Although the Comfortable Cafeteria program is designed to be a whole school initiative, we suggest starting small to ensure initial success. The occupational therapist(s) and/or other implementers should meet to decide what grade level to begin with. It's best to begin any new program by working with stakeholders who show interest and enthusiasm in being involved. Our motto is, 'look for the open doors' and begin there since implementation involves collaboration with any staff member or volunteer assigned to lunch duty.
Pick a grade level. In our demonstration projects, we began with 2nd or 3rd graders since students at these ages are generally adjusted to school and can follow directions. Since the program only takes 6 weeks, it can be replicated numerous times throughout the school year with different grade levels.
Select a day of the week to implement the program. The occupational therapist (OT) and/or other implementers embed services into the cafeteria one day per week for 6 consecutive weeks to run the Comfortable Cafeteria program. Choosing the specific day of the week to run the program should be a collaborative decision between the OT and cafeteria supervisors. A benefit of holding the program mid-week is that it allows cafeteria supervisors and teachers to introduce the weekly theme to students early in the week (e.g. verbally or with books or coloring sheets).
Time commitment. Based on the Comfortable Cafeteria demonstration projects in multiple schools, OTs report needing approximately 30 minutes of preparation time and 30 minutes for implementation each week. Following the 6th week, it is suggested that the OT provide intermittent consultation and support by stopping in the cafeteria to offer ongoing problem solving and activity suggestions.