Sunday 11 September 2016

A spoon for shaky hands

The Boy and his Lady are raising a second child aka Gdau.II with a weaning / feeding regime called baby-led weaning that requires no extra prep and a helluva lot of extra clean-up. The +6 months child sits at the table with the rest of the family and is presented with a selection of the food that the older people are eating. She then makes what she can of it. orange segments, chunks of cooked carrot or meat are seized and brought mouthwards: there or there-abouts. If the food stays in the vicinity long enough, it is gummed to death and some of it goes down the hatch. A lot of it goes in the hair and down the the front as well, so that the child seems to need hosing down after every meal. Not having a dog - yet - the parents have to sweep up the debris from the floor which at this stage - Gdau.II is about 9 months old - exceeds the food that has reached the stomach. Most parents go another route, spooning pap into the open maw then shaving the misses off the chin and cheeks and popping it in for a second go. These poor parents either buy over-salted, over-sugared, over-priced 'organic' baby food with fat-arse names like chicken & carrot or orange & rice OR they get a blender OR mash the food up with a fork.

Feeding your child in this way is a stick to beat yourself with because the child's hands are not given either exercise or practice and you sign up the kidder for an unconscionably long time of dependency. The child-directed approach is better in the long-run. Choosing your own food is better than force-feeding; and more likely to get a balanced diet; eating with the family is civilising and respectful; eating the same stuff is democratic; and easier in the catering. When the time comes for soup, custard or dhal, the basic dexterity is there and adding a spoon to the protocol an easy enough transition. I have seen baby-led weaning pushed as an antidote to childhood obesity, but the connexion seems credible.

I was down with Pat the Salt last Sunday for my weekly TV fix and caught a BBC programme for Christians called Songs of Praise. There was a brief intermission between hymns to give voice to one of the congregation: a Scot called Grant Douglas who has cerebral palsy and a sense of humour. Cerebral palsy is a problem with motor nerves so that the fine tuning of movement that Gdau.II will master in the next few months is impossible to achieve. Things that we all take for granted - walking upright, typing up a blog and getting food to our mouths - are frustratingly difficult. Grant was being fed breakfast by his Mum one day - she was fast-tracking the breakfast because the working day beckoned imperiously - when she was called away to the telephone. He fell to speculating that there had to be a way for him to get the cornflakes down his gullet without waiting for his mother . . . and she had better things to be doing with her time - like answering the berluddy phone.

He thought about the process and reckoned that spoon design was a bottle-neck in the feeding cycle. You have to get food on to it - then keep it horizontal as it travels to your face - then you have to scrape the contents off with your upper lip and teeth - then you have to swallow. There, if you can read this, you do all that several times a day without the least thought.  But it requires super-difficult efforts of coordination if you have CP.

He started rabbiting on about his new project to anyone who would listen and a lady who went to the same church put him in touch with a design company. Between them they roughed out a working prototype and S'up [see R and don't use it to smoke tobacco, it will melt] was born. B'gob, its simple design and appropriate technology worked well for Mr Douglas "It has given me back my independence to eat and enjoy a whole meal without sharing it with my clothes or surroundings." And they went to kickstarter to fund bring it to a wider market.  You can buy one in the Henry Ford mode "You can have any car in any color you want so long as it's black" for £15 + P&P.  Here's some propaganda showing the instrument in action.

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