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Table manners for our kids

Learning to have food independently by following table manners is very important for our kids.  In my son's case the proper meal impacts his behaviour as well.

Though it is important to learn, it was not easy for him. It's not just about the routine, since he had sensory issues as well, he found it difficult most of the time(Click on the link http://www.autism.org.uk/about/behaviour/sensory-world.aspx to have a understanding about sensory issues).

So breaking the the task of sitting and having food into smaller tasks helped me and my son.

Here is a schedule I created for his use during all his meal times.

When I first tried to introduce this routine, I got two challenges ahead of me-1. To habituate these tasks into a routine 2. To overcome the sensory issues that prevented him from accepting some tasks.

The routines like wash hands, rinse mouth etc came by following the tasks daily.

But I struggled a lot to make him to sit. As a hyperactive child, he prefers to move around continuously. So to make him understand about sitting and having food, we parents sit with him with his favourite snacks in the evening. Otherwise I didn't expect him sit and follow the routine.

Once he was comfortable and understood the procedure, I extended the discipline in the breakfast also. And now he is independent.  But even now one of us sits with him during the meal time and encourage him to have by himself, if he gets distracted for some reason like toys, food not to his liking etc.

Next comes the sensory issues which involves hand and mouth for my son.

First I focussed on to desensitise his sensitivity in the mouth. For this OT(Occupational Therapy) helped us a lot. With the help of small massages on his cheeks and upper/lower jaws, the sensitivity was slowly gone.

I was able to visibly see the difference, that he slowly added fruits and vegetables into his diet.
Along side the cooperation for brushing had also increased(click through the link to understand about our BRUSHING experience  http://autism-contacts-in-india.blogspot.in/2014/04/brushing.html?m=1).

Though he started to add healthy items into his diet, he was initially hesitant and choosy about some food items. For example he had papaya if I gave him but not by himself. And also he had idly or chapati sort items by hands but not Rice with gravy.

Later I understood that it was the texture of the food which stopped him to take some foods by himself. The sensitivity in the hand made him to avoid certain food items. For example Curd, gravy, chutney etc. He likes to have flavoured yogurt and sauce but he takes with spoon. Accidentally if he touched these kind of items by hand immediately he cleaned his hands in the shirt.

I am still working on this issue. If I feel he is not comfortable with the texture, I give him spoon/Fork.  Also we started to keep a tissue paper by his side.  He learnt to use tissue paper to clean his hands if he touches sticky items accidentally instead of wiping it in the shirt.

Here's how I prepared and use the schedule.
This is the base sheet which has two A4 sheets. I designed the layout using word document.

The above pictures were taken print out in a A4 sheet, laminated and then cut to card size.

The base sheet has Velcros to stick on them and the cards also have Velcro stuck in both sides.

Before each meal I keep this schedule in the dining table.

Once he finishes a task he himself flips it back like in the picture below.

Now a days our meal times are easy and peaceful without much fuss.