Can Cooking Be Used as Therapy for Autism?

Natasha Young

programs for autism for children and teens. online and in person. west coast center for learning

Many people know that autism programs come in all different forms. But did you know that cooking is not just an essential life skill, it’s a therapeutic activity that can significantly benefit autistic teens and adults. Culinary therapy involves using the art of cooking to improve cognitive and sensory skills, promote independence, and enhance social interaction.

Why Cooking?

Cooking requires a range of skills from planning and sequencing to sensory integration and fine motor development. For individuals with autism, these tasks offer a structured way to engage with the world. The repetitive nature of certain kitchen tasks, like chopping or stirring, can be soothing, while completing a recipe provides a sense of accomplishment. 

Benefits of Culinary Therapy

  • Sensory Exploration: Cooking engages all senses, helping individuals with sensory processing issues to cope in a controlled environment.
  • Social Skills: Autism programs like group cooking classes encourage teamwork and communication, essential skills for social interaction.
  • Independence: Learning to cook boosts self-confidence and independence by providing skills that are crucial for living independently.

Supportive Autism programs

While various cookbooks exist, one noteworthy example is the “Cooking with Autism” cookbook. It utilizes a specially built kitchen and a cookbook titled “Coach in the Kitchen,” which features recipes broken down into small, manageable steps, expressed in simple terms. This makes the learning process particularly accessible for individuals with autism. Families can use the cookbook to create a full-course meal shared by students and their families, providing a natural environment to develop social skills in a dining room setting. Essentially, it allows autism programs at home that families can do together.

By integrating cooking into daily routines, individuals with autism can achieve significant growth in personal and social domains, making culinary therapy a valuable tool for enhancing quality of life.