• Cooking Activities for Children with ASD


    Cooking activities are a great way to bond with your children. If you’re the parent of a child with ASD, you may read that with some degree of skepticism. But trust us, food is fundamental to life, and when you cook with your kids you impart important life skills and connect with them in a meaningful way.

  • Visual instructions make cooking activities simple. Start with a rule chart that addresses washing your hands before preparing food and simple kitchen safety. Then create visual or adapted recipes to make things easier for children to remember.
  • Preparing ahead of time is the key to success. All of your kitchen equipment, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and so on, should be ready ahead of time. You should also make sure you have all the ingredients and that they’re stored in logical places easy for children to locate. This helps children learn where various items are kept.
  • Working in the kitchen helps kids develop important skills. As they scoop, measure, chop, cut, spread, and stir, they’re working on fine motor skills and coordination. Following a recipe helps teach them to follow directions, and cooking and eating with others helps improve social skills. It can also be a good time to bond with them and have fun as you help them learn these new skills.
  • Recipes don’t have to be elaborate to be fun for kids. You can start with making sandwiches and letting them help you make cookies or cupcakes. Even young children can place cupcake liners in pans or put sprinkles on a cupcake or cookie. If you’re looking for recipes that are more in depth, here are some great examples, complete with visual versions for your child with ASD:
  • Embrace the sensory joys of cooking. Kneading bread, rolling dough, breaking and separating eggs, and many other kitchen tasks provide opportunities for messy, sensory fun. If, on the other hand, you have a child with sensory challenges and aversions to certain textures, there are a few ways to approach this problem. You could provide non-latex medical gloves, which are thin enough to provide sensory input while protecting against direct touch. You can also expose the child to different textures in play situations, with things like Magic Sand or slime.

If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, STAR of CA is here to offer support, keeping you informed of opportunities for fun with your kids and providing important support services. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in a nurturing environment that offers support for the entire family. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • How Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Can Affect Kids

    Does your child suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? If so, you may not even realize that this is the problem. Sometimes, parents think kids are just slacking off, because they seem to be losing concentration, sleeping more, and generally acting mopey and low on energy. It might not immediately occur to you that this seasonal funk is anything more than a phase, but kids can get SAD just as adults can. People with SAD tend to have symptoms in a seasonal pattern, starting when winter approaches and going away when spring returns. It’s thought that the depression associated with SAD is related to decreased daylight exposure, but it’s not entirely clear how it works. It may have something to do with melatonin, which increases in the dark and makes us sleepy, and serotonin, the hormone that increases with light exposure and makes us happy. About 6 percent of people experience seasonal depression, and it’s most common in older teens and young adults. But how can you tell if your child is suffering from SAD?

    • Mood shifts. If your child is experiencing SAD, you’ll probably notice mood swings for at least two weeks. Sadness, irritability, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness may be accompanied by your child being more sensitive than usual to criticism, being self-critical, and crying or getting upset easily.
    • Your child doesn’t enjoy things as much. You might notice that your child has lost interest in things he or she usually finds enjoyable, or feels unable to accomplish tasks successfully.
    • Sleep pattern changes. Your child might have trouble sleeping or might sleep much more than usual. It can be hard for kids with SAD to get out of bed and ready for school in the morning.
    • Your child lacks energy. Regardless of sleeping habits, you might notice unusual tiredness or unexplained fatigue.
    • There are changes in eating habits. Children with SAD often crave simple carbohydrates, like comfort foods and sweets. They may also tend to overeat.
    • Your child has trouble focusing. Grades might drop, as your child becomes less able to concentrate and less motivated to succeed.
    • He or she spends less time socializing. If your child is spending less time with friends or in social activities he or she previously enjoyed, this could be a symptom of depression associated with SAD.

    If you suspect your child is suffering from SAD, talk to your pediatrician. Treatment depends on the severity of the child’s symptoms, but there are several different approaches that may help. Increased light exposure, light therapy, medication, and talk therapy are all used to combat SAD.

    If you’re concerned that your child may be suffering from SAD or another form of depression, don’t hesitate to seek help. STAR of CA provides a wide array of services to children, adolescents, and adults, to address a variety of mental health needs. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in a nurturing environment that offers support for the entire family. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.