A fork in the road… (or actually in the lunch bag)

Posted by Karen - September 22nd, 2018

I am eternally on the lookout for forks. Not just any kind, but specifically extra-long ones.

We need super long forks at our house because of my daughter Miranda’s fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP). When Miranda was between 2 and 3 years old, FOP caused her to lose almost all movement in her shoulders, as well as most movement in her elbow. In the context of FOP, she was lucky that her arms fused with the elbows in a bent position, such that her hands meet in the middle around her abdomen – this was fortunate because it meant she could still employ her remaining left elbow motion, and her free-and-clear wrist and hand flexibility to hold a fork, stab food, and bring it up to her mouth.

When Miranda was a young child, she could use pretty much any fork to eat with. By the time she reached about age 7 or 8, she could still do this with regular forks, but only if the design was such that the handle was a bit longer than normal. Since I had found a bunch like this at Wal-Mart, we were good to go.

Inevitably though, Miranda reached the point when she could use even the longer-handled forks only by holding them at the very tip end.¬†We needed another solution, because regular, run-of-the-mill cutlery was no longer going to cut it (or impale it, rather, in the case of forks). I started searching, and found to my dismay that most forks that you find at disability specialty store are designed around the notion that the person needs a regular sized fork strapped to their hand, or an extra thick handle, due to weak grip strength. Forks created to be longer than normal were much, much harder to find. In fact, such forks are so scarce that many folks with FOP simply come up with their own solutions. My friend Sharon, for instance, is an adult with FOP who has for years used a fork attached to one end of a sawed-off golf club. She calls her invention the “golfork” (ha ha ha!).

I did eventually get lucky. One day I was in a mini-mall for work-related purposes, and I happened to see a small disability supplies store. I wandered into it, and to my shock, I found a very long fork with a hinge in the middle. Score! Here’s the idea… As you can see from this photo, there’s basically a regular fork with a flat handle attached by a screw to a long, purpose-built plastic handle. The fork can bend in the middle, if desired, because one side of the implement has a little butterfly-style nut for tightening or loosening.

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This little sucker was pretty pricey, as cutlery goes, but I bought it anyway. It was the only one on the shelf, or I would have bought a couple more. Miranda wasn’t too impressed – she thought it looked dorky – but she did appreciate fairly quickly that it was the solution to our problem. We got by for a while with just that one fork, though it was a bit of a hassle because I had to remember to wash it after every single meal. I did kind of hope though that we would be able to find some more.

As time went by, we did actually come across another usable fork. The one in this photo has a long, bendable piece of metal which runs through the middle of the padded handle, such that you can bend it any which way you like (or just use it straight, like Miranda does). On the downside, this fork does look somewhat “rehab” like. Also, we discovered that the metal bit embedded in the handle doesn’t stand up to much bending before it breaks.

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Another find was a telescoping fork. This is the one Miranda likes the best. When not in use, this tool looks pretty much like any other fork. See what I mean?

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The handle of this bad boy telescopes out such that you can make the fork any length you like, up to about 3 feet long.

 

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In addition to looking quite like a regular fork, this one has the added advantage that because it collapses into itself, it’s very easy to throw into a purse or school lunch bag. Another bonus is that since it’s actually a novelty item rather than a disability product, it’s super cheap – though that’s a double-edged sword; its very cheapness means that the fork head and tines are not very sturdy and are easily bent. Still, in all, this is the best item we’ve found so far. Right now we have 3 of these forks, though I’m pretty sure we had more at one point and lost a couple.

Got any other useful forks yourself? If so, I’d love to hear about them. We can always use more forks…

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