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Ahoy Mealtime Pirates

How not to feed


What does Mealtime Support and Pirates have in common? Well, the staff at The Disability Trust can answer you that! Read on to find out for yourself…… 

Across The Disability Trust, direct support staff have been undertaking practical training workshops to improve how they support mealtimes for participants in their services. These workshops have been part of a larger focus on ensuring that The Disability Trust is providing the best possible support - especially where people need more assistance during their meals.

Amy Callaghan and Kate Bruton, the Speech Pathologists from Trusted Clinical Services are passionate about Mealtime Support. “Many people don’t realise speech pathologists help with swallowing and eating and drinking” says Amy, who has been leading the review and development of the policies and documents across the organisation. She goes on to say “Sometimes, people have problems with drinking, coughing, chewing or swallowing safely, so we can help with assessing those difficulties and putting in place strategies that can make eating and drinking safer for the person.”

But mealtimes are so much more than safely swallowing, as Kate points out. “Mealtimes are so important to all of us- food is part of how we celebrate, how we connect to our culture, how we nurture our family, how we connect with each. It’s important to remember that - especially if we have to make modifications to how a person would usually eat and drink”.

And that is what the practical training sessions are all about. The workshops focus on what happens during eating and drinking, identifying what could go wrong- and how to follow the strategies that a speech pathologist might recommend. This includes sometimes chopping or pureeing food, making drinks thicker, or using special utensils.

But how does this relate to Pirates? Amy explains, “In the training, we use a great acronym to help people remember what types of support they need to think about. It stands for P: Positioning, I: Implements, R: Rate, A: Alertness, T: Texture, E: Environment, S: Supervision. And we have a bit of fun in the workshop too!” Staff get to dress up with some pirate accessories, and practice preparing the food and drink consistencies, looking at the implements that can assist, and even finding out what it’s like when mealtime support is not how it should be.

Shaun and Sinead, from the Goulburn office, got to experience this - with Shaun feeding Sinead, by standing up. “This is exactly what we DON’T recommend” explains Kate, “but the staff get to experience being supported at mealtimes, so they can know what it might be like for the people we support. Some people are fed by a person standing up, some are fed too quickly, and others are not sitting in a good position” It all adds up to ensuring TDT staff are supporting mealtimes in the best way possible.

With The Disability Trust ahead of the sector in implementing the new International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative, (a standard way to describe food and drink consistencies) the organisation is well placed to celebrate Speech Pathology Australia’s Swallowing Awareness Day on Wednesday 13th March. More information can be found at www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au

As Amy notes “It’s so important to be aware of, and many people take the ability to eat, drink and swallow safely for granted. We all need to be aware of these factors and create positive, enjoyable mealtime experiences for everyone”.



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