Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Adaptive Eating Utensils for Kids

I am enjoying that my 19 month old son likes to feed himself applesauce with a spoon. If I try to feed it to him, he clamps his mouth shut and turns his head. I love that! He may be messy, but oh well! How else can he learn if he doesn't practice? Toddlers should want to use a spoon on their own! But some toddlers aren't physically able, even if they are emotionally and cognitively ready to not be fed by an adult anymore. This is where adaptive utensils come into play!

The particular adapted spoon, fork, or spork that is needed depends upon the child's strength of upper body muscles, coordination, muscle tone, and range of motion. Some of the adapted utensils may have a: built-up (larger round) handle- foam or plastic, angled metal portion, curved handle, swivel metal, or weighted handle. So why are some of these utensils needed?

A built up handle is for someone with limited range of motion, abnormal muscle tone, or strength.

A weighted handle is for someone with ataxia or tremors as well as for someone with decreased sensation- the added weight lets them feel the utensil better.

Curved handles and angled or swivel metal utensils may be for someone with limited forearm, wrist, or finger active range of motion or limited control of muscles such as with tremors or spasticity.

Common diagnoses that use adaptive utensils include: Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, Muscular Dystrophy, Arthrogyposis, Brachial Plexus Injury, and many others.

Catalogs for therapy equipment such as www.sammonspreston.com sell numerous adaptive eating utensils. But I have found that sometimes you can use your own utensils and adapt them for a lower cost, depending upon the child's need. For example, if you just need a fatter handle, then try using rubber/plastic bicycle handle bars that can be found 2 for $1.00 at dollar stores; slip the spoon in the slot that would go around the bicycle handles. I've also used foam craft supplies along with electrical tape to creat a built-up handle; just wrap and tape. One that is real easy to use is Crayola (R) Model Magic (R) and shape exactly where you need the fingers to get support, and within a day the products dries. Only problem with this idea is it shouldn't get that wet or it can alter its shape. So you may not want a child who excessively sweats, drools alot, or is super messy to use this product.

I've learned as an occupational therapist to be creative with adapting feeding supplies and "Think outside of the box". Sometimes there just isn't a product already out on the market that can help a particular child. And sometimes, it's the parents who "Think outside of the box" and rig something up that works perfectly!

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