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.
Establishing a disciplinary structure at home can be a challenge for any family, but when you have a child with ASD, you may need additional resources to help you meet that challenge. STAR of CA can provide therapy and educational services to support your family, but it is important for parents to understand behavioral strategies such as positive reinforcement as well so that progress made in therapy can be carried through to the home environment. Below, you will see the answers to some common questions about positive reinforcement.
What are the benefits of positive reinforcement?
Though punishment is an instinctual response to negative behavior in children, studies have shown that reinforcing alternative behaviors leads to longer lasting positive change. It is important to recognize that negative behaviors should have consequences, but positive reinforcement is the means by which appropriate behaviors are taught and maintained.
How can parents participate in positive reinforcement?
The first step to learning to deliver positive reinforcement effectively, is to identify items, games, activities, or words that your child finds interesting. Often, behavior change professionals will “audition” dozens of potential reinforcers in order to find items that the child prefers. Once you’ve found those items or routines, the next step is to identify the behaviors you wish to reward the child for performing. Sometimes it’s easier to do this in reverse: make a list of the behaviors you wish to eliminate, then make a list of the appropriate replacement behaviors you want to take their place. Reward your child for using the appropriate behaviors by doling out your identified reinforcers when the child performs the replacement behaviors.
What strategies can be used when positive reinforcement fails?
Most children with ASD receiving ABA will have a Behavior Support Plan detailing both proactive and reactive strategies to eliminate problem behaviors and promote their appropriate replacement behaviors. Professionals, like those at STAR of CA, should provide parents with ongoing support to ensure that parents can follow the plan independently. The professionals should also update the plan periodically as the child learns, grows, and changes.
To learn more about positive reinforcement and other strategies that can help you raise a child with ASD, connect with STAR of CA at (805) 644-7827. Our team can provide proven therapy and support in Ventura for families who are raising children who have ASD.
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