How to Teach Cooking to Persons With Intellectual Disabilities
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.
- 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
- Hotplate or stove
- 2 eggs
1 Teach Individual Skills
2 Demonstrate how to cut
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.
3 Teach the names
Teach the names of the measuring spoons and cups and how to use them.
4 Teach the students
Teach the students how to use the stove, oven, microwave, mixer or other kitchen tools, depending on what is needed for the recipe.
5 Read the recipe with the student
Read the recipe with the student.
6 Prepare the Recipe
7 Copy pictures
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.
8 Put two strips
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.
9 Arrange the picture cards
Arrange the picture cards for the recipe on the communication board. Put them on the top strip of loop tape.
Tack or prop the recipe board where it is out of the way, but easily seen, while you cook.
11 Scrambled Eggs
Look at the list of ingredients with the student and then gather them on the counter.
13 Move the picture
The student should move the picture of an egg being cracked from the top strip of loop tape to the bottom strip.
14 Demonstrate how to crack an egg
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.
15 Let the student
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.
16 Look at the recipe with the student
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.
17 Show the student
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.
18 Read the next step in the recipe
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.
19 Ask the student what happens next
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.
20 Look at the recipe with the student at the recipe with the student
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.
21 Have the student
Have the student turn the stove onto medium heat. Tell her to wait until the pan gets hot and the butter melts.
22 Review the next step in the recipe with the student
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.
23 Pours the eggs into the hot pan
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.
24 Ask the student
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.
25 Ask the student what to do with the eggs before he can eat them
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.
- Safety should be your first priority. On difficult tasks, such as cutting, closely supervise the students and provide as much assistance as needed.
- 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 generalize her cooking skills to one place, such as home.