Oral-motor dysfunction in children who fail to thrive: organic or non-organic?


*Correspondence to first author at Institute of Child Health, University of London, 30 Guilford St, London WC1N 1EH, UK.


Forty-seven children with non-organic failure to thrive (NOFT) were identified from a whole-population survey of children's growth and development. A significant proportion (N=17) of these 47 children were found to have oral-motor dysfunction (OMD) identified using a previously validated assessment tool. NOFT children with OMD and those with normal oral-motor function (N=30) were compared in order to ascertain whether there were any neurodevelopmental differences which might explain this finding. We hypothesized that children with OMD might have a subtle neurodevelopmental disorder. Few psychosocial variables discriminated the two groups. However, cognitive stimulation within the home and cognitive-growth fostering during mealtimes was much poorer for children with OMD. Some evidence has suggested that NOFT children with OMD may be‘biologically’more vulnerable from birth. We suggest that the continued use of the term‘non-organic’to describe failure to thrive in such children is questionable and requires redefining.