Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education

Committee Chair(s)

Stephanie Knollhoff


Stephanie Knollhoff


Sandra Gillam


Trent Landon


Purpose: Pediatric swallowing disorders is increasing in prevalence as medical advancements are made. This increase raises the need for more speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to be involved in the assessment and intervention of pediatric swallowing. However, discrepancies exist in the amount and level of education being provided during academic coursework in the area of pediatric swallowing.

Method 1: The investigation had a two-tier approach. Part one included a survey specifically targeting SLPs who graduated within the most recent accreditation standards (2014 to present) and masters level students in their second year of graduate school (n=100). Part two explored academic courses offered by each (n=X) accredited American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) graduate speech-language pathology program. Courses were categorized utilizing the nine major ASHA competency areas. Pediatric language and pediatric swallowing courses were pulled out and analyzed further.

Results: Only 6.6% of ASHA graduate programs currently require a pediatric feeding and swallowing course. On average, participants of the clinical experience survey felt slightly well prepared to assess and treat pediatric swallowing whereas they felt very well prepared to assess and treat pediatric language. This difference was significant at the level p < .05. The majority of respondents reported 0 hours of clinical experience in pediatric swallowing, and more hours of clinical experience was directly related to higher levels of perceived preparation to work in the area of pediatric swallowing disorders.

Conclusion: SLPs are uniquely qualified to provide pediatric feeding and swallowing therapy. The lack of education and clinical experience being provided within the graduate programs is creating a deficit in the high need for pediatric swallowing therapists and the low availability of them within the field. There are significant differences between the total number of pediatric language courses when compared to pediatric swallowing courses and that has the potential to impact the SLPs perceived level of preparation in the assessment and intervention of pediatric swallowing disorders. This points to the need for additional education and clinical experience for Master’s level graduate students in the area of pediatric swallowing.