Teach an Autistic Person How to Cook Well

Teach an Autistic Person How to Cook Well

Due to various reasons, including sensory issues, food aversions, motor challenges, and difficulty processing information, many autistic individuals struggle with cooking well.

However, cooking is an essential life skill everyone, including autistic people, needs to know to function better as an adult.

Interested in learning how to teach an autistic person how to cook well? Here's what you should know.

The first step is to introduce your autistic learner to the kitchen.

There are many kitchen utensils and kitchen equipment used in preparing various types of dishes.

You want to familiarize your autistic learner with the kitchen environment so they don't get confused or overwhelmed as time goes on.

Next, talk about essential cooking ingredients used in most recipes.

You can encourage your autistic learner to feel, smell and taste various fresh and dry ingredients in the kitchen, so they are easier to tell apart.

Once done, you can then choose a simple recipe for your first cooking practical. Use visual aids like photos or videos to explain the preparation process, ingredients needed, and utensils they use for the recipe.

Read on to learn a complete guide you can use to teach an autistic person how to cook well:

Autism Therapists in Colorado

Kelsey Maestas, LPCC

Kelsey Maestas, LPCC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Kelsey Motley, LPCC

Kelsey Motley, LPCC

(719) 345-2424
Kimberly Nefflen, LPCC

Kimberly Nefflen, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Annalise Saylor, LPCC

Annalise Saylor, LPCC

(720) 449-4121
Julie Maloney, LPCC

Julie Maloney, LPCC

(719) 345-2424
Mackenzie Batson, LPCC

Mackenzie Batson, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Bethany Cantrell, LPC

Bethany Cantrell, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Jessica Gutierrez-Gaytan, SWC

Jessica Gutierrez-Gaytan, SWC

(719) 345-2424
Olivia Woodring, LPCC, NCC

Olivia Woodring, LPCC, NCC

(719) 345-2424
Chelsea Bruntmyer, MA, LPCC, NCC

Chelsea Bruntmyer, MA, LPCC, NCC

(719) 696-3439

Introduce Them to the Kitchen 

To teach an autistic person how to cook well, the first step is to familiarize them with the kitchen environment.

There are several kitchen utensils and equipment with varying functions in the kitchen, and for an autistic person, it can be stressful and overwhelming to know them all.

Start by taking a tour of the kitchen and focus on discussing the various equipment used during a cooking project.

Show them where the microwave, toaster, blender, refrigerator, measuring spoons, etc., are, and briefly describe their uses.

Also, you can arrange certain kitchen equipment with your autistic learner, so they feel engaged and part of the process.

Show them the items that can be moved, items that have to be arranged in a particular order, and items with a fixed position.

Furthermore, you can teach them basic rules to ensure kitchen safety.

Show them how to handle sharp tools or glass, electrical equipment, hot/cold food items, and turn off/on the gas stove.

Most autistic individuals react to sensory stimulations differently; some can be undersensitive to the smell of gas, extreme temperature, or even pain.

So it's essential to lay out important kitchen rules and cooking habits to ensure their safety.

Talk About Ingredients 

The next important tip you need to teach an autistic person how to cook well is to introduce them to essential cooking ingredients.

Take your autistic loved one on a tour of your kitchen and explain the benefits and applications of basic cooking ingredients.

Start with the ingredients in your storage, then move to fresh ingredients like butter, eggs, and milk stored in the refrigerator.

Next, show your autistic learner where dry ingredients like spices, sugar, salt, and flour are stored.

You can encourage them to taste, smell or feel the texture of cooking ingredients in the kitchen.

This helps them get accustomed to the ingredients and learn how the sensory stimulations affect them.

With this exercise, you might discover that they find the smell of onions or the texture of a hard-boiled egg uncomfortable and distressing.

In addition, you can teach your autistic loved one how to store and arrange cooking ingredients.

Store dry ingredients like salt, flour, or sugar together and teach them how to measure, scoop and level.

It's best to use containers with clearly marked measurements for storage so it's easier for your autistic learner to use.

Choose a Simple Recipe 

Now that your autistic loved one is familiar with cooking ingredients, kitchen equipment, and utensils, it is time to cook!

To teach an autistic person how to cook well, choose a simple recipe with few basic ingredients for them to practice with.

It is crucial to select the right recipe with no more than five ingredients and a short list of equipment needed.

You want your autistic learner to grasp the cooking procedures easily, and even more so, you want them to have an exciting and positive experience.

After selecting a recipe, use a visual aid to display step-by-step cooking procedures, ingredients needed, equipment list, and cooking duration.

Most autistic individuals don't do well with surprises and unpredictability. So ensure your autistic learner knows what to expect.

Also, you can take your autistic learner along to shop for the ingredients.

Write out a list of ingredients needed and add pictures to make shopping easier for them.

You won't always be available to help, so ensure you prepare them to shop for groceries and cook independently.

Gather All You Need for Cooking 

Now that you have the right recipe and ingredients, it's time to gather everything you need for your cooking and position them on your kitchen counter.

To teach an autistic person how to cook well and make the process understandable, arrange the ingredients and tools in the correct order of usage.

Next, refer to the ingredients in your recipe book list and go over them with your autistic learner to ensure you have all the ingredients you need. Once done, start your cooking process.

If your autistic learner has trouble focusing on one procedure or step at a time, you can cover the completed steps with a piece of paper.

Then, adjust the paper as you go.

Now that you are well into the cooking process, you must be patient as a teacher.

Most autistic individuals find it difficult to process information like other neurotypical people.

So, you must give room for mistakes and correct them using positive reinforcements.

Make it a Routine 

Although acquiring good cooking skills is rewarding in the long run, it takes time to master how to cook well.

Thus, to teach an autistic person how to cook well, encourage them to be repetitive and consistent with what they have learned.

You can present a recipe book{ handmade or bought} containing detailed recipes and instructions for at least three of their favorite foods.

Encourage them to follow the steps correctly- gather ingredients, arrange ingredients and equipment on the kitchen counter and maintain focus while cooking.

You can practice with them for the first few times until they can easily cook those recipes on their own.

For autistic persons, adding cooking to their daily routine will prepare them for a fulfilled and independent future.

Cooking repetitively also facilitates social-emotional development, builds confidence, improves motor skills and executive functioning, and introduces them to a wide variety of food choices.


Adults with autism often have unique challenges with learning how to cook and cooking itself.

Whether they struggle with motor issues, organizational problems, sensory challenges, or find it hard to follow instructions, there are important steps you can follow to teach an autistic person how to cook well.

Support your autistic loved one through their cooking journey by introducing them to the kitchen, discussing ingredients, choosing a simple recipe, gathering cooking ingredients together, and making it a routine. 


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July 24th, 2024

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