Making a meal of it

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by Laura Hillsdon
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“The family that eats together stays together” goes the old saying, but in this TV-dinner era, do families still place as much importance on gathering around the table? 

It would appear so. Every day at Firefly, we hear of new and inventive ways families are using their GoTo Seats. They’re being popped into remote control cars, shopping trolleys, park swings and sometimes even aeroplane seats!

However, we keep being told that the best thing about the GoTo is how it brings the family together at meal times, whether it’s at home, visiting family and friends, or in restaurants. The child is able to sit at the table like everyone else and be at the heart of the occasion.

So we’ve decided to take a look at this age-old tradition and why it’s such an integral part of life for a special needs family.

Learning

Conversations over the dinner table allow family members to talk about their day and have discussions.

Eating at a home or restaurant table can give kids the chance to pick up and practise valuable social skills, including table manners and meal etiquette. Research even shows that children who regularly sit down to a family meal tend to do better in school.

Bonding

Over time, the shared experience of having meals together forges a strong sense of belonging and inclusion.

It’s also useful for monitoring mood and behaviour. A regular sit-down meal time at home can help parents to spot changes in demeanour - in both special needs and typical needs children.

Structure

Well-defined daily routines are beneficial for any child. Establishing a time to sit at the table for a meal can help make the day more predictable and easier to deal with, for the child with additional needs, and for the family as whole.

Some therapists even believe daily routines can be used as a tool for early intervention. For example, at the table, a child can be given a small piece of food and asked if he/she would like more – to encourage them to communicate “yes”. Embedding intervention in an activity that takes place regularly helps to reinforce it.

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