How to teach cooking to persons with intellectual disabilities

Written by deborah walker
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How to teach cooking to persons with intellectual disabilities
(Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

People with intellectual disabilities tend to be visual learners, and may not be able to read text. As such, incorporating picture recipes into any lessons about cooking will go a long way towards helping them learn the necessary skills. There are several commercially published picture cookbooks, or you can get recipes for free online. The recipes should be fairly straightforward. Making familiar foods usually works best. Scrambled eggs and toast is a classic recipe that is simple enough for a first cooking lesson.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Cardboard
  • Loop tape
  • 1 egg picture card
  • 2 pan picture cards
  • 1 stove picture card
  • 1 fork picture card
  • 1 stirring picture card
  • 1 pour picture card
  • Bowl
  • Fork
  • Spatula
  • Hotplate or stove
  • Pan
  • 2 eggs
  • Butter

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Instructions

    Teach Individual Skills

  1. 1

    Demonstrate how to cut, peel, wash or grate food as needed for the recipe. Make sure the student can do these activities safely and at least somewhat independently before moving on to the cooking lesson.

    How to teach cooking to persons with intellectual disabilities
    Show how to perform cooking skills. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    Teach the names of the measuring spoons and cups and how to use them.

    How to teach cooking to persons with intellectual disabilities
    Teach how to use cooking tools. (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)
  3. 3

    Teach the students how to use the stove, oven, microwave, mixer or other kitchen tools, depending on what is needed for the recipe.

    How to teach cooking to persons with intellectual disabilities
    Show how to use the stove. (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)
  4. 4

    Read the recipe with the student.

    How to teach cooking to persons with intellectual disabilities
    Review the recipe. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

    Prepare the Recipe

  1. 1

    Copy pictures of the foods and steps needed to make the recipe. Cut them into 2-by-2-inch squares and put loop tape on the back.

    How to teach cooking to persons with intellectual disabilities
    A simple picture of an egg. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    Put two strips of loop tape on a long piece of cardboard and use this to hold the recipe as you go through each step.

  3. 3

    Arrange the picture cards for the recipe on the communication board. Put them on the top strip of loop tape.

  4. 4

    Tack or prop the recipe board where it is out of the way, but easily seen, while you cook.

    Scrambled Eggs

  1. 1

    Look at the list of ingredients with the student and then gather them on the counter.

  2. 2

    The student should move the picture of an egg being cracked from the top strip of loop tape to the bottom strip.

  3. 3

    Demonstrate how to crack an egg. As you are demonstrating, tell the student that you hit the egg on the side of the bowl to crack the shell and then separate the shell with your fingers. Remind the student to keep the shell out of the egg in the bowl.

  4. 4

    Let the student try to crack the egg by himself. You may need to tell him exactly what to do. Some students may need hand-over-hand assistance, where you put your hands over his and physically help him crack the egg.

  5. 5

    Look at the recipe with the student. Read the next step and then move the picture of stirring onto the bottom strip of the communication board.

  6. 6

    Show the student how to mix up the egg with a fork. Let the student try. Depending on the student's ability level, she may need hand-over-hand assistance.

  7. 7

    Read the next step in the recipe. Put the picture of a pan and a picture of butter onto the bottom strip of loop tape on the communication board.

  8. 8

    Ask the student what happens next. He should respond that you put a pan on the stove, and then he should go ahead and put the pan on the stove. Show him how to add a little butter.

  9. 9

    Look at the recipe with the student. Move the picture of a stove from the top strip of loop tape on the communication board to the bottom strip.

  10. 10

    Have the student turn the stove onto medium heat. Tell her to wait until the pan gets hot and the butter melts.

  11. 11

    Review the next step in the recipe with the student. Move the picture of pouring and another picture of a pan from the top strip of loop tape to the bottom strip.

  12. 12

    The student pours the eggs into the hot pan. Tell him to stir until the eggs begin to form lumps of cooked egg. He may need help stirring. Use hand-over-hand assistance, as needed.

  13. 13

    Ask the student what she should do when the eggs are cooked. She should say that you turn off the stove, and then she should turn the stove off.

  14. 14

    Ask the student what to do with the eggs before he can eat them. He should say you need to put them on a plate, and then he can go ahead and put the eggs on a plate. Use hand-over-hand assistance, as needed, when he moves the eggs to the plate.

Tips and warnings

  • Moving the pictures from the top strip of loop tape to the bottom strip helps the student keep track of what step she is on in the recipe.
  • Depending on the level of disability, you may need to vary your level of assistance. Use least-to-most prompting. Let the student try by himself and only step in with assistance if needed.
  • Some students may need hand-over-hand assistance.
  • Practice cooking in more than one setting (home and school); otherwise the student may generalise her cooking skills to one place, such as home.
  • Safety should be your first priority. On difficult tasks, such as cutting, closely supervise the students and provide as much assistance as needed.

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