Anyway this week, I wanted to share something we have been exploring this school year at snack time. To support communication and socially appropriate eating skills, we always offer two snack choices. It allows the students to practice requesting food and saying "no, thank you", as well as allowing them to pass serving dishes.
This year two of my students have heightened sensory systems that really impact their choices at snack time. They are both very selective and will only eat certain foods. Therefore, we always offer at least one food that we know they will eat. The philosophy being that we don’t want them to go hungry or miss out on the social aspect of snack time. It has been working well with one exception..it does not support them in experiencing new foods.
After some brainstorming with our occupational therapist, we decided it was important for them to experience new foods on a level that they could handle. At the beginning of the year, they were hesitant to even pass the serving dishes that had the foods they didn’t like to their peers. However, both students have learned to cope with that skill so we then added another element: a "no, thank you" plate to each of the snack tables.
As the children passed food around the table if they didn't want a specific snack item, they still needed to use the serving spoon or tongs for a small portion and place it on the "no, thank you" plate. Yes, it does waste a little food. But it also provides an opportunity for students to experience new foods with future hopes of them trying a new item or two. Prior to the the visual "no thank you" plate, if I asked the students to take an item they didn't like they would refuse and remove themselves from snack, throw the dish or put it on a teacher's plate.
They adjusted well to the no thank you plate and used it very appropriately. Mostly because there was a visual to show them they didn't need to eat the food, but rather they just needed to serve it to the "no, thank you" plate.
So we added one more step. One of the spots on the snack trays for the students who struggle with trying new things was a "no, thank you" spot. It took the place of the "no thank you" plate.
This provides students the opportunity to try new foods. It also preps them for school lunches in which they need to take a specific number of items and put them on their tray for lunch.