n South African Journal of Child Health - Recorded incidence and management of dysphagia in an outpatient paediatric neurodevelopmental clinic

Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1994-3032
  • E-ISSN: 1999-7671



In recent years there has been an increase in the number of children diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders. Dysphagia is believed to be a co-morbid condition in up to 90% of children with neurodevelopmental disorders, and is potentially life threatening.

To describe the medical diagnoses of children attending a state outpatient neurodevelopmental clinic; to determine the involvement of allied health professionals in the management of children with neurodevelopmental impairments; and to compare the reported incidence of feeding difficulties with the number of referrals made for feeding assessments.
State hospital outpatient neurodevelopmental clinic in South Africa.
Retrospective audit of a systematic sample of 100 files from 1 472 patients aged 0 - 14 years attending the clinic between June 2008 and April 2009. Data were tabulated and analysed quantitatively using descriptive statistics.
Diagnoses recorded in the files included developmental delay (32%), genetic syndrome (24%), cerebral palsy (19%), autism spectrum disorder (15%), learning disability (4%), microcephaly (1%), hydrocephalus (1%), dysmorphic features (1%), neuropathy (1%), traumatic brain injury (1%) and specific language impairment (1%). Of the sample 79% had been referred for at least one type of therapeutic intervention including speech and language therapy. Feeding difficulties were mentioned in only 29% of files, and less than half of these children (14% of the total sample) had been referred for a feeding assessment.
A minority of children with neurodevelopmental disorders and recorded feeding difficulties are referred for feeding assessments. This supports the suggestion of mandatory dysphagia screening in clinics and regular follow-up feeding assessments, as well as improved multidisciplinary teamwork.

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