Feeding Skill

Learning to eat skillfully and comfortably is rooted in the development of sensory experiences of eating and the movement skills that make it possible for an infant or child to suck, swallow, bite, and chew. Feeding skills and abilities include the social, communication, and interactive skills that integrate with mealtime skills.

Click here to go to the PFD diagnostic criteria for feeding skill dysfunction.

Who Can Help Assess And Treat

Helping an infant or child to learn to eat and drink is based on the careful integration of skills taught by multiple disciplines. Therapists with specialized skills in pediatric feeding assessment and management often include speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists, but can also include other professionals. Click here for more information about each professional. 

They understand how different parts of the body work, and they help children develop feeding skills to the best of their abilities. Each specialist has expertise in one area; many have participated in advanced courses and training programs that provide them with an understanding of how to combine observations and treatment ideas in collaboration with other professionals. The vast majority of these providers have master’s degrees, and some hold doctoral degrees and have postgraduate training.

Find a specialist in your area by visiting Feeding Matters’ Provider Directory.

Therapists Working Within the Feeding Skill Domain

  • Collaborate or assist with swallow studies because of their specialized training in assessing a child’s ability to swallow safely and efficiently.
  • Improve skilled movement of the mouth that leads to safe and efficient eating and drinking.
  • Help develop overall movement coordination skills that support feeding development and develop better control of his or her body as a whole.
  • Provide strategies for improving coordination and overall muscle tone with a child’s oral/facial muscles and improving articulation.
  • Focus on fine motor skills to develop coordination of more precise movements between the eyes, shoulders, arms, and hands.
  • Strengthen head and trunk control to provide the foundation for specific movements of the mouth, chest, and abdomen used for breathing, eating, and swallowing.
  • Determine if oral-motor and/or oral-sensory problems are contributing to a child’s feeding disorder.
  • Propose strategies for improving sensory experiences of eating, strategies that incorporate all of a child’s senses in an organized way during eating. 
  • Help children increase their comfort level when eating a wide variety of different food textures.