A Dysphagia Resource for Professionals and People with Difficult Swallowing


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Stay up-to-date in the field of swallowing and swallowing disorders (dysphagia).

Read, comment and ask questions on my latest collection of hot topics.

What is Dysphagia?

Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing. It is when people have trouble moving food, liquid, pills or even saliva out of the mouth, through the throat and esophagus (food tube), and into the stomach.

SwallowStudy.com Blog

Time for IDDSI Updates

Time for IDDSI Updates

7 IDDSI Updates by Karen Sheffler, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-S of SwallowStudy.com Did you know that over well over 40 nations around the world have started to implement IDDSI and formed nationwide work...

Resources and Services We Offer

Central place to guide people with dysphagia, their caregivers, and clinicians through the online world of information and services to enhance person-centered care.

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General and Clinical Resources

Medical speech-language pathologist provides litigation support for plaintiffs and defendants in cases related to adult swallowing and swallowing disorders (dysphagia), aspiration, and choking

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Medical Expert Witness

Expert-opinion on dysphagia products for industry & collaboration with organizations that promote dysphagia awareness and provide support for people with dysphagia and their caregivers.

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Industry & Organization Support

About Karen Sheffler, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-S

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1995 with a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. There, I was influenced by great mentors in the field of swallowing and swallowing disorders (dysphagia) like Jay Rosenbek, JoAnne Robbins, and James Coyle. Once the “dysphagia-bug” bit, I have never looked back.

Initially, I worked in skilled nursing facilities and rehabilitation centers, but since 1999 I have been in acute care. I obtained my Board Certification as a Specialist in Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (BCS-S) in August of 2012. I am committed to life-long-learning. I was awarded my 8th ASHA Award for Continuing Education (ACE Award) in January 2022. I am committed to increasing public awareness in dysphagia. I am a member of the Dysphagia Research Society (DRS), the American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s Special Interest Group 13: Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders, and the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders (NFOSD), and the US IDDSI Reference Group (USIRG). I am co-chair of the Public Relations Committee of the American Board of Swallowing & Swallowing Disorders. I was awarded the Hormel Health Hero Award in 2019.

I started SwallowStudy.com in May 2014 to create a valuable evidence-based dysphagia resource for professionals and people with difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).

Latest News

Caring For Caregivers Discussion with Researchers & Clinicians

Karen Sheffler, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-S & Yvette McCoy, MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-S (on behalf of the American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders) hosted a live discussion for June's Dysphagia Awareness Month. ABSSD's focus this month has been on caring for caregivers. The discussion, recorded on June 18th, 2020, explored research around caregiver burden when a loved one has difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). Listen to a presentation of the research, tips for what clinicians can do to reduce caregiver burden, and a questions and answers session. Thank you Ashwini Namasivayam-MacDonald, PhD, CCC-SLP, SLP(C), Reg. CASLPO; Samantha Shune, PhD, CCC-SLP & Theresa Richard, MA, CCC-SLP, BCS-S for your presentations and contributions! Go to @BCSSwallowing on Facebook for the recording. See More Live Events Hosted by the ABSSD PR Committee: Make sure you also scroll down on @BCSSwallowing to April 24, 2020 to see the Facebook Live Event with Dr Georgia Malandraki, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-S on Telehealth recommendations for dysphagia evaluation and management. See also https://www.purdue.edu/i-eatlab/telehealth-recommendations-for-dysphagia-management-during-covid-19/

