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Supporting children and students with oral eating and drinking care needs

This page outlines how education staff, care services, parents, guardians, and health professionals work together to manage a child or student with oral eating and drinking care needs in education and care settings.

About oral eating and drinking difficulties

Children and young people with oral eating and drinking difficulties can experience oral sensitivities or fixation, pica, swallowing disorders, feeding, food phobia and choking.

Health support plans and agreements

If the child or student has oral and drinking care needs, the education or care service should refer to health support planning for children and students in education and care settings to ensure that the appropriate plans and agreements are in place. This is in addition to the oral and drinking care-specific plans and agreements listed on this page. 

Care plans 

Parent or caregivers should complete an oral eating and drinking care plan (DOC 254KB) with their child’s health professional, when they require their food or fluid consistency to be modified or need to be fed.

Education and care staff who regularly engage with the child or student will need to know what is in the plan.

The oral eating and drinking observation log (DOC 66KB) can be used for general communication between education and care staff and parents or guardians, and to assist health professionals to plan health and behaviour support.

If the child or young person requires support with transfer and positioning, a transfer and positioning care plan (DOC 432KB) should be completed by a health professional, in consultation with parents or legal guardians. 

Emergency care and first aid plan

An individual first aid plan (DOC 167KB) is completed by the health professional where the first aid response is not the standard first aid response for that health condition.

Education and care staff must provide first aid measures following any relevant care plan, first aid plan or health support agreement. 

Where this does not specify an individualised first aid response standard first aid should be followed.

The gastrostomy care instruction (PDF 327KB) and nasogastric care instruction (PDF 291KB) can also be used by education and care staff to provide first aid strategies for children and young people with a gastrostomy device or nasogastric tube. 

Emergency first aid

If the child or student becomes blue, limp or unconscious, follow DRSABCD and call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

Signs and symptoms of choking

  • clutching the throat 
  • coughing, wheezing, gagging 
  • difficulty in breathing, speaking or swallowing 
  • making a whistling or ‘crowing’ noise, or no sound at all 
  • blue lips, face, earlobes, fingernails 
  • loss of consciousness.

Choking first aid for adult or child over 1 year

  1. Encourage the patient to relax. Ask the patient to cough to remove the object. 
  2. If coughing does not remove the blockage, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.
  3. Bend the patient well forward and give up to 5 sharp blows on the back between the shoulder blades with the heel of one hand.
  4. Check if the blockage has been removed after each blow.
  5. If the blockage has not cleared after 5 back blows, give up to 5 chest thrusts. 
  6. Give chest thrusts by placing one hand in the middle of the patient’s back for support and the heel of the other on the lower half of the sternum. Thrusts should be slower and sharper than CPR compressions. 
  7. Check if the blockage has been removed after each thrust. 
  8. If the blockage has not cleared after 5 thrusts, continue alternating 5 back blows with 5 chest thrusts until medical aid arrives. 
  9. If the patient becomes blue, limp or unconscious, follow DRSABCD call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

Choking first aid for infant under 1 year

  1. Dial triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. Stay on the phone.
  2. Place the infant with their head downwards on your forearm, supporting the head and shoulders on your hand. 
  3. Hold the infant’s mouth open with your fingers. 
  4. Give up to 5 sharp blows to the back between the shoulders with the heel of one hand, checking if the blockage has been removed after each blow. 
  5. If the blockage has come loose or been removed, turn the infant into the recovery position and remove any object that may have come loose with your little finger. 
  6. If the blockage has not been removed after 5 back blows, place the infant on their back on a firm surface. 
  7. Place 2 fingers on the lower half of the sternum and give up to 5 chest thrusts, checking if the blockage has been removed after each thrust. Support the infant’s head with the other hand. 
  8. If the blockage has not been removed after 5 thrusts, continue alternating 5 back blows with 5 chest thrusts until medical aid arrives. 
  9. If the infant becomes unconscious, start CPR

Emergency care for pulmonary aspiration

Pulmonary aspiration is a condition in which food, liquids, saliva or vomit is breathed into the airways. 

It is a medical emergency that can result in death from asphyxiation within minutes. Call an ambulance (000) for urgent medical attention. 

Emergency care for poisoning 

Some children and young people with oral sensitivities may consume non-food items.  

If a harmful substance has been consumed dial (000) and ask for an ambulance. 

For general advice phone the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26. 

Training for education and care staff 

Oral eating support workshop  

Novita’s Oral Eating and Drinking Support (OEDS) Workshop provides information on safe practices for children and young people requiring assistance and support with oral eating and drinking. This workshop is recommended for:

  • child care and out of school hours care (OSHC) educators
  • preschool teachers and support staff
  • primary teachers and support staff
  • community service workers.

Novita also provides training and consultancy to education and care staff who provide assistance to children and young people with eating and drinking difficulties. 

For workshop and consultancy enquiries phone 1300 668 482 or email training [at] novita.org.au

Online feeding and swallowing training

Education and care staff should undertake the Queensland Health Paediatric Feeding and Swallowing online training where they have a child or young person in their care that needs support for oral eating and drinking. 

How parents and caregivers can help

Parents or guardians must:

  • notify the school, preschool or care service if their child has oral and eating needs
  • complete health care plans and agreements with their health care professionals and provide them to the school, preschool or care service
  • provide required medication to the school, preschool or care service.
  • provide specialised food, thickeners or equipment for oral eating and drinking management. 

How health professionals can help

Health professionals support schools, preschools, care services and families by helping to develop the care plan and any supporting medication and care agreements.

Contact

Disability and Complex Needs Team

Phone: 8226 0515
Email: education.health [at] sa.gov.au