The Comfortable Cafeteria program has been replicated in 3 separate school districts during Spring (2013), Fall (2013) and Spring (2014). Occupational therapy (OT) practitioners implemented the program to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders.
Pretest-posttest outcomes were measured using student and supervisor surveys.
Supervisor survey with questions focusing on their enjoyment of supervising lunchtime and knowledge of how to supervise, find resources, encourage positive behavior, resolve conflict and interact positively with students.
Students survey using a visual analog scale (VAS) to rate students' subjective experience of the cafeteria focusing on enjoyment, friendliness of supervisors and peers, and enjoyment of mealtime conversations.
Participants: 20 Cafeteria supervisors; 250 of students (1st, 2nd, & 3rd graders)
Student results - Statistically significant improvements were obtained for students who rated the question at 75mm or lower on a 100mm scale. This suggests that students with mid- to lower levels of enjoyment of lunch, perceptions of supervisor or peer friendliness, and enjoyment of mealtime conversations prior to the program documented statistically significant improvements (p <.01) in enjoyment and friendliness at the end of the program.
Supervisor outcomes - By the end of the program, cafeteria supervisors feel better prepared to interact socially with children, promote positive mealtime conversations, successfully resolve conflict, and encourage healthy eating. Supervisors report applying new knowledge and skills during all lunch sessions in the school.
Conclusion: This 6-week school-wide program provides OTs with an efficient & effective way to help all children enjoy their meal and social interaction – especially for those who experience lower levels of enjoyment. By embedding OT services, this program maximizes the impact of OT services by meeting the mealtime and social participation needs of all students with and without disabilities. A combination of educational strategies, activity demonstration and coaching can be provided by OTs to help prepare cafeteria supervisors to promote positive social interaction, friendships, inclusion, and healthy eating. Embedded activities emphasizing friendship & inclusion may help prevent social isolation for students who struggle making friends leading to higher levels of enjoyment.
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