Lunch time woes

September 2012

Dear SLP at my children’s school,

I’ve spoken with you in the past as I am the SLP at a school down the street from you and we’ve shared kids before.

I also happen to have my own children at your school . At present there are a bunch of parents who are pushing to extend the lunch period because they feel like their children are not getting enough time to eat. As someone who has to do cafeteria duty myself here at my school, I know that this is most likely ridiculous. I am well aware that most students spend their lunch time gabbing or making mischief and the kids that are truly hungry eat their food. In my school, a large number of office referrals occur because students are not eating or finish their food too quickly and start misbehaving. When I told a group of 15 other teachers about the parents’ concerns, every one of them rolled their eyes. Confidentially, I also would like to state that if I were the duty person I would rather die or a horrible, cruel death than extend my lunch duty.

Cafeteria time is one of the worst times of day not only for myself, but also for students with sensory disorders because of the high volume.  Children with social difficulties find lunch time to be particularly stressful as they do not know how to talk to their peers or feel excluded or bullied. Although my own children do not struggle in these areas, I know that there are many children in the school who do.

In addition, I know that at my school the noise level of the cafeteria is almost deafening. Upon using a dB app on my iPod yesterday,  I found that the cafeteria volume was at 80-85 dB. The American Speech and Hearing Association states that ” Sounds that are louder than 85 dB can cause permanent hearing loss. The hearing system can be injured not only by a loud blast or explosion but also by prolonged exposure to high noise levels.”  . Although your school is a smaller school, I expect that there is a similar problem.

I hope that you can help support me in my effort to keep cafeteria time to a minimum, both for the sake of our kids’ hearing and for the needs of students with social difficulties. I, however, fully support adding time for snacks in the morning or afternoon on the playground or classroom when these issues will be less problematic.

Alternately, if you have some fabulous ideas to help decrease volume in the cafeteria and keep the kids eating instead of goofing off, I’d love to hear them! We currently use visuals for all rules, count down to silence with a 5 minute warning, and give out positive incentive cards for kids who are done with their heads down. In the past I did a joke on the microphone when the kids had 3 days of quieting down quickly, however, the noise level actually increased after the joke was over rather than promote quietness.

thank you!

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I have cafereria duty for 30 minutes….we play langugae games…math monday, trivia tuesday, word wednesday,etc/ we also have a common language for bringing down the noise level…we use pbis level 1 and level 2…we also reward tables for following the rules andthey are dismissed first and receive a reward. it used to be hard but now it is fun we also use a microphone in the cafeteria…kids love to say their name or answer a question on it

  2. Has anyone taken the unsafe noise levels to their principals to talk about it? I’m fortunate that I do not have to participate in cafeteria duty, but I have helped come up with strategies to reduce noise level and rambunctiousness. Our kids know the expectations and actually do quite well with keeping the noise level within decent limits.

    Talking With Rebecca

  3. Hmm, I never thought of it that way.

    At godson’s school (elementary and middle school), lunch is outside and lasts for 17 minutes– that included going to the bathroom, washing hands, waiting in line for lunch and eating. It doesn’t work well for him and he usually loses weight during the school year. But, he’s on the Spectrum and is sensitive to the noise so I’m not sure he’d eat more if he had more time.

    Interesting post. I’ll have to think on this one some more.

    Hope you are all mended and getting around great and school is settling down for you.

    xo jj

  4. At our school, we implement music. When the kids are getting too loud, music comes on (at a pretty noticeable level) and this tells the kids “it’s time to eat.” Since it’s hard to talk over the music, the kids stop talking. It seems to have worked at our school. The only problem is that no one has the time to constantly be looking up and downloading kid songs that are school-appropriate. So…..we’re stuck with the same ones over and over. I know them all by heart now. Hope your school finds something!

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