The most popular post I have ever written for this blog detailed effective strategies for helping your child learn to swallow pills.

I'm certain you've already read it.

So how can it possibly be that your child still has difficulty swallowing pills?

Don't despair! So says an article published online today in Pediatrics. In it, authors reviewed already published studies in which children were trained to swallow pills. No matter what the strategy used, the vast majority of children were successfully swallowing pills within a short period of time.

Strategies that were effective included:

Though I have nothing against them, I haven't used the pill cup or the spray in my own therapy sessions with children for two reasons. The first is that pills sometimes need to be taken on the fly and the special cup or spray might not be available. For instance, a child gets sick while traveling. Then what do you do?

The second is that the vast majority of children can learn to swallow pills if given clear instructions and low pressure opportunities to practice. Indeed, studies have shown 70-90 percent of children identified as having difficulty swallowing pills will learn to do it quickly with simple instructions and no special equipment.  Some good strategies to try can be found here.  A more detailed at-home training program can be found here.

Some other tips:

  • Don't wait until your child is sick to hand him his first pill.  Both you and your child will be stressed and that can only add to the misery.
  • Instead, set aside special time to train your child to swallow pills. This should be when parent and child are already relaxed, feeling good about each other, and there is all the time in the world. Start with very small candy and work up to larger sizes as your child gains confidence.
  • Start the training early in your child's life.  Studies have documented that children as young as 2 can learn to successfully swallow pills. And another study found that, for children who had difficulty swallowing pills, the 5-6 year olds were easier to train than were older children.
  • Please. Never let your child hear you say that she "can't" swallow pills.  That is demoralizing and untrue. She can swallow pills – she just needs proper instruction and practice.
  • Please. Never let your child hear you complain that you must "bribe" him to swallow pills. That's demoralizing and shaming.
  • If your child is having difficulty, a reward for successfully swallowing a pill is fine. Rewards are not bribes!  Rewards are motivating! A reward is appropriate for a skill mastered and a job well done.
  • Stay calm and never give up. If today isn't the day your child is successful, tomorrow might be. Just about any child can learn to swallow pills.

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