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Autism: An Introduction to the Kitchen

Mother and son cooking together

Learning a new skill comes with an array of benefits including communication, social skills and mathematics. Satisfaction and achievement of completing a dish is such a rewarding feeling and can boost their overall confidence and independence. The ability to cook also improves a children’s health and well-being. With detailed planning and preparation and a good-sized spoonful of patience, it can be a recipe for success.

For children with sensory issues, the kitchen can be perceived in a negative light, especially regarding smells, textures and taste. Before allowing them to put on an apron it is best to identify the child’s triggers and put the needed modifications in place. Having an environment that is adapted to their needs and requirements instantly creates a sense of calmness and a more positive attitude to learning culinary skills. If these changes are not made, then this can result in the kitchen having negative connotations and associations. This impact can be lasting and very off-putting.

In order to establish and remember the triggers, a notebook can be a good way to refer to notes later. You could even have a wipe-board which leaves room for quick alterations and even allows additions to be quickly added. The notebook could even be coincided with a diary entry to record the child’s progress and success in the kitchen as well as updates to triggers – including dislikes to specific foods, smells or distinctive dishes and how a food item feels between their fingers.

Notebook taking

Some children love to get stuck in and have messy fingers when baking too and using their hands stimulates a range of senses. It can allow them to understand the textures of foods they like and dislike. Using your hands to cook also sends signals to the brain in which stimulates development and growth, especially when learning a new skill. This could be incorporated when baking their favourite cookies, especially when decorating them because it allows their inner creativity to be unleashed. Cooking allows room for added spices, alternate ingredients and a whole mixture of experimentation which is perfect for children because they can learn what they like and dislike.

A child who engages and partakes in the making of a dish is more likely to feel empowered to continue. They may even add it to their hobby list, and this is encouraging for parents or those who care for the child. It stimulates happiness and growth too which can over time create confidence, especially as they believe that they are able to do activities that other children can do too. It is a talking point and children can bond over their interest in cooking and/or baking which improves the overall social interaction. A child who does well receives praise and this can spur them on to create more complimentary dishes and even experiment which goes hand in hand with independence.

Girl baking

Ensuring you have the right utensils can also help when introducing those with Autism into the world of cooking, especially if they struggle with motor skills. Sometimes specific knives can be difficult for them to master if they are poor with coordination or the ability to slice vegetables for example. It is essential to iron out all these small details beforehand and master the art of small progressive steps rather than a complex dish. It may be a good idea to pick a dessert they love or a simple-to-cook meal. Even if they prepare a few steps of the chosen dish, it is a small step in which is one step closer to the smell of success and one bite closer to a delicious dish.

We hope this has helped! Let us know if it has in the comments below.

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