April 22, 2016 4:27 pm
What’s does a 17th century still life painting of a pot roast and 17 year olds Instagram of their home made taco have in common? The art of showcasing your food. Besides the difference in time and the advanced technology, the drive to show your food to your peers has been cross generational.
Nowadays, many people have grown up with cooking shows, celebrity cooks, and associating fine dining with being a successful adult. Technology, as a whole, has allowed for more information to be obtained by the masses, and instead of being what was previously a limited trade, it can now be easily mastered by watching a YouTube tutorial.
The reality is that not all people find cooking interesting or have that internal drive to prepare their own meals. Meet the majority of our residents. Many individuals with autism struggle with food related issues for a large portion of their life. A lot of the clients we work are comfortable eating the same meal every day. This, for a lot of people, can seem boring or even extreme, but for many individuals with ASD it simply is the norm. It’s the difference between avoiding a type of food texture and having a bad day.
It’s not an easy thing to encourage healthy or even diverse eating habits for individuals with autism, but to be successful in doing so you have to build off the already developed and preferred meal choices.
With every aspect of independent living, the staff at Beacon Transitions are constantly working with the residents on creating better habits and developing stronger skill sets. In the case of health and wellness, we try and teach our young adults to become more comfortable in the kitchen by increasing their cooking skills, but to also figure out their individual meal interests. Not everyone likes the same food and that is completely okay. If pasta is a go-to then how can we increase the vegetable intake within the pasta dish, while not sacrificing their comfort flavors and meals.
One of our residents used to feel he was being made fun of for his love of soup in the morning. He would constantly feel that his peers thought it was a “weird” to have first thing in the morning. Did you know, however, that the different asian cultures think it would be wrong to have anything but soup? As a program, we constantly have to take a step back and recognize that we cannot change a resident’s eating preference, but instead build off of those preferences in a way that encourages additional healthier options.
It all starts with being confident in the food you are eating. If a young adult can start to be proud of the food he is cooking, then he is more likely to be internally driven to pursue more complicated cooking adventures. One of the biggest hits among our residents during cooking class is when we work on presentation of a dinner for a date night. While we are focusing on creating a nutritious meals, we are overly emphasizing the importance of presentation and taking pride in a prepared, well-balanced meal. Even if that well balanced meal happens to be canned soup and cooked broccoli with cheese, they need to be confident in their choices.
Everyone has a hard time taking pride in food that they don’t want to eat. So why would we expect an individual with autism to want to pursue foods that make them feel uncomfortable? We can encourage developing new food interests, but to do so successfully you need to appreciate their eating preferences first. Promote taking photos of their favorite dish that they prepared as a means to feel confident in their cooking skills. Encourage taking small steps to add additional vegetables, meats, and ingredients to help go outside of their comfort zone, but to not ruin the experience. Recognize that in order to have healthy eating habits, you have to enjoy food and the process of making it first.
Easier said than done, right?
Team Beacon Transitions
Beacon Transitions is a short term residential program that helps prepare young adults with ASD, aspergers, and other learning differences for a life of creative independence. We work with our residents by developing opportunities to learn, experience, and apply independent living skills in order to reach their true potential. If you have an interest in our program, reach out to us through our contact page, or email us at email@example.com
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