Life Skills for Kids with Autism – Cooking Edition

Mealtime can be a challenge when your child is on the autism spectrum. Food and sensory sensitivity can interfere with eating behaviors and one’s willingness to try new ingredients. 

Research shows that over 75% of children with autism spectrum disorders show atypical eating behavior compared to 16% of children with a history of language disorders.

Although children with autism can be quite particular with textures, tastes, smells, and the presentation of their food, that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with food and cooking. 

Encouraging kids with autism to develop cooking skills not only benefits their health but also helps them build confidence and become more independent.

With plenty of practice, visual demonstrations, and patience, your child with autism may grow to love cooking!

Tips for Teaching Your Child How to Cook

Whether you love to cook and want to spend more quality time together or are helping your child develop this important life skill, autism is not a barrier. While there will be unique challenges, including potential sensory issues and motor challenges, children learn best when you lead by example. Start with the basics and adapt based on your child’s skills and interests.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • If sensory issues are a concern, have your child wear non-latex medical gloves to avoid touching slimy textures. Depending on your child’s age, you can also expose them to various materials and textures to help desensitize them, including kinetic sand. Keep a food journal to better understand your child’s sensory triggers so that you can find solutions. For example, if your child has a specific food phobia, use a long spoon to create a greater distance and increase exposure.
  • Whether you’re slicing a tomato, grating cheese, or tossing a salad, these require motor skills. In addition to providing hand-over-hand support to ensure that your child does not develop incorrect motor habits, you can source alternative utensils and tools that make your child’s experience easier and more enjoyable. For example, a garlic twist instead of a garlic press.
  • Since following directions can be a challenge, break each recipe down into more manageable parts. Start by listing the utensils and appliances needed, followed by the ingredient list. The instructions need to be approachable and descriptive. One recipe may end up being 4-5 pages with pictures, which is perfectly fine.
  • Be creative with food aversions. In many cases, food aversion is based on the texture or presentation of a food or meal. For example, if your child doesn’t like poached eggs because of the soft yolk, try scrambled. Start your cooking journey with your child’s favorite dish. That way, they will be much more interested in the end result.

Recommended reading: Healthy Snacks for Kids with Autism

Easy Recipes for Kids with Autism

The goal of cooking with children who have autism is to help them develop a better understanding of nutrition while developing a range of skills, including reading, listening, sequencing, math, and even social skills.

There are thousands of recipes online for you and your child to explore. Search for recipes based on specific ingredients or cuisines, depending on your child’s interests and preferences.

Get creative and make cooking fun!

Interested in learning more about the wide array of programs available at Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning? Contact our team today!