Cooking With Kids With Special Needs

I took Home Ec in high school. Didn’t you? I learned to sew (a little… I made lopsided pillows and a hideously blinding canary yellow duffle bag). I also learned the basics of cooking. We baked tea biscuits, made lentil soup, learned how to cook rice, and even made a pie from scratch. We put together a bunch of other dishes I can no longer remember, but the principles stuck. The other night my son asked how I knew how to make a roux (the base for the sauce in our mac and cheese) and I told him, “My grade nine Home Ec teacher taught me.” He was shocked I could remember that far back and also that he had never heard of this “Home Economics” thing. I told him it was easy to remember since my teacher was hard to forget. She cut her thumb during one lesson and nearly fainted before she was rushed to hospital. Another time she set one of the ovens on fire and we had to be evacuated. I found her antics hilarious and as a result, I got sent to the office more than once. Not cool I know. Even less cool since my mother was the secretary at my high school. Hashtag… grounded. Anyway, I’ll cut this trip down memory lane short and get to the point. 

Sadly with cuts to home ec classes in schools, many kids haven’t the slightest idea how to bake or cook. Outside of toast or heating up last night’s left-overs, they’re helpless. 

So slowly but surely we’re teaching our son to cook. It’ll help him when he’s out on his own and in the meantime, I’ll also be able to shirk more and more of my home making duties. I’m a strong believer in kids doing their share around the house. It’s not that I’m lazy (yes I am), it’s truly in his best interest to learn how to make and serve his mother a lasagna and caesar salad. 

As for our daughter, it’s also in her best interest to learn essential life skills, including cooking. 

She’s nearly ten, but cognitively age six. Her cognitive delays make learning new concepts challenging, but this doesn’t mean she can’t learn new skills. She can. And she is. 

We are fortunate to live close to ErinOakKids Centre for Treatment and Development. The work they do is literally life changing. 

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Our family has been involved with EOK since Avery was a baby. Early intervention programs aimed at supporting speech and physical development helped immensely. We still receive occupational therapy and support with issues around eating/choking (more on that to come soon). As well as basic and essential therapies and parent support groups and workshops, EOK also offers a wide variety of life skills programs for kids and young adults with special needs. 

Avery has participated in quite a few programs including ‘My Magic Hands‘ where she and her peers learned to perform a few magic tricks. It was…magical. Obviously. But by far her favourite program to date, and one we’ll be signing up for again, was Little Chefs

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Once a week my daughter and a small group of children attended a 90 minute class where they learned how to prepare a meal from start to finish including clean up and the chance to enjoy their creations with their peers around a table. 

Not only did the kids learn how to chop and mash and measure and mix, they learned how to read a recipe, and follow directions. Their amazing teacher Marissa also sought opportunities to work on speech and communication, and social skills. Each class was also laid out in a visual schedule so the students could anticipate what would happen next. 

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I can’t say enough about the value of this program. Of course I’ll continue to teach my daughter to cook (*and bake) at home, but programs like these provide opportunities to develop independence, socialize, and to learn from teachers whose expertise (both in cooking and developing communication skills and occupational therapy strategies) greatly surpass my own. 

I can’t wait to sign up for the next session! I hope they make pancakes again because if Avery can learn to make them on their own, I can envision my future filled with sleep-in Sundays and breakfasts in bed. *fist pump*

*Santa brought Avery an Easy Bake Oven this year. Santa is clearly a sentimental sap with fond memories of Easy Baking as a kid. Unfortunately the new model—they’ve made it safer to use and in doing so, took all the fun and function out of it—isn’t very good. It cooks unevenly and is painfully slowly. Avery loves hers though and she’s always excited to pull it out to bake the world’s tiniest cake that tastes like baked glue. Ah well, it’s all about the sprinkles anyway. 

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