March is National Nutrition Month, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is encouraging everyone to “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” With every bite we take, we can make small food choices that improve our health. This week is also the annual meeting of the American Occupational Therapy Association. Occupational therapists, or OTs, can support people with disabilities in meeting important nutritional goals in many ways:
- Help children with developmental and intellectual disabilities develop a healthy relationship with food and the social aspects of dining.
- Help families of children with autism create a positive dining experience.
- Assist people with recovering from stroke and other neurological and neuromuscular disorders learn or re-learn meal preparation.
- Assess food insecurity or barriers to food preparation in older adults.
- Support adults with intellectual, developmental, and cognitive disabilities in meal planning, shopping, and preparation.
- Identify assistive devices and techniques to make meal preparation and eating and drinking easier.
We browsed through our collection for research and resources from the NIDILRR community that OTs can tap into to help their clients “put their best forks forward.”
- The Life Skills Manual, developed under a NIDILRR grant by OT Christine Helfrich, PhD, helps people with psychiatric disabilities move from homelessness to stable housing. One of the manuals four parts focuses on food and nutrition. The manual is available free of charge from our website.
- The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Self-Directed Care and Integrated Health has a Nutrition and Exercise for Wellness and Recovery program to help people with mental illnesses gain new knowledge and skills for healthier eating and physical activity.
- The World Institute on Disability developed NEW-DOOR, a community-based, peer-led program that educates, engages, and inspires people with disabilities and families to learn about and integrate nutrition and physical fitness activities into their daily lives.
- AbleData’s database of more than 40,000 assistive devices and manufacturers can help you find products and tools for shopping for food, preparing meals, and eating and drinking.
If you’re looking for research in this area, we have that, too! Follow these links to explore articles, books, and reports available from the NARIC collection:
- Publications on OT and nutrition, food, meal preparation, and eating from NIDILRR-funded projects.
- Publications on OT and nutrition, food, meal preparation, and eating from other sources.
If you’re an OT, how do you help your clients “put their best fork forward?” Share in the comments section below!