Improved Eating Utensils for Kelsie


Kelsie is a young woman who has some neuromuscular impairments related to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. With her left hand, she is able to communicate by pointing to letters and pictures on a mat. She can operate her power wheelchair to achieve some degree of independence. With a wry sense of humor, she has completed high school and is looking to achieve greater independence.

Eating is a Struggle for Kelsie

While Kelsie is good at eating finger foods such as french fries, she has more difficulty using conventional silverware. As background, there are many neuromuscular conditions that make it difficult for individuals to feed themselves. These include arthritis, arthrogryposis, tremors, cerebral palsy, and others. Practically, these conditions may limit the power of an individual’s grip, the range of motion of the arm, or the ability to rotate the wrist as the hand nears the mouth. These individuals often need outside assistance to cut food, transfer food from the plate to a utensil, raise the utensil with food to their mouth, and wipe their mouth. It is very important for long-term independence that individuals develop the ability and confidence to independently feed themselves.

Commercial SolutionsTried and Failed

Because of the range of conditions and the large number of people affected, there are some alternative silverware types on the market. Kelsie’s family has tried several, but none have worked satisfactorily for her. When feeding herself, Kelsie is able to scoop up the food on to a spoon, but the food typically falls off before it reaches her mouth. Cutting is also very difficult because her right arm is very weak. 

Project Goal

The goal of this project is to develop utensils (spoon, fork, knife) for Kelsie to feed herself using her available range of motion. The designed utensils should have the following features:

• Allows Kelsie to eat comfortably and quickly
• Holds a similar amount of food as a typical spoon/fork
• Is light-weight and durable
• Is low-cost
• Is dishwasher safe