Telehealth Technology and Pediatric Feeding Disorders

Telehealth Technology and Pediatric Feeding Disorders

Taylor A. Luke, Rebecca R. Ruchlin
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0034-6.ch043
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Ongoing advances in technology have provided a platform to extend the accessibility of services for children with developmental disabilities across locations, languages and the socioeconomic continuum. Teletherapy, the use of video-conferencing technology to deliver therapy services, is changing the face of healthcare by providing face-to-face interactions among specialists, parents and children. The current literature has demonstrated success in utilizing teletherapy as a modality for speech-language intervention and for social-behavioral management, while research on feeding therapy remains scarce. The current chapter discusses the prevalence of feeding disorders among infants, toddlers and children with developmental disorders. Using evidence from the current literature, a rationale for the utilization of teletherapy as a means of feeding therapy is presented.
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Children with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, cleft lip and/or palate, autism spectrum disorder, central nervous system disorders (e.g. cerebral palsy, meningitis, etc.), Pierre Robin Sequence (PRS), Williams Syndrome, Prader Willi Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, and weak musculature of the face and neck, commonly experience feeding and swallowing disorders (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2014; Cooper-Brown et al., 2008). Feeding disorders encompass a broad range of eating activities that may or may not be accompanied by difficulty with swallowing food and liquid. Feeding disorders may be characterized by food behavior, rigid food preferences, less than optimal growth and failure to master self-feeding skills expected for developmental levels. The incidence of feeding disorders is estimated to be 25-40% in typically developing children and up to 80% for children with developmental disabilities (Arvedson, 2008). In addition, children with delayed speech and motor milestones have an increased risk for feeding difficulties (Hutchinson, 1999).

Treatment of feeding and swallowing disorders that are found in cases of genetic and developmental disabilities often require a multidisciplinary effort by a team of specialists including, but not limited to, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and medical specialists such as gastroenterologists, cardiologists, geneticists, pediatricians, endocrinologists, psychologists, and nutritionists. Due to the range of professionals who treat children with feeding and swallowing difficulties, there is a broad spectrum of treatment and diagnostic options to be explored (Cooper-Brown et al., 2008).

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