Monday 23 November 2015

Potato handler and crumble creator - autism and interaction in the kitchen

Potatoes by a pan

We don't often do roast Sunday dinners in our house. We used to do them a lot but then there was a period of time when it just became too difficult. Not only were the kids not taking part in the dinner but they required constant assistance to stay off of one another, entertained or safe. There was almost a shift system and someone was always away from the table. Recently though whatever combination of child development stages led to this 'no Sunday roast zone' we had entered seemed to pass. And to my absolute delight our autistic five year old was actively interested in the return of our Sunday dinner preparations.

I don't think twice when Jane wants to 'help' me sweep the floor or do the vacuuming. My husband may not believe it but I do these jobs at least once most days. Jane has been 'helping out' for at least a year and she's only two and a half years old. It's because she is interested in interacting with me and her environment. She is not stressed by the noise of the vacuum cleaner or anything else on the house. We've been baking together for at least a year too. But it's not the same for David.

David has been diagnosed with ASD since he was three years old. Sometimes he cannot, and other times he may decide not to, interact with the world around him because he finds it too confusing or because it seems pointless. Let's face it; lots of people prefer to play on their IPads than engage in an actual conversation with someone. As David's verbal skills are very limited, I'm hardly surprised he is sat on the sofa while I'm peeling potatoes on the floor. One after the other the cleaned potatoes from the colander are peeled over a large bowl and then placed into a big pan to on the hob later.

 Jane has already asked what I'm doing a few times and after being satisfied that the game of flying to the moon she is playing is better than my activity, I'm left alone for a few minutes. Then David comes to sit opposite me. His first task is to investigate the potatoes. They are all emptied out of the colander and checked over before going back inside. David then looks at me for a bit before turning over and looking at me through his legs. This is one of the ways David likes to look at the world. Then as I'm finishing peeling a potato I use Makaton to sign 'potato'. He jumps up and hands me another one from the colander. "Thank you" I sign and say. But my grin is far more than a 'thank you' smile.

David returns to play with his IPad but spends the next 15 minutes guarding the colander from any would be thief and almost to the second, jumping up and handing me potatoes until they are all gone. Each time I am thrilled.

After I'd finished making the rest of the Sunday Roast, I started on pudding - rhubarb and pear crumble. David wonders into the kitchen and sees me measure out the ingredients for the crumble. I'm beginning to break up the butter and crumble it into the flour and sugar just like my mum taught me. Then David leaned up onto the counter and stuck his hand in the bowl to feel the texture and see what I was doing. Again I use Makaton to ask David if he wants to 'cook'. He seemed interested, so I immediately brought the bowl down onto the floor and David and I shared the bowl while he copied me pushing the butter through my fingers and into the flour and sugar.

This type of shared attention is so rare. It requires an interest in people, activities and a preparedness to share them with someone else. This is really difficult and new for David as it means seeing things from another person's point of view.

Honestly, if there had been nothing else to do I'd have peeled potatoes and made crumble all day. The crumble proved to be more fun than handing over potatoes and David was a bit disappointed when I finally needed to pour it over the fruit. And despite his valiant efforts, he didn't have roast potatoes or crumble for dinner as neither is yet in his acceptable food repertoire. But I saw a little boy excel himself. And I saw hope for independent living skills in my son. What a great Sunday roast I had this week.

Our blog - Racing Clouds - David's Delight

External Links - Communicating and Interacting

1 comment:

  1. That's fantastic, a great achievement and wonderful for both of you. Interaction in whatever form it comes is a big step.
    Thanks for sharing #LetKidsbeKids


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