Access Angle: One Spoonful of Independence at a Time

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor 


One Spoonful of Independence at a Time

Adaptive eating utensils are designed to assist people with limited arm, hand, and finger mobility or difficulty with fine motor skills to feed themselves as independently as possible. What makes these utensils different than typical silverware is that the handles may be larger or have more of a grip, they may be weighted, made from bendable material, or they could also have straps or attach to a glove, and some are even automated! There are a variety of options of these types of utensils which are sold mostly through rehabilitation or medical supply companies.


Occupational therapists, feeding specialists, hand therapists and others can be very helpful to assist with figuring out the best option to try. It can take a while to find the most user friendly utensil. The only way to know what will work is to try a variety of utensils and see what feels the most comfortable.


I’ve started exploring adaptive utensils from a very young age. I have difficulty with hand grip and grasp, arm and hand mobility, and simply coordinating the process of eating especially if it involves using a fork or spoon. Finding an adapted eating utensil which I can consistently and independently use, took a little over 20 years!  


Here are some of the utensils I’ve tried over the years and a few thoughts on them.


The Maroon Spoons feature a shallow small spoon bowl so I didn’t end up with too much food in my mouth. These also helped with working on lip closure.


I moved on to trying spoons that had an angle such as the Easie Eaters Curved Utensils. These were still small and lightweight, but having the curve allowed me to bring the food from the food dish, directly to my mouth versus trying to turn my wrist or neck, which was difficult for me to do all at the same time.


I also explored utensils with built up handles, similar to the Good Grips Bendable Coated Spoons and Good Grips Adaptive Utensils. These types offered a much more stable handgrip especially as I got older and my hands grew larger. This non-slip material and larger grip were easier for my fingers to wrap around and control the utensil.


I was able to check out eating aides that wrap around the hand as an alternate to spoons that require a grip, such as the Utensil Holder Hand Clip or that have a Velcro attachment like the Universal Cuff Utensil Holder. These were helpful tools since eating can be a lot of hard work when it is physically difficult. Not having to worry about gripping the spoon or having it fall out of my hand allowed me to focus on the other steps involved in eating.


Over time, what became more difficult for me was keeping the spoon balanced in order to keep the food on the utensil. I tried a few options that have features to address this issue. The Plastic Handle Swivel Utensil which has a special swivel designed to keep food from spilling when turned at any angle. Also, the Steady Spoon which has the built-up handgrip, hook and loop strap, and an active counter balance/weight that keeps the head of the spoon in a level position.


Learn more about adaptive feeding utensils mentioned in this blog by visiting the School Health website. If you are looking for a teachable, robotic feeding device, check out the Obi Robotic Feeding Device. The Obi accommodates a spectrum of people who have difficulty feeding themselves. It works by automating the motion of a human arm and becomes an extension of the diner, allowing them to select the food of their choice and dictating the pace at which the food is fed to them.


It may be a quick find or a long journey to discover what will work best for each individual exploring adaptive utensils. Take your time and be patient with yourself, or those you may be supporting. Try and try again or maybe design something, there is certainly a continued need for more flexible options. Once I found the right utensil for me, I was able to feed myself my own dinner, and the next morning another first, I ate a bowl of cereal, by myself…. one spoonful of independence at a time!




Posted in School Health and Access Angle Segment