous swallowing evaluations, which have given her the knowledge and observational skill in how to adjust for swallowing various liquids and solids, modifying diets to meet the needs for her patients, and training them to use optional seating and positioning strategies to maximize their safety and nutritional needs.
Her quest for more knowledge and precision skill in tongue thrust, swallowing, and related disorders, lead her to pursue extensive training and research to help individuals with oral-motor, speech, and orofacial myofunctional disorders, bringing her work full circle.
Her compassionate, fun, enthusiastic, and motivating personality delivers results. For more information about Laura and the work that she does, please read her many client testimonials.
Goals of therapy for dysphagia:
- Strengthen and coordinate the orofacial muscles used during mastication (chewing) and deglutition (swallowing) that are dysfunctional or weakened by neurological conditions or adverse behavioral patterns that may threaten safety when feeding.
- Establish mouth, tongue, and facial muscle patterns that promote correct function of these structures during drinking, chewing, collecting, and swallowing of food.
- Reduce the risk of aspiration (food or liquid entering the airway) that can cause pneumonia and chronic lung disease.
- Determine the specific food and liquid textures that are easier and safer for the individual to swallow.
Help is available!
Laura Smith, licensed speech-language pathologist and certified orofacial myologist, is specially trained to assist children and adults in overcoming their communication challenges. Her holistic approach takes into account the person as well as the problem.
Talk SLP LLC offices are located in the Northgate area of Seattle and on Mercer Island, allowing us to serve individuals and families throughout the greater Seattle region of Washington state. Telepractice appointments are also available, where clients can receive consultation and therapy services using online tools.
Contact us for more information or to make an appointment.