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Raising Awareness of Swallowing Disorders, One Bite at a Time

Swallowing disorders are estimated to impact 15 million American adults and countless numbers of children. That’s nearly one out of 20 people. For a disorder that is so prevalent, there is a lack of awareness. One of the primary goals of the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders is to raise awareness of dysphagia (i.e., swallowing disorders). Over the past two years, the NFOSD has initiated a University Outreach Program to educate students in health care programs to learn more about the prevalence and impact that dysphagia has on patients.

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To help raise awareness of dysphagia, the University of Wisconsin-Madison National Student Speech-Language and Hearing Association (NSSHLA) hosted an event titled “Dining for Dysphagia Awareness” in December, 2014. Participants in this event included speech-language pathology students, professors, clinicians, and community members. Each participant was invited to prepare a dish that met the American Dietetic Association’s definition of “Pureed” or “Dysphagia Diced” diet. NSSHLA provided honey-thick liquids for all in attendance.

It’s important to know that not all with swallowing disorders require thickened liquids or modified diets. Swallowing disorders can vary significantly, from requiring changes that are as minor as removing straws from drinks to relying on a feeding a tube for all nutrition. This event allowed participants to learn what it is like for only some people with dysphagia, but it certainly widened the perspective of those learning about swallowing disorders. If you are someone with dysphagia, it is important to work closely with your health care team to determine an appropriate diet and any necessary modifications.

The University of Wisconsin NSSHLA group recorded a short video of this event, and is now challenging other university NSSHLA groups to host similar events to raise awareness of swallowing disorders. Click here to watch the challenge videos, which have an introduction by Dr. Michelle Ciucci, who is an NFOSD board member and assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

University NSSHLA Chapters challenged to host a “Dining for Dysphagia Awareness” event: University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Northwestern University, and Purdue University