ASD Teens Cooking Class©

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ASD Teens Cooking Class©
By Holly Bortfeld

My son Max has been homeschooled since his diagnosis back in 1998. Even when he attended a private school for kids with ASD, he still had a home program too. As an ex-caterer, foodie and TACA recipe creator, one of the things I’ve always wanted my kids to do was learn to cook. The whole autism “thing” slowed that way down, but we’re getting there.

My kids were always in the kitchen, when they weren’t in therapy sessions and my daughter is turning into a great cook in her own right and has created some of the recipes you see on TACA as well, like her Thai Chicken Curry.

At least once a week, I print out a recipe and make sure I have everything we need, and either his 1:1 aide or I walk Max through the recipe. He has definite ideas about which foods he prefers to make – cake, muffins, pie - but he’s getting better at many different techniques as we expand the recipes he makes.

Last summer, we had an idea for more socialization for Max – why not build a cooking class for kids his age, with ASD, in town and teach them all how to cook? So we did just that!

Since I already had experience with teaching people how to cook and teaching my own kids with ASD, I wrote a program booklet to give to the chef with instructions that he should mark it up whenever something I had written didn’t work, or he found a better way to do it. It was all well and good to write it down, but it needed a real-life reality check to make sure it would actually work. Here, we present the instructional booklet ASD Teens Cooking Class. Please feel free to use it, circulate it, and if you start a program, please email me with your experiences! We’d love to know how it’s working for you!

ASD Teens Cooking Class©
ASD Teens Cooking Class©

There aren’t a lot of homeschooled ASD kids his age where we live, he’s the only one locally that I even know of, as our homeschool groups don’t have any ASD kids in them, except mine. So, we enlisted the ASD teacher at the one public high school we have. We were doing this on short order, so instead of running through the school for the first program, we invited all of her children (via a note sent home to their parents) about participating in this program off-campus, after school hours. We accepted 5 additional kids into the program, got a teacher from the local low-income cooking program who already worked with some ASD kids through VoTech and found a nice, open kitchen to use. The center with the kitchen set the fee with the chef and it included all of the food and materials for the course, totaling $150 per student. Future classes would garner community donations and lower this cost, plus with school sign-on, they’d cover transporting the school kids and their aides and the class cost for the students.

Some pictures from the class:

Max cutting vegetables, safely!
Max cutting vegetables, safely!

Max cooking in a wok
Max cooking in a wok
The kids did activities after cleanup while the food was cooking.
Activities after cleanup, while the food was cooking.
They learned how to plate and serve.
They learned how to plate and serve.
How to wash, dry and put away dishes, sweep floors and clean counters too.
How to wash, dry and put away dishes, sweep floors and clean counters too.
Then they got to enjoy all of their hard work and EAT!
Then they got to enjoy all of their hard work and EAT!

I hope this booklet will inspire you all to take the plunge to teach your kids how to cook, a very necessary life skill that everyone should have to the best of their abilities. Good Luck and Happy cooking!