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Speech Therapy and Feeding Issues

Speech Therapy and Feeding Issues.Speech therapy and feeding issues: Apollo is starting speech therapy and I am cautiously optimistic that this will help with his eating.

I was surprised to learn early on in the school year that Apollo qualifies for speech therapy. I wasn’t surprised he needs it, he can’t pronounce his f’s or v’s or g’s or k’s. I was surprised because when Tucker was in first grade, at the same school, I was told he didn’t (or maybe wouldn’t) qualify until age 8…I suppose I just assumed that eight was the magic number.  I was thrilled to learn Apollo qualified. I’d already spent enough hours googling things like “how to teach the ‘f’ sound” with no luck.  I was quite excited to learn he would be getting help right away, at age five. We had our parent-teacher conferences last week and Apollo’s first IEP meeting. I was shocked to learn that he was assessed as having “significant speech/language impairment”. Shocked because he talks a lot, in full sentences about intelligent subjects. Apollo was actually an early talker. The SLP (speech and language pathologist) has no concerns with grammar or syntax, just pronunciation.

And this got me thinking…Speech therapy and feeding issues: Apollo is starting speech therapy and I am cautiously optimistic that this will help with his eating.

When Apollo was in feeding therapy in 2013 it was run in a speech therapy clinic by SLP. Several of the kids had severe sensory issues and could barely handle having anything in their mouths. Before the “breakfast” part of his therapy, they always warmed up with some sensory exercises inside their mouths.  At his point, Apollo had had his g-tube for nearly a year and was eating very little by mouth. Our biggest goal was just he took some food in orally everyday…no matter what that food was. We were determined that he not lose his ability or desire to eat orally.

And we were successful.

While talking to the SPL at school, however, I started thinking about the cumulative minutes and then hours and then days Apollo has spent eating through his feeding tube, not using his mouth muscles at all. While I think this very likely explains some of his articulation errors it also made me realize…

If his mouth muscles are weaker than other five-year-olds…

because he’s had less time to exercise them…

and this is affecting his speech….

perhaps his underdeveloped oral muscles are also affecting his ability to eat.

Removing the large diverticulum after his first heart surgery, allowed Apollo to get food down his esophagus.

Removing his tonsils last year, allowed him to get food down his throat.

Perhaps exercising those oral muscles in speech therapy will allow him to chew and swallow food better.


  1. Rosie

    A very reasonable conclusion. It is a wonderful none of the docs had thought if this. What does the SLP think of it?

    Our son with mild verbal apraxia (issue with brain telling muscles how to move to make sounds) does some interesting movements with his mouth when eating certain foods, especially putting them into his mouth. I’m probably a bit more observant, being his mom, but it is something I’ve approached from a manners stand point.

    I will be very interested to hear how this goes. There are exercises you can do to help those muscles. Might have more luck with that search than the teaching of sounds search.

    Good luck.

  2. Robyn

    Our 7 year old has been in speech therapy for 3 years for pronunciation issues similar to Apollo’s. It’s been awesome and he has improved noticeably. “Speech school” definitely made a difference for him!

    Like Apollo, he is bright, reads and does math ahead of grade level, and talks up a storm. However, we have always joked that he’s a kid whose mind-body connection developed later than usual. He drooled — a LOT — until he was 5 or so. He was late to potty train. His fine motor skills are improving but still below average for his age. And just this year he made a quantum leap forward in gross motor coordination, but before that was definitely on the clumsy side.

    I’m pretty sure the drooling and the speech delay go together, and therefore I would not be at all surprised if, for Apollo, increased practice eating AND talking improves his oral muscle development as well as the neuromuscular connections. Here’s hoping that’s the case!

  3. Jessica

    My 9 year old is in speech therapy, has been since 1st grade when the school and Ped finally admitted he wasn’t going to just outgrow his speech issues that made him 50/50 intelligible to us the parents and the school only understood maybe 20%. Made me furious.
    So when my now 4 year old had issues I pushed and discovered there is a program for free for smaller kids with issues. His issues were less severe than my 9 year olds and his skills in everything but verbal were at a 2/3 year old level… So when my 9 year old was worse and “boys just develop slower” he actually had delayed motor and sensory skills. So infuriating because he and we suffered so much trying to help him. And he’s bright as all get out and does advanced math and science work, he just had sensory connections develop more slowly.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to rant. Just the holes in the system make me want to scream.

