Speech and Hearing Center establishes Pediatric Feeding Clinic for children with feeding and swallowing problems


Bubby -PedClinic2Marshall’s  Speech and Hearing Center has established a pediatric feeding clinic to evaluate and treat children with feeding and swallowing problems. The ability to consume food is one most of us take for granted, but for some children, getting the proper amount of nourishment is far from simple, according to Pam Holland, director of clinical education for the Speech and Hearing Center.

“Marshall University’s Pediatric Feeding Clinic offers an interdisciplinary team of professionals who can provide a comprehensive approach to evaluating and treating feeding or swallowing problems,” Holland said. “As speech-language pathologists, we assess the structure of the mouth as well as the strength and movement of the muscles involved in swallowing. We observe a typical eating/feeding experience including respiration and posture and make recommendations based on the child’s behavior and reactions to a variety of textures of food as well as liquids.”

Angel Casto, a registered dietitian through the West Virginia University Center for Excellence in Disabilities, works with Holland to improve the quality of life for the youth in the state through a partnership with the West Virginia Children with Special Health Care Needs program. Casto said many of these children have the potential to become completely oral feeders through the services provided by the Marshall University Speech and Hearing Center and the new feeding clinic.

“Several of the families we work with are interested in increasing their child’s overall oral intake of food, transitioning from a bottle to accepting more soft foods,” Casto said. “My job is to make sure these children are getting proper nutrition while providing strategies to improve their feeding and swallowing.”

Six-year old Bubby Cobb is one of the many children who have been helped by Marshall’s Pediatric Feeding Clinic in the past year. Bubby received a traumatic brain injury when he was 7 months old, causing him to lose the ability to crawl, walk or eat independently. However, Bubby’s grandmother and legal guardian, Cindy Johnson, has high hopes for his future.

“With the help of the Pediatric Feeding Clinic, we’ve seen such improvement in the way Bubby communicates about being hungry and the way he eats his meals,” Johnson said. “Right now he only prefers to eat certain foods such as oatmeal and  yogurt, and everything must be served on his favorite, the tortilla chip. Eventually, our goal is to have his feeding tube completely removed and Bubby will be able to eat and drink food by mouth.”

Johnson said she would always be grateful for the help provided to her through the WVU Center for Disabilities, the West Virginia Children with Special Health Care Needs program and Marshall University’s Pediatric Feeding Clinic.

The Marshall Pediatric Feeding Clinic evaluates and treats children with motor, sensory or behavioral feeding and swallowing disorders related to prematurity, neonatal abstinence syndrome, cleft lip and palate, Down’s syndrome and a variety of other syndromes or medical diagnoses. For more information on the WVU Center for Disabilities and the services they provide for children with feeding and swallowing disorders, visit http://www.cedwvu.org.

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Photo: Cindy Johnson (shown left) said with the help of Pam Holland (shown right) and Marshall’s Pediatric Feeding Clinic, she has hope that her grandson, Bubby Cobb, will be able to have his feeding tube removed and the ability to eat and drink food by mouth on his own.