Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


Occupational therapists play a vital role in the care of individuals with feeding, eating, and swallowing (FES) disorders across the lifespan. Although there are certain standards created by the Accreditation Council of Occupational Therapy (ACOTE) for understanding of assessment and management practices specific to FES, there are inconsistencies in how occupational therapy programs in the United States address FES disorders within their curriculum. This cross-sectional exploratory survey study received responses from 54 Master of Occupational Therapy (MSOT) programs and 63 entry-level Occupational Therapy Doctoral (OTD) programs. Survey questions included quantitative and qualitative information on general information regarding FES content taught within the program. Survey results indicated only 4.8% of programs had a course dedicated to FES disorders and an average of 6.37 hours were dedicated to FES across the lifespan. Chi-squared tests for independence demonstrated a significant difference between pediatric educational hours over adult occupational therapy educational hours in FES (p<0.001). There was no significant difference however between the number of hours dedicated to FES between MSOT and OTD programs (p= 0.146). The results question the adequacy of educational hours dedicated to FES management across the lifespan. In order for occupational therapy practitioners to bring their inherent value in contributing holistically to assessment and management of FES disorders, therapists must have knowledge and confidence in their skills. Ensuring that entry-level occupational therapists are adequately prepared to evaluate and treat individuals with FES disorders is imperative for the profession to remain liable and competent in the field of FES. While occupational therapy education programs are meeting the ACOTE dysphagia standard, the question remains if the number of hours programs are dedicating is enough to ensure entry level competency, as well as enough to compete with speech and language pathologists.


Thilini Abeywickrema, OTD received her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy from Boston University and received her Bachelor of Science from Northeastern University. She is interested in feeding and swallowing disorders and has experience in pediatric care.

Kate Barlow, OTD, MS, OTR/L is an associate professor at American International College and the Founder of OT ECHO, an international mentorship program. She was described as an “internationally renowned feeding expert” by Feeding Matters in 2021. She has presented her research on pediatric feeding for Feeding Matters, WFOT, AOTA and ASHA.

Janelle Hatlevig, OTR/L, BCPR is board certified in Physical Rehabilitation and has been an occupational therapist for 20 years. She is a supervisor for acute care therapy practice at Mayo Clinic and the coordinator for the dysphagia fellowship program; accredited through AOTA. She has spoken regionally and nationally, contributing to several articles on dysphagia.

Cuyler Romeo, MOT, OTR/L, SCFES is speciality certified in Feeding, Eating and Swallowing (SCFES) and serves as Feeding Matters’ Director of Strategic Initiatives while practicing as a NICU Feeding Specialist at Banner University Medical Center-Tucson. Her professional work focuses on program development, system change initiatives for pediatric feeding disorder and research and educational advancements.

Tatiana Pontes, PhD, OT, OTR is the Regional Research Manager at the Northern Center for Clinical Research. She has more than 18 years of teaching experience in both entry-level and post-professional programs, is an experienced researcher, and has published and presented her work internationally.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declaration of interest.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.