Background To understand the nature of straw drinking in relation to a group of children with specific eating and drinking difficulties, it is first necessary to ascertain the range of normal function. Straw drinking is often recommended as a method that can support children with eating and drinking difficulties.
Method This study looked at straw drinking performance in a normal population of 125 children aged between 6 and 11 years of age. Three types of straws were used: a valved Pat Saunders straw, a wide bore straw and a narrow bore straw. Children drank 40 mL of water for each straw tested.
Results Children increased their speed of intake significantly for all straw types as they matured. Drinking speed was quickest for the wide bore straw followed by the narrow bore and slowest for the valved Pat Saunders straw. This was supported by qualitative feedback from the children with most finding the wide bore straw the easiest one to use and the valved Pat Saunders straw the hardest. There were significant differences in speed of flow between the valved Pat Saunders straw and wide bore straw, between the valved Pat Saunders straw and the narrow bore straw and between the wide bore straw and the narrow bore straw. There were no significant differences between straw flow or straw type and gender.
Conclusions This normative data for straw drinking in a paediatric population can be used to develop baseline measures for clinical assessment.