I have written previously about my love of cooking. Cooking has given me a lot, and I’m not just referring to the food.
I have to remember instructions in recipes (multi-step planning, for all you OTs out there). I have to search for and retrieve ingredients, utensils and cooking tools. This is important for people who have autism.
I have to handle sharp objects and hot objects. I am aware of personal safety.
I have to control impulses and not eat unfinished food (especially cookie dough).
I have to work on fine motor skills in chopping, pouring and measuring.
I have to be patient, plan, anticipate and multi-task.
I have to be present while it cooks.
I learn self-help skills washing up.
All in all, it’s an “OT session” I can have fun with since I’m actually doing something meaningful.
I have enjoyed watching TV chefs for years. My favorite is the charming French-American chef, Jacques Pepin. His helpful instructions gave me the confidence to help in the kitchen. Most days I assist my parents in meal preparation. I peel vegetables, chop, stir and do whatever is needed. I also enjoy baking. I love eating the finished products. I also prepare my own breakfast of eggs and toast.
My efforts in the kitchen have produced great results for me. I have gotten much better control in getting my body to correctly follow commands. I am a million times better at retrieving requested food items on demand and searching for them. I am noticing my ability to sustain attention in the kitchen is lengthening, but that is still a work in progress. I see improvements in fine motor too due to using my hands for chopping, peeling, opening cans and so on.
Cooking is also a good opportunity to work on self control and impulsivity. I need to learn to not sample the raw cookie batter, no matter how tempting.
People with autism need to be part of normal life and gaining kitchen skills may be a great way activity to teach participation in the kinds of activities that everyone does.