15 Ways Special Needs People Can Help In The Kitchen
It’s not easy living with a family member who has special needs or neurological disability of sorts. It has it’s challenges, takes a lot of patience, and a lot of love to take care of their daily needs. I’ve been taking care of my special needs sister (basically) her whole life, and just recently decided (with input from my partner) to become her full time caregiver in our house. It is a sincere full time job, but it’s something that I have learned to love.
As you know, I absolutely love to cook and bake! You can find me in the kitchen almost all day long, or online writing about food. It’s my place of solitude and joy. Though, it’s been a small challenge having my sister with me. We are in a process of growing to get to know each other more. She really wants to help me in the kitchen, but I know I can do things faster and more efficient to my own liking and pace. I know exactly where everything is, and I don’t have to explain how to do things. I can just grab my favorite recipe and start cooking. However, I have recently learned that it’s so easy to discount someone with special needs when it comes to doing things in the kitchen. I also like to clean up my messes in the kitchen as soon as I make them. I don’t like a chaotic mess in my kitchen. However, I’m learning to embrace the chaos!
One day, I had one of those “A HA” moments, and recently started incorporating her into giving me a hand in the kitchen. It was definitely a little bit nerve wracking at first, but helped me to further understand what my sister truly needs to feel when it comes to contributing to the household as a member of my home. This experience helped me create a lot of different ideas in being able to utilize her in the kitchen. You might think it could be a little tiring in always watching over them and giving them and extra set of hands—and it is, but in the end…people with special needs just want to feel included into every daily life. They want to be able to feel like they are contributing to the household in their own way. What could give a more inclusive feeling than having them help cook the food that they are going to eat?
Each person of special needs has their own level of disability and cognitive skill set. Just because they have their own level of disability, doesn’t mean that they can’t help with anything at all in the kitchen. Trust me. There is something that they can help with to make them feel super important and special at the same time.
Here are 15 ideas that you can use to incorporate into your daily kitchen life in having them give you a helping hand. I have to forewarn you: you might end up with a few squeals of joy and receive a lot of different smiles and giggles!
- They can help pour in different ingredients that are already premeasured for them. This alone brought a lot of great joy from here. Imagine, All I had to do was premeasure out ingredients and she can pour the ingredients in.
- They can help spraying down baking pans and cookie sheets. I use a lot of Pam in my baking. I showed her an example on how it was done, and she got the hang of it pretty fast!
- They can help pour cake batter into pans and place cookie dough onto a baking sheet. This was a challenging one for me. I’m a perfectionist in the kitchen, but is it really going to ruin my day that the cookies are not the same size?
- They can help roll out dough. This is super fun for them. Flour down the rolling pin for them and let them have at it!
- They can help stir food in a pot on the stove, or in a mixing bowl. Whether it’s frozen vegetables or food in a pan. Let them enjoy stirring something.
- They can help put things into the oven, if not too heavy or unsteady.
- They help get different ingredients from the refrigerator or cabinets for you.
- They can help taste test everything! Who doesn’t love that job?
- With guidance, they can hold a hand held electric mixer when making pancakes, icings, cake mixes, mashed potatoes, etc.
- If you’re using a timer, have them hold the timer and become the reminder for you to get things out of the oven or microwave.
- They can help put dirty dishes & utensils used for cooking into the sink or dishwasher.
- If you’re mixing things with your hands, have them help instead. Especially when making recipes for: meatloaf, biscuits, stuffing, etc.
- They can help crack open eggs into a bowl. However, I recommend using a small holed strainer over the bowl the eggs go into. This will help avoid getting shells into your eggs they’ve cracked open.
- They can help put away the clean dishes into their proper places.
- They can help with the whole clean up process of cleaning the kitchen.
There are so many other small things that people with special needs can do in the kitchen to help out and feel as if they have contributed in some small way. But that one small way that they help will make them feel amazing and even a little independent.
The biggest challenge is going to be for the person that’s helping and guiding them in the kitchen. This is a huge labor of love, but in the end…everyone is going to be happy. Yes, there are going to be a little bit bigger messes to clean up. It might take some time, but you’re going to love creating memories that you will both cherish for always!