Sunday, October 10, 2010

Baking and the Aspie Mind

I love to cook.  Cooking, particularly baking, has been a great therapy and life-skill teacher for me.

What makes baking particularly suited to an Aspie and a good teaching tool is that it gives exact, specific instructions.  It tells you exactly how much flour, sugar, butter or raisins to put in, how to combine them and when to set the oven.  In the same breath of how much of an exact art it can be, it's also one of change and compromise.  Sometimes the recipe is slightly off or contains something you don't want so you have to compensate for it.

When I bake, my mind calms.  I go into a zone where there's just me, the ingredients and the oven.  I know exactly what it wants from me and how it should turn out, but also that there will be changes and bumps, that the dough might not set right or the oven might be slightly off.  I anticipate problems or laugh when I run into them.  It might not turn out perfectly, but there's a tangible result and I know better for next time.

The change benefits are huge, as are the sensory therapy possibilities.  When you know that touching an unpleasant texture will lead to something you can enjoy, it becomes much more bearable.  Likewise, it gives the chance to get messy and explore, to learn.  Even a kid who is obsessed with an entirely different subject can enjoy cooking - you can make dinosaur cupcakes or calculate the trajectory of a banana cream pie.

Another benefit is the sense of empowerment it gives to a kid with a special diet or food allergies.  It allows them to take control of their food and learn to make things that they can eat so they don't feel as helpless to ingredient labels.  A gluten-free casein-free diet is difficult, but learning how to modify foods you love (like pizza) and make them yourself gives a huge sense of satisfaction.  Cooking is also a life-skill that everyone needs to know and making it less scary by trying new foods and experimenting can be great.

Take a chance and bake something!

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