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Eating with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive neurodevelopmental condition that causes the person to feel sensation, perception, cognition, communication, and behavioral differences (Speyer et al., 2019). Children with cerebral palsy are also known to have difficulty with swallowing and feeding. Mlinda et al. (2018) has identified that 80% of caregiver’s have reported their child with cerebral palsy to have difficulty with feeding. Difficulties include poor tongue function, bolus transportation, sitting balance, head control, mouth control, eye-hand coordination, delayed swallow initiation, drooling, and/or lip closure. These difficulties present lower self-esteem, poor mealtime experiences, dehydration, malnutrition, and/or aspiration pneumonia. When it comes to feeding therapy, it is important to address all these aspects as early as possible, as it also can cause stress for the caregivers and child.

Intervention Ideas:

  • Hand-Arm Bimanual Intensive Therapy (HABIT): the use of two hands during a task (e.g., cutting with a fork and knife, drinking from a cup)

  • Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT): increase usage of one hand/arm to enhance performance

  • Sensory processing interventions

  • Encouraging proper positioning

  • Providing jaw stability support during feedings

  • Adapt form of communication (e.g., a father used two click sounds with mouth as “yes I want food” for child and child was able to pick up on the clicks and respond with making two clicks with mouth when she wanted food)


Bonsall, A. (2014). The social context of occupations: Analysis of a father feeding his

daughter diagnosed with cerebral palsy. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health,

34(4), 193–201.

Cahill, S. (2022, March 24). Interventions for children with cerebral palsy.


Mlinda, S. J., Leyna, G. H., & Massawe, A. (2018). The effect of a practical nutrition education

programme on feeding skills of caregivers of children with cerebral palsy at Muhimbili

National Hospital, in Tanzania. Child: Care, Health & Development, 44(3), 452–461.

Speyer, R., Cordier, R., Kim, J., Cocks, N., Michou, E., & Wilkes, G. S. (2019). Prevalence of

drooling, swallowing, and feeding problems in cerebral palsy across the lifespan: A

systematic review and meta-analyses. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology,

61(11), 1249–1258.

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