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Family Meal Times

  • Eat together as a family at the same time every day.
  • Try and sit at the table, ensure your child has a chair which is comfortable for them.
  • Ensure child's feet are supported and legs/hips are at 90 degrees flexion. Also try placing a weighted lap pad on their lap, for proprioceptive feedback to help them to feel more grounded.
  • Try an air filled cushion to sit on if your child seeks movement and struggles to sit in one place.
  • Try to avoid screens at mealtimes (e.g. TV / computer tablet / phones)
  • Relaxing music can be helpful
  • Avoid food battles at the family meal, focus on the social element
  • Model (show) the behaviour you want to encourage, for example by you trying new foods / using cutlery / eating a variety of foods on your plate / stopping when you are full.
  • Doing something active before mealtimes can help your child settle to sit and eat, for example animal walks, marching, bouncing including some oral sensory stimulation activities prior to an eating activity, such as blowing and sucking games / chewing / face massage (deep touch around the mouth area).
  • Give child a verbal warning, ''we will be eating in 5 minutes'' and a visual timer.
  • Allowing and encouraging children to be involved or present during food preparation enables children to see what they are eating and where it comes from. Talk about the food, colour, smell, shape and how it feels.
  • Place food on the table for family members to serve themselves.
  • Encourage your child to participate in dishing up their own and other family members meals, even if this is a food that they do not eat.
  • Give your child a second plate which sits next to their own meal on the table for the duration of the mealtime. They can dish up food that the rest of the family are eating, but use this as a 'learning plate' and there is no pressure on the child to try anything off this plate but talk about the sensory aspects of the food on the plate.
  • Keep expectations low and typically progress in this area is a slow process with a long term focus. Acknowledge that all family members eat at different speeds and have their own preferences (it can be helpful to discuss this).

Tactile activity:

  • Wet cloth: Encourage child to wash hands with a wet cloth in a bowl of soapy water. Wash around the mouth firmly with the cloth using hand over hand
  • Dry towel: Encourage child to push against a dry outstretched towel with his hands and encourage him to firmly dry around his mouth. This activity gives deep pressure to assist with calming. (Touch desensitisation: regularly change the soap/ water temperature/ type of towel etc. for sensory preparation). Place a towel on the back of the chair and encourage child to wipe his hands if he is feeling uncomfortable with messy hands.

Clean Up Routine:

When eating and drinking have finished, begin a ''Clean Up'' routine (the clean-up routine helps children know what to expect, and clearly defines that there is ''an end'' and when it will be.

Once they know the routine, having the clear ending helps to keep them in their chair (e.g. we stay in our chairs until ''clean up time''): Blowing or kissing 'good bye' or throwing or pushing 1 piece of each food offered at that meal which hasn't been eaten into the bin or a scraps bowl (this gives one final sensory exposure to foods as it is often the first time a child touches or tastes a food).

Wiping the table with sponges gives additional messy tactile input. Washing hands for hygiene and tactile exposure to wet washcloth. Drying hands after pushing on the towel gives proprioceptive input and closure.

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