American Speech-Language & Hearing Association (ASHA) in Boston, MA

Karen spoke at the 2018 national convention of the American Speech-Language & Hearing Association (ASHA) in Boston, MA. Together with Theresa Richard, MA, CCC-SLP, BCS-S from SwallowYourPride podcast, she spoke about revolutionizing the old concept that the videofluoroscopic swallow study/VFSS (aka, modified barium swallow study) is the only gold standard for dysphagia evaluations. When an SLP is thoroughly evaluating an individual's difficulty with swallowing, it cannot be a dichotomy between just the traditional two exams of the VFSS versus the FEES/Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing. You choose the exam that best fits your clinical questions and hypotheses. Your evaluation process may include one of these exams, both, none, and/or the myriad of other ways to evaluate the swallow with appropriate referrals to our other colleagues in the field of deglutition (i.e., gastroenterologists, otolaryngologists, etc). To reflect this thinking, Karen coined the new term of a "Platinum Standard of Personalized Medicine." This means that you are using a personalized medicine approach for you dysphagia evaluations. Your more precise evaluations will lead to targeting treatment to the individual's needs. Read more on personalized medicine and precision medicine in Karen's blog.

3D Printed Pharmaceuticals Summit

Karen presented at the first ever 3D Printed Pharmaceuticals Summit on November 8, 2018 in Livingston, NJ. She was invited to be on a panel titled: 3D Printing of Pharmaceuticals and Biologics to Address Unmet Medical Needs. The conference was sponsored by the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI.org) and Aprecia - The 3DP Pharmaceutical Company (Aprecia.com). Dysphagia is a significant unmet need in traditional drug manufacturing, as people struggle every day to safely swallow their medications. Please see Karen's blog for more exciting information on how 3D printing will revolutionize what we think of as a finished drug product.

Online Dysphagia Seminars at Summit Education

Karen provided live one-day seminars on dysphagia for Summit Professional Education in New Jersey, Minnesota, and New York in 2018. The course is now available online at Summit Professional Education. Course title: What Every Therapist Needs to Know About Dysphagia: Swallowing Screening, Evaluation, & Treatment to Maximize Safety & Quality of Life. It is at the intermediate level and is a broad-sweep across the field, including: why to be concerned about dysphagia, why and how to advocate for your patients, screening, evaluation, treatment, palliative care/ethical considerations, IDDSI and more. It is designed for SLPs of all experience levels who need to make sure they have the latest evidence-based practices and resources. Karen and Summit encourage OTs and PTs to attend as well for excellent interdisciplinary care. Please notify Summit Education if you have a group interested in a live seminar near you. Want more courses? Check out: Medications: Drug-Induced Dysphagia, Complications, and Potential Treatments

Hormel Health Labs Health Hero Award

Karen was the first recipient of the Hormel Health Labs Health Hero Award! Read the full article: Health Hero Advances Dysphagia Research - Hormel Health Labs

Free IDDSI Webinars

Karen's IDDSI Presentations: 1. BeckyDorner.com, providing the following 2 FREE webinars, brought to you by Hormel Health Labs. Learn more about IDDSI by listening to both of the webinars at: https://www.beckydorner.com/hormelhealthlabs/ Webinar 1: The International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative: The Who, Why, What & How Webinar 2: Teamwork From Regulatory Requirements to Successful Implementation Webinar 2. NEW 15-20 minute IDDSI Training Modules at Hormel Health Labs: Sign up for free inservice training series for your staff and get test kits to test foods and liquids IDDSI-style! https://www.hormelhealthlabs.com/resources/for-healthcare-professionals/in-service-training-series-iddsi-testing/

A True IDDSI Champion

Karen is an IDDSI Champion and has been writing blogs and lecturing about IDDSI to raise awareness since 2014. Karen is pictured here again with Peter Lam, RD, CFE, Co-Chair of IDDSI (Note: Peter's co-chair is Dr Julie Cichero, BA, BSpThy(Hons), PhD, who is a Speech-Language Pathologist in Australia). Karen is displaying a colorful IDDSI informational poster. Go to www.IDDSI.org/Resources/ to download your own IDDSI posters, Powerpoints and more.

