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Impact of Swallow Physiology on Dietary Diversity in Children

Grant Winners

  • Jennifer Pusins, C.Sc.D. – College of Health Care Sciences
  • Roseanne Lesack, Ph.D. – Mailman Segal Center for Human Development


  • Stanley Wilson, P.T., Ed.D., CEAS – College of Health Care Sciences
  • Roni Leiderman, Ph.D. – Mailman Segal Center for Human Development


Award Winners

​Chronic feeding problems leading to decreased volume and variety of foods have the potential to significantly impact nutrition and hydration status required for adequate growth and development. The underlying causes of these feeding problems range from medical, developmental, social, and environmental factors. A potential factor in poor feeding and reduced dietary intake in children is oropharyngeal dysphagia, characterized by difficulty moving food from the mouth into the throat and esophagus during the act of swallowing (Penagini et al., 2015). It is possible that a child may not possess the skills necessary to be successful at eating complex, mixed, or multi-textured foods leading to food selectivity due to poorly developed oral-motor skills and lack of oral-motor confidence, rather than a true desire for a restrictive diet of single textured foods (Fraker & Walbert, 2011).

Current research evidence supports the potential impact of oral-motor skills on food selectivity; however, there is no research investigating the potential impact of the underlying biomechanics of swallowing on food restriction. The primary purpose of the proposed study is to evaluate if there is a correlation between swallow physiology and reduced dietary inventory in children. Determining if specific physiologic patterns of swallow function are related to refusal of certain food consistencies would provide vital information to guide the course of treatment. Addressing the possible underlying swallowing deficit would likely increase acceptance of a wider variety of foods. Further investigation regarding the possible underlying cause of these chronic feeding problems is essential in order to develop evidence-based assessment and treatment approaches to promote best clinical practice.

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