Self-feeding requires fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and cognitive skills. All of these skill sets must mesh together so that food ends up on the spoon and the spoon in the mouth.
The Hand Tilt.
One must have gross motor abilities to hold herself upright in a chair. For the longest time we would swaddle a towel around Ellie to keep her seated in a chair. We were get some interesting stares at restaurants. Sitting is no longer an issue but keeping Ellie from climbing out of the chair, that is another matter entirely.
Then there is the fine motor component. Ellie needs to be able to hold a spoon, scoop with a spoon, and get the food-loaded spoon into her mouth. It is tricky. Really tricky. It is also easier to just shove your hands into the bowl and then lick your fingers. Yet, society frowns upon this so using a spoon it is. Facial muscles and tongue movement are also important for eating and since our kiddos have low muscle tone everywhere, it stands to reason that chewing can be trying at times.
Cognitive skills are also required. One must think ahead and plan the muscle movements. Again, knowing to place the spoon into the bowl. To scoop. The then flick the wrist and bring the spoon to the mouth. . .all a huge thought process.
After months of doing hand-over-hand exercises, it had become apparent that I need help in teaching Ellie how to use a spoon. I finally talked to Ellie's developmental therapist J to get some ideas. Surprisingly, you do not actually use a spoon. Think big. Think outside-the-box. Ellie needs to master "the scoop" and the "hand tilt" and to do so, we are using bath cup--scooping up bath water with one cup and then hand tilting/pouring the water into another cup.
The bath-time exercises are not really successful as Ellie just want s to dump water over her head. Therefore, I took her to a part and implemented the bucket & shovel technique.
Sometimes it is best to use your hands to pick up the rocks and place them into the bucket.
Don't forget to climb the playscape while carrying your bucket.
...And go down the slide with the shovel.