Karen attended the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Karen attended the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' (AND) Food and Nutrition Conference Expo (#FNCE17) for the first time. This was a great opportunity for interdisciplinary networking. Karen presented at the Hormel booth to raise awareness about the International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative (IDDSI). Karen (middle) is here with Peter Lam, RD, CFE, Co-Chair of IDDSI (on left) and Tim R. Garry, RD, LD, Director of Marketing for Hormel Health Labs / Hormel Food Sales, LLC
Iddsi launched in the US May 1, 2019. See this launch date advertised at the Dysphagia Research Society meeting in 2019 by Karen Sheffler (of SwallowStudy.com) and Peter Lam (an IDDSI co-chair).

Dysphagia Research Society (DRS) annual conference May 2019

Karen attended the Dysphagia Research Society's (DRS) annual conference March 6-9, 2019. In spring 2020, she completed her 2 year term on the DRS Website, Communications, and Public Relations Committee, which assisted with fundraising and social media promotion for the event. This global conference drew people to San Diego, CA from 24 different countries. Karen had thousands of people following her 85+ live tweets, helping to connect the global dysphagia community of clinicians and researchers. Karen has also been promoting the International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative (www.IDDSI.org) for years, and she is seen here at the IDDSI booth at the 2019 DRS conference with the IDDSI co-chair, Peter Lam. RD, CFE.  

Podcast with Fox Rehab (5/1/19)

FOXCAST SLP: IDDSI – International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative with Karen Sheffler.  

Online Training & Webinars

With her clinical expertise, connections with researchers around the world and witty humor, bring Karen on to enrich your next conference, lecture series or webinar.


I used Ms. Sheffler as an expert on a nursing home choking death case. Her report was one of the best expert reports I have seen in thirty years of practice. The report was very helpful in getting the case resolved at mediation. She was quick and thorough with her work and it was a pleasure working with her.

Defense Attorney

That may seem like an insignificant gestures of outreach on your part have contributed so greatly to my professional growth in the past year already – that no amount of praise would be sufficient! The level of advocacy you offer and the breadth and depth of knowledge you possess on this topic is unfathomable.

Anthony Lewis, M.A., CCC-SLP

Thank you very much for your involvement in this case as an expert. Your report was very helpful in assisting the parties in settling the case.

Defense Attorney

Highly recommend Karen Sheffler’s VFSS courses on SpeechPathology.com! Karen’s presentation style was engaging and the information was in depth yet easy to understand. I gained functional knowledge that will improve my clinical decision-making in dysphagia.

Nina Ziemba, M.S., CCC-SLP

Highly recommend Karen Sheffler’s VFSS courses on SpeechPathology.com! Karen’s presentation style was engaging and the information was in depth yet easy to understand. I gained functional knowledge that will improve my clinical decision-making in dysphagia.

Nina Ziemba, M.S., CCC-SLP

Karen’s ability to reach and educate professionals and the public from her review of current literature and conference proceedings helps us all!


Kaen has a wonderful way of synthesizing science for clinical audiences. Her ability to communicate clearly and apply scientific results to real challenges in the clinical world is extremely important and goes a long way to filling the knowledge translation gap that scientists face.

Dr Catriona M. Steele, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, BCS-S, S-LP(C), Reg. CASLPO, ASHA Fellow

Karen Sheffler is an inspiring clinician and colleague. As an expert in the area of swallowing disorders (dysphagia), she has contributed greatly to our profession. She has written informative evidence-based articles, summarizing and translating the latest research in a simple and easily comprehensible format for clinicians and researchers alike.

Rinki Varindani Desai, MS, CCC-SLP

Thank you for your presentation. Your extensive knowledge and sense of humor helped to advance the knowledge base of our attendees. It was an asset to the program.

A hospital-based Geriatrics Program Committee

I would like to personally thank you for taking the time to review this matter for us and for our client. Your willingness to devote your time to the review of this matter helped us to achieve an excellent resolution.

Defense Attorney

Karen Sheffler was a great speaker, educating our audience of Dietary Managers and Registered Dietitians on IDDSI. She is so easy to work with, and she provided many great additional online resources for the audience to get more information.

Mary Sell, MPA, RDN, LD, Menu Services Manager, Martin Bros. Dist. Co., Inc.