Swallowing Disorders / Dysphagia

Adult Service Areas

Treating stuttering (dysfluency), kids playing together

Dysphagia or swallowing disorders refers to an impairment in the ability to transfer food or drink from the mouth to the stomach. Consequently, there is an increased risk of food or drink “going down the wrong way”. Instead of going down the esophagus to the stomach, food/drink may slip into the trachea and down to the lungs. This is known as aspiration, or choking. In some cases, the medical pathology has damaged sensories in place to detect choking. The individual may be choking silently without any outward signs. This is known as silent aspiration.

The most common causes of swallowing disorders are:

  • neurological damage such as stroke, or brain injury
  • degenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Symptoms of dysphagia

  • Drooling, or food spilling out of the mouth while eating
  • Pocketing of food in the mouth
  • Delayed ability to initiate a swallow despite prolonged chewing
  • Inability to chew
  • Coughing or throat clearing after each swallow
  • Wet or gurgly sounding voice after swallowing
  • Frequent pneumonia
  • Chest congestion after meals

We can come to your home, or long term care facility to observe a meal and do a “Chairside Swallow Assessment”. During this assessment our speech-language pathologist will observe our client chew and swallow different consistencies. We can use diagnostic information such as: oral efficiency, speed to initiate swallow, laryngeal lift, and vocal quality after the swallow to determine swallow proficiency. We can trial different positioning techniques to aid in a more proficient swallow, and ultimately prescribe the most appropriate diet for this individual.