How Do I Know If My Child Has a Swallowing or Feeding Disorder?

Many children are picky eaters at one point in time or another. Fortunately, when appropriate behaviours are modeled by parents and a wide array of healthy food choices are offered, most will outgrow the frustrating phase.

But did you know that being a picky eater can also be a sign of a swallowing or feeding disorder?

Some children may avoid certain foods with textures that they find difficult to swallow, such as meat, raw vegetables or toast, preferring pureed foods or soft pastas for their meals.

Other signs of a potential feeding disorder may include frequent coughing or choking throughout a meal, vomiting during or after a meal, or food escaping the mouth while eating. These signs could indicate the presence of a swallowing or feeding disorder. It is important not to ignore symptoms like these because the child’s nutritional intake could be affected. Swallowing and feeding disorders can start in infancy, in toddler years or in school age children.

If you suspect a swallowing or feeding disorder could be at the root of mealtime challenges in your household, it is recommended that you express your concerns to your family doctor. You may be referred to a Speech-Language Pathologist or a medical specialist (e.g., ENT) for further assessment.

At S.L. Hunter & Associates, the team of highly trained Speech-Language Pathologists will provide a relaxed, positive environment where children feel supported, encouraged and safe. Anyone with concerns regarding a possible swallowing or feeding disorder is welcome to contact the clinic to arrange for an assessment.

The offices of S.L. Hunter & Associates are located at 5195 Harvester Rd. Unit 4B. They can be reached by telephone at 905-637-5522 or online at


What is Articulation Therapy?

Articulation / n. 1a the act of speaking. b articulate utterance; speech.

–          The Canadian Oxford Dictionary

Anyone who has ever struggled to form a particular sound correctly knows just how important proper articulation can be. Children who have been teased for having a lisp for example, may lack self-esteem. Adults who produce distorted or unclear sounds may refrain from engaging in conversations with people they are not familiar with or comfortable with.

People of all ages can experience articulation disorders. Fortunately, improvement is possible at any stage of life. Articulation therapy is a form of intervention that focuses on the accurate production of speech sounds to improve speech clarity.

Speech-Language Pathologists are highly trained professionals who work to assess and help with a wide variety of speech and language difficulties, including problems with articulation.

Following an individual assessment, the clinician creates an intervention plan. Over time, they will work with the client to establish the correct production of the problematic sound, ensuring the articulators (e.g., tongue, lips, and jaw) are in the correct position to make the target sound(s). After mastering the sound in isolation, they work on developing the sound through a hierarchy of consonant-vowel combinations proceeding to words, phrases, sentences and eventually conversational speech. The sound is usually first addressed in the initial position of words, such as /s/ in “seal” or “sock.” The next step is to target the sound in the final position as in “bus,” or “rice,” and finally in the medial position of the word, as in “baseball” or “dancer.” However, this is dependent on the client and his or her stimulability (ability to make the sound) which position is the focus.

With focused intervention and consistent home practice most clients are able to achieve significant improvement.

No matter what the communication challenge may be, S.L. Hunter & Associates has an entire team of highly skilled and innovative Speech-Language Pathologists and Communicative Disorders Assistants who are prepared to help.

The offices of S.L. Hunter & Associates are located at 5195 Harvester Rd. Unit 4B. They can be reached by telephone at 905-637-5522 or online at


Dealing With Vocal Cord Paralysis

“Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. They’re what make the instrument stretch – what make you go beyond the norm.”

–          Cicely Tyson (actress)

When it comes to the instruments of speech, vocal cords are the primary tools. So it may come as a surprise to learn that paralysis of the vocal cords is possible. But the two little folds of membrane that stretch across the larynx, controlling airflow and thus helping to produce the sounds associated with speech, can indeed stop functioning. While the cause is often difficult to pinpoint; injury, stroke, tumors, inflammation or neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease can all lead to vocal cord paralysis.

The results of this condition can range from mild to moderate breathing problems, a persistently hoarse-sounding voice, to a complete loss of speech. Choking or inhaling food or liquid is also possible. Vocal cords are the mechanism that covers off the airway during swallowing and paralysis may therefore prevent complete opening or closure of this airway allowing material to be aspirated into the lungs.

The possibilities for improvement depend largely on the cause of the paralysis, the severity of the symptoms and the amount of time that has elapsed from the onset of the condition. So if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms, it is important to see your family doctor without delay. An affected individual may require surgery and voice therapy with a trained Speech-Language Pathologist.

Speech-Language Pathologists are highly educated and licensed professionals who assess, treat and help to prevent disorders related to speech, language, swallowing and fluency.

Following a complete assessment, a Speech-Language Pathologist will develop exercises and/or activities to strengthen the vocal cords, to improve breath control and to prevent abnormal tension in other muscles around the paralyzed vocal cords. This will also protect the client’s airway during swallowing.

At S.L. Hunter & Associates, the team of Speech-Language Pathologists are equipped with up-to-date technology, resources and information to help assess the unique needs of each individual client and to implement appropriate intervention strategies.

The offices of S.L. Hunter & Associates are located at 5195 Harvester Rd. Unit 4B. They can be reached by telephone at 905-637-5522 or online at


The Benefits of Speech Therapy for People with Alzheimer’s

“My father started growing very quiet as Alzheimer’s started claiming more of him.”

– Patti Davis (daughter of U.S. President Ronald Reagan)

Alzheimer’s is an irreversible disease of the brain and the most common cause of dementia. The changes it brings about in the life of the affected individual touch on behaviour, emotions, the ability to process thoughts and the ability to communicate.

The changes that occur to the speech and language of someone with Alzheimer’s typically involve attention, memory and word-finding. These changes often surface in the mild to moderate stages of the disease.

Every person is unique and the progress of the disease may follow a slightly different course in each individual. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, with early intervention there is much that can be done to help slow the advance of the disease. There are also many strategies to assist the affected individual in coping with some of the unpleasant side effects associated with this disease.

Speech and language intervention can help by providing memory and communication strategies designed to preserve communication for as long as possible. Developing a memory book, for example, can help a person recall personal information. Equipping family members and caregivers with communication tools and techniques can improve their ability to communicate with the Alzheimer’s patient and alleviate frustration. If the patient has swallowing issues, a Speech-Language Pathologist can recommend dietary modifications to ensure safer swallowing and decrease the risk of choking or aspiration.

At S.L. Hunter & Associates, there is an entire team of highly-skilled and caring Speech-Language Pathologists and Communicative Disorders Assistants who can help. The clinicians are client-centered and emphasize functional activities so that therapy is related to the client’s unique circumstances.

The offices of S.L. Hunter & Associates are located at 5195 Harvester Rd. Unit 4B. They can be reached by telephone at 905-637-5522 or online at