Autism: Cooking Towards Independence

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Independence In Early Years

Cooking doesn't only feed your belly . It can also nourish your mind, self-perception, and life.

As more services aim to support youth with autism in individual independence, more adults with autism are living independently. This is so important and an amazing achievement, opportunity, and right for this community! As we grow and perfect this transition it is important we are mindful of where we can improve to best support success in the journey from childhood to adulthood. 

Why Cooking?

Many articles explain the earlier children begin cooking, the better opportunity they have for a healthy adult life. The path to health and independence looks differently for everyone and cooking can have wonderful, positive benefits even if complete independence in cooking is not attainable at this time. Benefits of cooking early on are vast, but I've chosen to dive into seven subsets of independence for youth with autism. They are as follows:

A Sensory Experience

“Children, especially very young children, rely on their senses to explore the world. Cooking offers kids opportunities to use the senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. Working with food lets a child focus on his senses individually as well as collectively. Cooking teaches a child how to use his eyes, ears, nose, skin and tongue to observe. In addition, kids can improve their fine motor skills when helping out in the kitchen.” - Live Strong

Planting Seeds For Growing Confidence And Autonomy 

One study showed, after implementing and documenting their cooking program, “ Overall, completion of the intervention significantly increased participant’s confidence in their cooking ability, as well as increased the number of times per week that the participants cooked for themselves.” (Proquest)Whether you are preparing all meals for yourself daily or occasionally a level of independence is kept intact.

May Supports Skills In Adaptability

Not all recipes turn out the way we intended. Sometimes we spill the entire bag of flour, and sometimes our dog runs off with the finished product… Can’t we all use some practice in adaptability? Cooking allows us to engage in valuable learning experiences that can transfer into other areas of life.

Can Improve Nutrition 

Exploring new foods (even if it’s just smelling them to start!) can support picky eaters in trying new things. And, for those with allergies, special diets, and sensitivities, cooking alternative foods can teach alternative options for their favorite meals.

Safety Skills And Body Awareness

A great deal of safety is involved in cooking. Certain levels of knife, stove, and oven safety are important not only as we progress in cooking skills, but as we progress towards independence. Safety skills and body awareness blend when engaging in cooking. While we're manipulating cooking utensils (stirring, transferring items between spaces, chopping, etc.) we must be aware of hand and body placement, where others are in relation to us, and how close we are to hot surfaces.

Discovering New Interests, Hobbies, And/Or Skills

By learning a new skill or engaging in a familiar one differently, some youth may find they enjoy cooking or aspects of cooking. And, they can find they are really good at it!

Math Skills

Cooking is an excellent way to learn and strengthen fractions, adding, subtracting, and multiplying skills.

Autism And Cooking Towards Independence

Whatever a student's path may look like, independence on any level is always the goal. Supporting this life skill early on in your child's life can lead to a more independent life beyond school, into adulthood. Let's support youth with autism in cooking towards their independence.

Resources to Promote High Quality Cooking Programs

  1. Healthfully Independent: Offering materials and resources, supporting helping professionals and family members to implement healthy cooking programs. Memberships, products, and more information are coming soon!
  2. VeggieWize: Owned by our co-founder, Veronica! Visit her site for meal plans, tips, and printables! You will not be disappointed. 
  3. Chris Kresser: "Chris teaches and practices functional medicine, a personalized approach to health care that recognizes the biological uniqueness of each patient. In contrast to conventional care, which is almost entirely focused on suppressing symptoms, functional medicine eliminates symptoms by addressing the underlying cause of a problem. It is an evidence-based field of health care that views the body as an interconnected whole, and recognizes the importance of these connections in health and disease" - chriskresser.com.

Blog Post By: Christine Devereaux, Founder of Spectrum Yoga; Co-Founder of Healthfully Independent

Christine Devereaux