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Importance of Survival Skills

Mealtime Skills 1 of 5

Mealtime Skills 1 of 5


Hi, I’m Sue Shannon, and I’m
an occupational therapist at Perkins School for the Blind, and our webcast today is
focusing on mealtime skills. We chose to do a webcast
including mealtime skills because it’s… they’re skills
that we use so frequently– everybody eats, many people
eat three times a day– and there’s many opportunities
at home, at school, in the community for mealtimes to take place and
for students to be learning. Mealtime skills are
also an important part of the expanded core curriculum. The expanded core curriculum
is the information or skills that are required for students who are blind
or visually impaired so that they can be successful, in addition to the typical
education curriculum. These skills can be things
like daily living skills– taking care of themselves,
taking care of their homes, learning to get out and about
in the community, in addition to things
like just the basics of taking care of yourself, washing your hands
and eating meals. Blind children don’t have
the benefit of the incidental learning
that sighted children have. When they’re sitting around
at the dinner table, sighted kids can watch their
parents or their friends and see how they’re eating
and how they’re using utensils. And we see little kids imitate
their parents by trying to pick up and use
utensils in a skilled way, and this is very important
for their learning. Children who are blind don’t
have this opportunity to just casually observe
and learn, so that these opportunities need
to be presented to them in a very systematic
and structured way so the students have the
opportunity to practice these special techniques so that they can be
as successful as their sighted peers. This webcast also offers
a great opportunity for us to use visual
demonstration for these skills. Sometimes it’s hard for us
to convey this information written in book form
or in e-mails or phone calls to other schools or families, and we have this great
opportunity to show a video demonstration
of the skills so that they can hopefully
make more sense. We are going to demonstrate
a few different skill areas: pouring, serving, using utensils
and cutting. And we’re going to show a few
different techniques for each of those skills and then a few adaptations
for students who are on different levels of learning. I just want to emphasize
that there is no one right way to cut foods or to pour a drink for someone who is blind
or visually impaired. It’s just really whatever works
for the student. I think that the students
often come to us with their own little techniques
that they’ve made up that’s worked for them,
and we like to go with that and we can learn from them. This webcast is part
of a series on daily and independent
living skills and also is paired with a
publication on the same topic. Mealtimes are a very important
time for all of us. We eat so many times a day. And mealtimes are often
paired with social experiences. We have meals with
our friends in school or go out to restaurants,
out for dinner. There’s a lot of family holidays
that are focused around food. Things like even weddings
and other parties a lot of times are focused
around mealtimes. And so having good social
skills, good mealtime skills are important for that
social experience. Also, when kids are in school, lunchtime is a very,
very important time for that social interaction, and it’s really easy
to be isolated if you’re perceived as a person that doesn’t have
good mealtime skills. So really, it’s really doing
a favor to the students to help them work
on those skills. There are many, many skill areas
involved at mealtimes, and today we’re just going
to focus on pouring, serving, utensil use
and cutting, but there’s also other skills,
as I mentioned– social skills, having
conversations, good manners at meals and even spatial skills
or math. There’s just lots and lots
of opportunities for learning. I think it’s important
when you’re teaching or even when you’re not
teaching children– when you’re at a meal with a
child with a visual impairment– it’s important that they’re
involved and have some opportunity
for the observation, the exposure to these skills, and having the chance to observe
these adaptive techniques, even if you’re not actively
teaching at the time, is important for the students
to gain some exposure. So if, for example, you’re
pouring a drink, the way a sighted person
would pour a drink is very different than the way
a visually impaired person would pour a drink. So demonstrating
the adaptive technique that the child may use
later in life would be beneficial for them. It’s important, too, to set up
the environment so it’s helpful
for learning. Organization is very important,
especially for children who are totally blind. To be able to predict, to have
a predictable environment, one that they can know
what to expect and know where to find things can make mealtimes go
much smoother. So if you always have the fork
on the left and your spoon and knife
on the right, to try to keep
the setup that way so the students know
where to find the utensils when they’re struggling
to learn. Also, just having
a clear pathway maybe from the table
to the kitchen would be… sort of invite
the student to go back and forth
from the kitchen and maybe be more involved
in the mealtimes or help to clear
the table after dinner. Even simple things like pushing in the chairs
after the meal, too, can help with the safety
around mealtimes. If you’re walking, taking
your dirty plate and a knife to the kitchen, it would be good
not to have chairs around to trip over. And just lastly, the involvement again
is very important, I think, for the children who are blind, so that they don’t just
develop the sense that when they get placed
at a table at a meal, that food doesn’t just arrive
in front of them and for their benefit,
just to eat and then the dirty things
disappear and they have no idea
of where it goes. So it’s important that
even if you’re just explaining to the student, your child,
as you go along through making dinner or making lunch
in a group at school to be able to explain
to the student what’s going on and to have them just be
participating, even at the littlest level,
to keep them involved.

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