Working as a Team: School based Swallowing and Feeding

Don’t Stand Alone When it Comes to Swallowing and Feeding in the Schools!

Hospital? Skilled nursing facility? Nursing home?  In all other settings, addressing swallowing and feeding is a team effort with SLPs, nurses, OTs, CNAs, physicians, etc. all participating. This same type of team effort can be done in the school setting. Look around your district and see the other professionals that can participate as a team when addressing swallowing and feeding. There is the OT, PT, school nurse, classroom teacher, paraprofessional, principal, cafeteria manager, and of course the parents!  Every professional has a role to play and they are already employed by the school district!

For example the:

  • SLP often serves as the swallowing and feeding case manager and is resonsible for organizing the management of the student’s swallowing and feeding, as well as, writing the safe swallowng and feeding plan.
  • OT may be responsible for adaptive equipment and sensory concerns.
  • Nurse manages overall health and communicates with physicians.
  • Etc.

Each member brings their own set of skills to the team effort.

When designing your districtwide swallowing and feeding team procedure, remember to include all team members, and to decribe their roles and responsibilities.

Tell me about your school-based swallowing and feeding team!


How does a school-based SLP establish competency in swallowing and feeding?

Most school-based SLPs have had coursework and practicum as part of their graduate program. This gives them the foundation to build on those skills and ultimately establish competency in swallowing and feeding in the school setting. Here are some things that can be done to supplement basic graduate school skills!

  • Seek out local professional development courses on pediatric swallowing and feeding. The more sessions you attend; the more informed you will be. 
  • Attend ASHA conventions or State Speech and Hearing conventions where there is a variety of swallowing and feeding information. Even if a session is geared primarily toward the elderly, you will better understand the disorder and will be able to transfer some of the information to students with neurological disorders, for example. Remember that in the schools we work with students from 3 to 22 years old!
  • Those in a district who have more experience with dysphagia can mentor others. 
  • District SLPs can form study groups to research and share information on swallowing and feeding.
  • Contact local universities and hospital SLPs to present to district SLPs.

Swallowing and feeding cases will be a very small percentage of the school-based SLP’s caseload. With each swallowing student on your caseload, become an expert on that child and on his/her particular swallowing and feeding issues!

Importance of ongoing monitoring!

As SLPs begin identifying and treating children in the school setting with swallowing and feeding disorders, it is very important to build into their schedules, time for ongoing monitoring and consultative services. Once a safe feeding plan is established, the classroom staff will be trained on how to implement it. This will require the SLP observing them and working closely with them to make sure that they understand the plan. When the SLP is comfortable that the classroom staff understands the plan, then a schedule of ongoing monitoring will be necessary to ensure that they continue to follow the plan as specified. Frequent talking to the teachers and paraprofessionals will help to prevent any problems!

Please let me know what you are doing in your district!!

Public school SLPs and OTs addressing swallowing and feeding

Welcome! If you are an SLP or an OT who is addressing swallowing and feeding or if you are wanting to get started addressing swallowing and feeding in your district, I would love to hear from you. What are your issues, concerns, and opinions? For 20 years I have been advocating for these services in the public schools and my district has had a procedure in place that has been adapted throughout the country. Although this is a complex disorder, it is possible to get started and to implement a procedure that can successfully result in children being safer at school!

Please fill out the Contact Form and I will get back to you! I look forward to hearing from you. Emily