Oral Motor Dysfunction (OMD) that is impaired muscular function that affects swallowing, chewing, speaking, or facial posture makes feeding extremely difficult for children suffering from cerebral palsy. These children may also have associative gastrointestinal complications that affects their eating habits, preferences and nutrition absorbing capacity. Further because of communication difficulties many of them are unable to request food and drink. Thus Children with cerebral palsy are at the constant risk of malnutrition or being undernourished.30 to 80 percent of children suffering from Cerebral palsy feed with difficulty. And approximately 35 to 40 % suffer Malnutrition. As a result of not getting adequate nutrition 48 percent of them suffer from growth retardation.
Nutritional health of a Cerebral Palsy child plays a very important role in improvement of his /her physical condition. Nutritional rehabilitation has great potential to help improve weight, muscle mass, decreased irritability, and circulation in individuals with cerebral palsy.
It’s important to consultant a nutritionist so that they can assess your child’s nutrition needs, food intake and suggest /recommend diet plans including calorie intake for your child, eating methods etc. Planning for the meals is equally important. Usually Children need to take three meals and two snacks a day. Food must include items which do not require much chewing such as items of liquid or semisolid consistency such that the food can be eaten with the least frustration or distress. Meals are at times stressful and time consuming for the cerebral palsy children and those caring for them. Feeding might include repeated spillage of food, bouts of cough, choking, and regurgitation. Thus they need to be patiently fed.
Along with Macro-nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins Micro-nutrients such as vitamins & minerals also should be taken care off.Meals & snacks may include fruits like berries, oranges, Sweet limes, melons etc. and Vegetables like carrots, spinach , cauliflower etc. Meat and Dairy products – Chicken, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, butter should also be the part of meals along with cereals & pulses. Avoiding processed foods will be beneficial as they do not have much a nutritional value.
A regular periodic assessment of nutritional health and status of the cerebral palsy child is very essential and cannot be neglected.