Cooking with Students with ID
Cooking is one of the perfect activities for students with intellectual disabilities and autism. It’s an important life skill, it engages all five senses, it’s fun, it incorporates social skills and almost without exception students love doing it. There are probably hundreds of adapted recipes available on the internet for you to use. Look for ones that give step-by-step instructions with the use of visuals. Here are a few great examples that I found on Pinterest.
When choosing a recipe, consider how long something has to bake, chill or freeze. You will need to plan for the “down time” so that the students are engaged while they wait for the food. And of course, make sure to take into consideration any food allergies.
Feel like doing a cooking project is overwhelming? Plan your activity around your occupational therapist and/or speech and language teachers time with your students. You get an extra set of hands and they have a ready-made activity for their therapy session. Here’s a good video showing how an occupational and speech therapist supports cooking skills for students with special needs.
Cooking was a weekly activity in my classroom, with Friday afternoons set aside for this purpose. Students would be introduced to what we would be making, often with the use of a video or a book. Here’s a list of books, just to get you started:
Guacamole by Jorge Argueta
Wednesday is Spaghetti Day by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak
Pizza at Sally’s by Monica Wellington
Alicia’s Fruity Drinks by Lupe Ruiz-Flores
And here are some videos:
Our class was lucky enough to have a booth that one of our parents built which we used as a store (or library, puppet theater, or television screen) and I would place all the items (including utensils) out to be purchased. Students would practice requesting what item they wished to purchase (some students used a pre-recorded ATD), and I would place a sticker on the item with a price based on that student’s ability. The student would have to correctly count out the money to the designated shop keeper (a coveted job!).
Once the shopping was completed I would review the recipe with the students and we would start to cook. I made sure that each student had the opportunity to participate in each task, from pouring to cutting, measuring to mixing. Even if hand over hand assistance is needed, it’s important that everyone gets to help.
When it comes time to eat, you will invariably find some students want to have seconds and thirds and others don’t even want to try it. If a student does not want to try it, give him a very small portion anyway, and often he will taste it when he sees others enjoying the food.
I always tried to save a few tastes of whatever we made so that I could reward a couple of students with the job of bringing samples to the office staff. They loved sharing what they made, and it provided an excellent opportunity for social interactions and the chance to show pride in an accomplishment.
I just uploaded photographic visuals called Everything Kitchen that are a great resource for any cooking activity. Like all enable2learn visuals, these are free to download.
Click here for a detailed lesson plan to help you structure a cooking lesson. Sign up for (approximately) monthly newsletter and get updates on when new materials are added to enable2learn.