What if you need a speech pathologist for your dysphagia support needs?
A qualified speech pathologist must provide some dysphagia supports.
You may be able to get short-term help from a speech pathologist through Medicare. We may fund a qualified speech pathologist if you need:
- a mealtime management plan to be prepared or reassessed for you
- swallowing therapy intervention
- a speech pathologist to train the people who support you, such as a support worker, family member or carer.
We can only fund these supports if they relate to the things you can and can’t do because of your disability.
The speech pathologist can train the people who support you in each place you normally attend.
For example, your home, work, day program or school.
Learn more in What if you need someone to help you eat or drink?
Because of your disability, you may need a mealtime management plan to help manage your dysphagia. This may be called an oral eating and drinking care plan where you live.
A mealtime management plan describes how you can safely eat and drink during mealtimes.
This may include recommendations on how to sit and hold cutlery to improve how you eat. Or you may need extra support to make sure food is the right texture to reduce the risk of aspiration or choking.
Aspiration happens when you breathe objects into your airway, such as food or saliva.
A speech pathologist creates a mealtime management plan for you. They should assess you in the places where you usually eat.
For example, your home, school, daycare, work, a family member or carer’s house or at a day program.
Your speech pathologist should recommend how long it will take to complete these assessments, create the plan and write any reports you need.
We will use this information to work out how much funding to include in your plan for the creation of a mealtime management plan.
Your mealtime management plan will need to be regularly reviewed and updated if your dysphagia support needs change. This will depend on how much your dysphagia affects you and if it is likely to get better or worse over time.
Your mealtime management plan will say how often it needs to be updated. For each review of your mealtime management plan, we can fund a speech pathologist to reassess and update your plan.
Because of your disability, you may be at risk of not getting the nutrition you need. In this case, you may also need a dietitian to contribute to your mealtime management plan. A dietitian can recommend the foods you need to keep you healthy.
If your speech pathologist recommends a dietitian, we may be able to include funding for a dietitian to assess you. We may also include funding for them to write any plans and reports you need.
Learn more about dietitian supports in Our Guideline on Nutrition supports including meal preparation.
A speech pathologist may recommend swallowing therapy to help you keep up or improve your swallowing function. Swallowing therapy aims to help you chew food, move food to the back of the throat, and strengthen the swallowing muscles.
Your mealtime management plan should include your swallowing therapy.
This will include:
- the specific swallowing strategies or therapy techniques you need to use during mealtimes
- how often you need to do the swallowing strategies or therapy techniques
- whether you need a support worker or someone else to help you with the swallowing therapies.
Most people will be able to manage their dysphagia with a mealtime management plan. A speech pathologist will only recommend additional swallowing therapy for you if you need extra help.
You may need a swallowing therapy program when you’re gradually changing from home enteral nutrition feeding to oral feeding. This is called a tube weaning program.
The health system provides most tube weaning program supports.
To learn more about home enteral nutrition, go to What if you need thickener products?