If you've never been the parent of a newborn you may not be aware that not every child is born with the suck and swallowing coordination. Premature babies often times have to be taught how to eat. We met a mom from Sioux Center, Iowa who's son is a graduate of Avera Children's Feeding and Swallowing Clinic.
14 month old Elliot Van't Hof is the apple of his mom Kelly's eye. He was born 2 months early by emergency C-section in Sioux Center and not breathing he was air lifted to Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls. He spent 2 months in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit and he spent a lot of time working with Avera Speech Pathologist Renae McMahon with Avera Physical Medicine and Rehab. learning to eat.
Kelly says, "They discovered he had a weak suck/swallow. That is something they look for and test in the NICU."
Renae says, "As a speech therapist I know the anatomy for oral motor and anatomy for swallowing . The neck on up is what I say I'm an expert on so it makes sense I would be one of the first to work with little patients like Elliot."
Renae starting working with Elliot from the get go. When he was 2 days old she introduced this pacifier to him. Now he's graduated to cheese puffs which are actually good therapy since they melt in your mouth and are easy to eat.
Kelly says, "He's now drinking out of a cup and out of a bottle. He likes to put anything in his mouth and eat. Some things he doesn't like which is typical of a one year old, but he's amazing."
That's not just a mom's bias either. Renae was part of a team of health professionals who saw Elliot once a month during a feeding and swallowing clinic to check his progression once he got out of the hospital.
Renae says, "He's beautiful. It's so fun to see the progress from the NICU then to follow up in feeding clinic. It's a nice progression and to know we played a part in that is pretty cool."
Before we know it, this feeding clinic graduate will wash down those Cheetos with steak and potatoes, exactly what they want. We're with mom on this, he's a pretty amazing little boy.
The purpose of the Avera Children's Feeding and Swallowing Clinic is to provide parents with a complete team assessment of their child's eating and swallowing skills. The information from this assessment will be used to generate appropriate recommendations toward making feeding an easier, safer, and more natural experience for the parents and their child.
The multidisciplinary team will include any or all of the following professionals: Pediatric physician, nurse, nutritionist, occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, and psychologist. Additional specialists may also be included as needed.