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Kitchen Skills and Independence

As part of our curriculum in CA’s programs for adults on the spectrum, we coach through developing kitchen skills. Clients enter into our programs with a range of kitchen knowledge. It all begins with exposure. Once, when baking brownies with a client at a former job, I realized that he had never in his life cracked an egg. He held onto it and it exploded in his hand….he was utterly shocked. He was 17 years old and had never been given the opportunity to experience this before that day. I often think about that when coaching clients. This allows me to not take for granted that we all have the same base of knowledge when it comes to all things kitchen related.

Often when we think of kitchen skills, we think of cooking. However, building foundational kitchen skills go beyond cooking when preparing your adult with autism to move out. Cooking is an important tool for us to be able to meet our basic need of nourishment. Yet, there are many aspects of cooking and kitchen management that are often overlooked as the foundation of independence in the kitchen. During my time as Assistant Manager of Adult Programs, I have had the opportunity to observe and engage with clients around a multitude of kitchen topics in which they struggle.

Foundational Skills

A list of common struggles we use as learning opportunities:

  • Washing and putting away dishes in correct location
  • Wiping surfaces after eating or cooking
  • Washing hands appropriately before cooking or when switching tasks
  • Adding items from a recipe to a grocery list
  • Organizing food in storage spaces and understanding food safety
  • Portion control
  • Sweeping/mopping floors
  • Time management when engaging in a multi-step process
  • Budgeting for food costs

Navigating the kitchen includes skills that evolve throughout our lives. The levels of cooking ability range from boxed macaroni and cheese to three course meals. Regardless of what’s on the menu, there are a variety of other kitchen skills that can be mastered in order to gain independence in the kitchen. These skills are vital in the success of your adult, and the earlier you prepare them in these areas, the more you help assure their success.

We work with adults on a weekly basis in the above areas, and together with them and their support systems, create goals which allow them to progress in their mastery of these skills. The goal is so that their transition into the next phase of their independence comes with confidence that they can handle challenges that arise in the kitchen arena.

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CA works with autistic people and their families to help them thrive. Every day, we’re building a future where the most vulnerable Virginians can actively participate in our community and realize their full potential.

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