Intrigued by recipe books, our special son calls himself a cooker. "See, Dad, I can cook. I'm a cooker!" he beams as he stirs the food in the pan. Sloshing has been minimized as we've taught him to stir "around" and not "up and down." He gets it most of the time. Desserts, main dishes, any type of cookbook has his rapt attention. He especially loves children's cookbooks with pictures of the dishes. He carries them around with him, even in the car when we travel. Cooking - or the thought of it - is a passion.
With a brother just seven months older than he is, our adopted special son is well aware that there are so many things he is just not capable of at this point in his life: math, reading harder books, science, academics. He compares himself to his older brothers, and comes up wanting. So, our family tries to help him learn how to do things. Make his bed. Empty the trash. Put his own clothes and shoes up. Brush his teeth. Shower himself. Requiring much help and repetition, these are major milestones, believe me.
However, we wanted to go beyond necessities, to desire. What are the things our son would like to do, that he's unable to do at this point? When we read his favorite books, he is intrigued by the foods mentioned. Madeline brings questions about French food, so we read books on making crepes and French bread. How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World and Johnny Appleseed raised questions of what things can be made from apples, so we made a list: applesauce, apple pie, apple fritters, apple butter. We went apple picking in the fall and made fresh apple pies.
That's why we settled on cooking. So, we bring him alongside when we are making meals. He stirs well. He retrieves food from the pantry or refrigerator, with a reminder to shut the fridge door. He loves to wear his special apron, with large pockets, where he places eggs, lemons, or other small ingredients he's carrying to the kitchen.
So, we thought he might enjoy learning to bake bread. The recipe we use is for a special diet (gluten-free / casein-free or GFCF), so there are no wheat or milk products included. We use a mixture of wheatless flours (bean, rice, potato, soy, and others) instead of white or wheat.
With his collection of cookbooks, we thought our first course of action would be to make him a recipe for his special bread. When our older children were young, we borrowed a children's recipe book from the library. With line drawings showing the list of ingredients, this book was created so children could make chocolate chip cookies with minimal assistance. The pages laminated to keep them clean, each step was on a separate page, sequentially, so they could just turn the page and follow the next instruction. This seemed like the perfect solution for our son.
So, we staged and took pictures of him doing each step for making his bread and put together his own cookbook. The pages are laminated, and the edges are comb-bound to keep it together. We titled it "Morgan's Bread." A book must have a title, you see.
From washing his hands at the beginning, to getting out the ingredients and supplies, we listed each step in sequence. Measuring cup, tablespoon, bowl, and breadmaker are gathered. Steps are very small, such as the eggs: cracking the eggs requires a bowl which he cracks the eggs into, looks for eggshells, then pours the eggs into the breadmaker. Another step is "throw away the egg shell in the trash." We have to be specific, or things will be left undone.
We also put the dry ingredients in sealable plastic bags, measured to the exact amount the recipe calls to make one loaf of bread. This includes flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and any other dry ingredients which are then mixed together. With fewer ingredients to measure it is easier for him to be successful, and tidy.
You can see this simple cookbook at our website: Morgan's Cookbook
While our son is gaining experience and knowledge, his view of himself has improved. From this simple experiment, he now feels more confident to try other new things. I think a cookbook for brownies might be next.
Kym Wright is the mother of eight. She enjoys cooking, baking, and eating - and helping her children learn a love of the kitchen. You can visit her website at: www.KymWright.com Her online publication is The Mother's Heart magazine, for wives and mothers with hearts in their homes.