My daughter currently eats only a handful of foods, refusing all others. She has not used a utensil on her own, so we feed her, except for finger foods. To supplement her diet she drinks apple/vegetable juice and Pediasure. We hope to finally get to the bottom of her refusal to eat at the Feeding and Swallowing Center at the children's hospital (we're on the 2-3 month waiting list).
Is her refusal to eat a learned behavior? Is it due to her laryngomalacia and tracheomalacia (floppy airways not uncommon to young children with Down syndrome who often have low muscle tone throughout their bodies) and a history of choking on the smallest bites which perhaps became a fear? Is it sensory (taste and/or texture)? She detests getting her hands messy, including food, and won't eat a cracker or chip if it's broken and as such feels different in her mouth.
I can't remember why I began researching adaptive utensils. None of our team members had suggested this. In fact, it may have been that I saw an ad on the sidebar of fb which showed Sassy brand spoons and forks with a left bend for right handed toddlers. After searching unsuccessfully for a left handed version (Sophie is a south paw), I gave up and called Sassy directly. The told me that they did not make a version for left handed children as there wasn't a market for it, unless they made them for specialty stores, which they had no plans to do. They reminded me of a now discontinued spoon that had a curved handle which curved neither left or right, but upwards. We have one and Sophie isn't interested.
Feeling like I was onto something and undeterred, I kept looking until I found boon benders!
These utensils can be bent left or right, to varying degrees! Yippee! While looking at them I found this:
This bowl has a strong suction cup on the bottom to prevent it from being chucked across the room, not that my Princess has EVER done that. It has the extra rubbery piece to catch the drips as a youngster learns to self feed. They came in a variety of colors, but we chose kiwi/grape.
If you have a child(ren) who eat most, or even some of the food given to them and pick up the skill of using utensils without much trouble, you may not be aware of all that goes into self feeding. Aside from being willing to eat the offered food, using a utensil independently requires control of not just the arm and elbow, but wrist coordination as well. It requires an understanding of cause and effect. You have to keep the utensil level so as not to lose the food on the way up. Then you have to place it far enough (but not too far) in the mouth (straight), remember and have the patience to close your lips and have your tongue in the proper position, pull the utensil out using your lips to do some of the work, chew and swallow. (Our OT and ST friends may have other steps that I'm missing).
I was thrilled today when the latest doo-dads arrived. I served up Sophie's favorite strawberry-apple sauce, secured the bowl to the counter top, put on a cartoon in the background, and gave her the spoon.
She ate. Willingly. Happily. Independently. Proudly.
I cheered. We ALL cheered as I called the whole family into the kitchen for a pep rally. I had tears in my eyes and squeezed Mark's arm while jumping up and down and possibly alarming the neighbors. She smiled. She exclaimed, "I did it!" over and over. She ate with a spoon, by herself.
We will need to work on her grip and other components mentioned above, but not tonight. Tonight she enjoyed the freedom of being a big girl who can feed herself with a spoon without assistance. To my big, beautiful, smart girl, we're so happy for you!