A Ball State University student project could help improve the lives of people with dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing.

The condition is common in people of all ages.

The goal of the project is to find the best recipes for thickened liquids to help people with dysphagia receive nutrition and not risk inhaling food and drink.

The 16 students are working with community partners Meridian Health Pediatrics of Muncie and St. Vincent of Indianapolis.

“We’re working to learn and implement the new IDDSI (International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative) standards into our research,” senior Lexi Harmacinski of South Bend said. “This new initiative allows speech pathologists from around the world to have a fundamental understanding of viscosities of liquids for dysphagia patients.”

Led by Mary Ewing, a clinical lecturer of speech pathology and audiology, the group uses various stirring methods and recipes while collecting data that they will present at the end of the project. The students are gaining hands-on experience while obtaining knowledge that those outside of the project may not have been exposed to.

Working toward a degree in speech pathology and audiology, accompanied by a minor in gerontology, Harmacinski would like to attend graduate school to become a licensed speech language pathologist and eventually obtain her doctorate.

“As an aspiring speech pathologist, I want to work with the dysphagia pediatric population,” Harmacinski said. “This project allows me to understand a new side to what speech pathologists do and how they serve others.”