1.  Learn Independent Daily Living Skills: What Will Happen When I Am Not Here Anymore?
I often wonder what will happen to Niam when I am not here anymore. Planning for my child’s future is one of my most important goals.  I do whatever I can to try to teach him to have independent skills. I want him to be as independent as possible.  I developed this program for my son, and for those of you who follow me on my Facebook page, know he went from eating 5 foods to eating almost everything – including some salads!

 2 . Be A Contributing Member Of Your Family – Learning To Cook For Others:
Secondly, It’s very important for any child to feel important and part of the family. My son may not like to eat salsa but he enjoys making salsa for his mother. I love Caesar Salad and as a vegetarian I make my own dressing (You can find my recipe here) . He makes the dressing and the salad – I love the salad even more because he made it.  As a mom, I cook for my family and sometimes my husband does too.  Although it’s natural to cook for loved ones, I don’t always like the food I cook for my other son; he likes olives and red chilies in everything, but I can accommodate.

3. Learn to Navigate Through the Kitchen:
What I like about cooking is my son is learning where everything belongs in the kitchen. This is an extremely important skill to learn for so many reasons. It will help in other areas such as unloading a dishwasher and knowing where things belong, and putting groceries away.  My son knows where to find tools and cooking ingredients, knows how to clean up and I say that with a grain of salt as he still runs away – but we are  working on it.

Niam loves to learn when it is a fun and exciting environment with friends and family

4. Hands On Experience To Learn Fine Motor Skills that are Meaningful and Useful:
I have often hated the traditional way of teaching fine motor skills in an ABA program where the child is just repeating cutting paper over and over again in multiple trials. I like cooking because so many different fine motor skills can be targeted in a single recipe. Additionally, recipes can be chosen to target specific skills for your child. For example, many recipes have cutting, whisking, scooping, and many others. It’s a great way to target skills in a fun way that will have meaning to your child.

5. Learn a Leisurely Hobby:
Did you know research shows that many of our children when they hit adulthood do not have a leisure activity? We all know how important it is to have hobbies that you love to do. Cooking can be a great hobby to learn. Recently, I have been following a lot of mommy pages on Facebook, and there are many children who love to cook and bake which I think is great! You never know when a hobby can turn into a job or a business, perhaps working in a pizza store? Food for thought.

6. Develop Language In A Fun And Engaging Way:
For those children who are non-verbal, or who have limited speech, cooking is a great and exciting way to create opportunities to learn speech and communication in a natural environment. I’ve noticed a lot of pressure is put on my son – he gets anxiety and can often shut down. But when the activity is fun and he WANTS to do it, his rate of learning increases exponentially. He loves cake, chocolate chip cookies, and anything sweet. Sometimes we spend time just decorating cupcakes and work on language, and other skills. So much fun!

7. Fun Activity to Engage With Others and Develop Social Skills:

We all know how important social skills are for our children. Social skills can be incorporated in the actual cooking of the recipe. For example tasting the cookie batter and asking if your child liked it, asking questions and engaging in conversation during eating time at the table.

8.  Learn  Functional Skills Related to Cooking and Independent Living:
There are many skills to learn that are associated with cooking. Some are making a grocery list, learning to navigate in a grocery store, putting away groceries, cleaning up and menu planning are just among a few. All of these skills we do naturally are very important for independence. You can check out some of our recipes on Able2learn, they include an easy to follow recipe, grocery planning list, menu planning and shopping tips.

9. Learn Skills That Can Be Used On The Job in Culinary:
Learning safety in a kitchen, how to put away left over foods, slice , dice and navigate through the kitchen are all skills than can be used in a restaurant or other places where food is sold and cooked.

 10. To Encourage My Child To Taste Food in A Fun Environment:
Lastly, If anyone of you have been following my Able2learn Facebook page, you would know that my son only ate 5 foods for over 9 years. After a year of cooking , one day he just tasted the food and swallowed it. There were times before this he tried it but it was more gagging than eating. Now Niam loves cooking, trying new foods, and working with others.From me to you, just don’t give up, keep trying , and work on your targeted skills slowly. Tell us how you are doing and share your experiences with the other members of our Happy Community.