Let me introduce you to Heidi.
Heidi is a 4th year Occupational Therapy Honours student at the University of Sydney. Heidi loves baking ridiculous amounts of food (yes, she is one of us!), and travelling the world. She hates waiting in lines. We like her already.
In 2016 Heidi will spend a good bit of time writing her honours thesis. She is going to ask families of children with disabilities how they manage mealtimes: essentially how do they go about getting dinner on the table each day?
Why would you do that?
Family wellbeing is a big deal for all of us, no matter who's in your family! When families do well, children (and let's not forget their parents!) do well. Families not doing well is a big problem. When a family includes a child with a disability, it might mean that parent(s) can no longer provide care for their child with disability at home. Children may need to be cared for by specialist services. This kind of family breakdown can be extremely stressful for children and for their parents.
Even if it's opening a tin of beans... we all know that sorting dinner can be a drudgery. We have to do something. Every. Single. Day. When we're pressured (by work, study or additional commitments) it can be made more difficult. The nature of disability can sometimes make dinner time all the more challenging.
So, what do we have to work with?
We know that good nutrition is linked to good health, and that eating contributes not only to survival but to the social and emotional wellbeing of individual family members and the family unit as a whole. We also know that the way we shop for, prepare and eat dinner each night is influenced by the resources we have (including time and finances), our goals, values and beliefs, the needs of each member of a household, and the predictability of our daily schedules.
What don't we know?
We don't know how families of children with disabilities manage mealtimes, how they go about getting dinner on the table every night, or what's important to them when getting this daily job done.
Lucky for us, we have Heidi to find out! With more knowledge, we'll be in a better position to provide meaningful support to families living with disability.
We'll keep you posted from time to time on how Heidi is getting on (she might even tell you herself!). But if we've stirred your inner nerd (oh yes, we've all got one!) and you'd like more info on the ins and outs of her research, please get in touch!