    I hope speech therapy helps his eating!

  4. Melpub

    Sounds like it can’t hurt–as long as he enjoys it. My kids are bilingual, and a kindergarten teacher suggested I put two of them in speech therapy–the pediatrician laughed. I was worried because “r” sounded like “w”–but the boys did indeed grow out of the problem. To think that I thought our oldest would never talk! (as I sat reading him lift-the-flap books when he was tiny–I’d say, “Where’s the butterfly?” and let him lift the flap. To the question, “Can you say butterfly?” I got a fishy stare . . . long after I was reasonably sure he could). The writer Lorrie Moore, now a professor, joked in a story I believe is autobiographical about going to “peach perapy” with her sister (how they pronounced speech therapy.) My point: Does Apollo sound to you like he is mispronouncing? If so, send him. If not, don’t send him unless insurance covers the cost!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Yes, he is difficult to understand, especially to people who aren’t familiar with with him, and even to us. I forget, not all of my readers are in the US. The speech therapy will be done by a SLP during school. He qualifies for 30 minutes per week, and he will be in with some other kids from his class. He won’t even realize it is speech therapy, it will just be part of his school day. And, because it is done through the public school, it is done free of charge.

  5. Stacy

    As a developmental specialist who works with kids ages 0-3 who have a variety of challenges, I can tell you that feeding and speech issues are absolutely connected. And yes, sometimes the root issue(or one of them) is weak oral motor muscles or skills. I’m glad he qualified for speech therapy and I hope it goes well. 🙂

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Yay, glad to hear someone in the know who thinks this may be helpful! If nothing else, it will help his speech, right?

  6. Cher

    So.. this past summer my brother had a mountain bike accident – very long story short – landed up in a coma for 24 days, in ICU for longer, finally making it to a brain injury ward and was transferred to Seattle WA Traumatic Brain Injury rehab program after 40 days. To be able to get out of hospital and into this program he had to be eating orally. To get him to eat food what did they start? Speech therapy. My parents and my brother’s wife were quite surprised! They were shocked really, speech therapy? he needs to eat! but no! The same muscles that work your swallow work your voice. If you can’t speak, you can’t eat. It took a week and a half I think… the tube came out! He’s doing amazing well!! But… you are so right! Pursue this angle. I realize total different circumstances and I’m not saying this is going to just magically work for Apollo, however, yes! Totally makes sense. Run with it!!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      First off, I am so sorry to hear about your brother. I hope he is doing okay now. Very interesting about the speech therapy. I hope to see the same gains with Apollo.

  7. simonanderin

    When my eldest was born we ended up in speech therapy at 8 weeks because of feeding issues. They said he had disorganised co-ordination, and wanted to deal with it then and there as they had noticed many kids with speech issues also had breastfeeding issues when they were younger. So I’d say there could definitely be a link – eating and speech seem to be related.

  8. Csmith

    My daughter was born with a cleft palate and had a speech therapist from about 1 yr old. Nearly all of our early sessions focused on feeding, her muscles were weak and she had a severe aversion to eating because of choking and aspiration problems early on. At six she still has a lot of pronunciation problems but she eats like a champ!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      So glad to hear she is eating well! This has been the biggest burden for me with Apollo (aside from the sleep deprivation).

  9. Kelly

    We order speech therapy everytime a kid is having difficulty eating as a baby. (Like aspirating type difficulty)
    One of my friends is a speech language pathologist and her main focus is helping stroke victims regain the ability to swallow safely. I hope the speech therapists are able to help him!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Thanks for sharing. Yes, I am really hoping the improved muscle movement for speaking with translate into improved eating…

  10. childlanguagedevelopment

    Like kelly and Cher, I was surprised when my brother had a bad motorbike accident that “speech therapists” would teach him to swallow again (after a coma). At the time I was contemplating it as a career and was shocked to find I didn’t even know the extent of their job.

    There are some great apps for particular sounds. I work in a deaf school and use them a lot. But speeches are also great.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Yes, and I’ve always known that it’s SLP’s who work with feeding issues…I just didn’t think of “attacking” it from this end.

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