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Helping a Person With Cerebral Palsy Eat

Sometimes people with cerebral palsy have problems trying to eat. Problems may include:

  • Coughing and choking, which can lead to breathing problems or pneumonia if food is inhaled into the lungs.
  • Poor jaw control, making it difficult to chew.
  • Difficulty sucking and swallowing.

You can help your child with cerebral palsy eat more easily by:

  • Providing appropriate utensils, such as special plates and large-handled spoons.
  • Serving oatmeal, pudding, mashed potatoes, and other semisolid foods.
  • Placing the child in a secure sitting position for eating. Bring his or her arms toward his or her chest to prevent the child from getting into a position that will make feeding and swallowing more difficult (such as arching the back and throwing the head backward).
  • Holding one hand against the child's cheek to help him or her open and close his or her mouth if jaw control is a problem.

Feeding tubes

A person with severe cerebral palsy may need a feeding tube in order to eat. For short-term use, the tube is placed into the nose and passed into the stomach. For long-term tube feeding, a tube can be placed directly into the stomach through an opening in the abdomen (gastrostomy tube).

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Current as of September 20, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 20, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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