Homeschooling on the Spectrum, Post #3: The Cooking Lesson

In a previous post (, I wrote about the book Language Lessons for Little Ones, Volume 1 by Sandi Queen ( In the book, we were instructed to do a picture study and discuss this copy of a painting:

William Bouguereau, Le Gouter

William Bouguereau, “Le Gouter”

Here is an excerpt of our discussion of the above picture (we also discussed what she was wearing, if the girl had long or short hair, boy vs. girl, what she saw behind the girl, pulled out a globe and found France, etc.):

Me: “What is the little girl holding?”

Beth: “A Bowl”

Me: I decided to roll with it, since she was having trouble getting the words out at the time, and I didn’t want to discourage her. A bowl it was. “What is in the bowl?”

Beth: Silence

Me: “Well, she has a spoon in the bowl.  Hmmm…What do you think she poured into the bowl?”

Beth: “Flour!”

Me: “What will the girl cook? Vegetables?”

Beth: Silence

Me: “What do you think she will cook in the oven?”

Beth: “Cookies!”

Beth’s answers are consistent with her experiences. Starting from when Beth was around 2.5 years old, she would insist “Want Flour! Want Flour!” and we would give her a bowl of flour to play with on the floor of the kitchen.  It was a freaking mess, but it was like an edible sand to her.  And since she ate sand, it was a good alternative for that type of sensory play. Now, at 5 years old, Beth has progressed to only using flour during cooking, but she still takes swipes and eats some. When we cook with flour, the thing we bake most often is cookies.

Maisy Makes Gingerbread

Cooking is wonderful natural occupational therapy, and we have been doing it for years. I want to expand off the picture study with a cooking experience, so I go to the pantry and find some Betty Crocker Gingerbread Cake and Cookie Mix. Then I remember one of Beth’s favorite Maisy the mouse books, Maisy Makes Gingerbread ( And soon we are on our way to a whole day lesson in baking and working together in the kitchen.

Maisy Makes Gingerbread

Maisy Makes Gingerbread

Maisy Makes Gingerbread is a great process-oriented book for young children.  Maisy is shown in her kitchen getting ready to cook, getting out the ingredients, mixing, cutting the cookies out, putting them in the oven, cleaning up, and, finally, eating them with friends. We read the book together and start to make the gingerbread cookies.

First Beth cuts open the bag of mix (I hold it for her), helps me measure and add the ingredients (just the mix, water, and butter), and she helps me stir it all up to make the dough.

Mixing the Gingerbread Dough

Mixing the Gingerbread Dough, Contemplating When to Stuff the Dough in Her Mouth

Next, we coat the dough with flour (Beth takes a few swipes) and roll it out.  This was the first time Beth did a majority of the rolling on her own. We just roll directly on a clean counter and we usually make a hug mess that I ignore until the end. What is important is to keep the process flow going so that Beth can connect the pieces of the process together.

Rolling the Gingerbread Dough

Rolling With It

Now it is time for cutting little gingerbread men. It is at this point that Beth can’t help herself, and eats some of the dough. The good thing about the Betty Crocker Cake and Cookie Mix recipe is it has no eggs, so sampling is not a worry. It has taken her years, but now Beth can push the cookie cutter in the dough, wiggle to loosen the dough from the surface, pull the cutter up, and poke the dough out of the cookie cutter. Transferring the cookies onto the cookie sheet is still a big challenge, but we will get there.

Cookie Cutter Pressing

Push, Wiggle, Up, Poke

The finished product (frost if desired):

Some Heads and Limbs Were Lost Due to Beth's Sampling of the Dough

A Lot of Missing Heads and Limbs, But That’s Okay!

Although Beth likes the dough, the cookies are not as appealing. So, she just has frosting instead, which is a favorite treat of hers (we call it a cupcake without the frosting):

Forget the Cookies, I Just Want Frosting!

Forget the Cookies, I Just Want Frosting!

Maisy Makes Lemonade

As Beth is downing her frosting, I start thinking about other Maisy books that are processed-oriented, such as Maisy Makes Lemonade (  I thought it would be a great drink to make on the hot summer day, and a good way to wash down the cookies (or frosting).

Maisy Makes Lemonade

Maisy Makes Lemonade

Like Maisy Makes Gingerbread, Maisy Makes Lemonade is a great process-oriented book. Maisy is shown being hot in summer, drinking all her lemonade and needed more, getting lemons from a tree, squeezing them with a friend, adding the other ingredients, and then drinking it with a friend.

I grab a recipe off the web ( and we head to the store to pick up organic lemons and a cheap hand juicer ( Shopping is a lesson in and of itself, and we have had a long history with it (  I am happy to report she is now doing outstanding in stores and no longer needs the vest, lots of edibles, or an electronic grocery list.  She seems to love shopping now!

We read Maisy Makes Lemonade and set up to make our own:

On No, What are We Doing Now?

On No, What are We Doing Now?

Beth helps with the measuring and pouring, and samples the sugar and lemons.

Beth Eats Many Unusual Things, Including Lemons

Licking Lemons (Yes, the Inside of the Lemon)

The juicer is hard for her to use on her own, but we will work up to that.

Time to clean up the huge mess in the kitchen. I would have read Maisy Cleans Up ( before we clean together, but it didn’t quite fit our kind of cleaning since it mentions using a vacuum (which terrifies Beth), mopping the floor (which I try to avoid whenever possible), and washing windows (which would be pointless, since all the double pane windows in our condo have broken seals and an opaque film between them, plus we have Beth’s bedroom window covered with foam insulation to block out street noise and light).


11 thoughts on “Homeschooling on the Spectrum, Post #3: The Cooking Lesson

  1. hecticpeace says:

    I just finished listening to “autism revolution” (audio version, otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten thru it) and there is some great info in that book regarding autism reversal…I personally feel its a great book for all people not just those with autism. Love the photos and baking cookies sounds yummy!

    • grahamta says:

      Thank you. I haven’t read the book, but I have read the interviews, I think I saw her in the PBS documentary, and I read the Amazon reviews just now to refresh my memory on her stance. Basically, she thinks diet and vitamins are key. We tried gfcf in the past and it seemed to have no effect. We are going dairy free for awhile and then building in lactose free products to see what happens there. I think some antibiotics she was on this past winter seriously messed up the balance of bacteria in her GI, and I notice any time she has significant milk 10-12 hours later there is a change in GI (frequent BMs and behavioral changes). Saying something can “cure” my daughter is a sensitive topic for me, but this book seems reasonable and seems to say play with the diet and you may see shocking improvement. Based on my daughter’s reaction to gas, her upset before BMs, and her extreme upset if her GI is messed up, I wholeheartedly agree that it can have a HUGE impact.

      • hecticpeace says:

        The author does say over and over this is not “cure” it is a whole person approach to find ways to improve autistic behaviors and limit the building of toxins on top of each other and how they might interact together within each individual person. It is not only food related. She does get into gfcf and soy free too..but she talks about nearly every toxic aspect of our lives, which is why I could never read the book …too much technical information in so many areas, and how they all relate to our brain chemistry, body actions, etc…but the audio version was quick and easy. We made some of the changes and have seen improvements not only where hoped for, but in all of our family members behavior so I’m of the belief it’s good information for all families not just those blessed with autism.

      • grahamta says:

        I get it…thanks. What toxins? Would you mind sharing the changes you made? Thx!

  2. hecticpeace says:

    We made minor changes in many areas, but did not eliminate any one thing 100%. Food related: we eat a ton of raw organic fruits and veggies before the crackers and cheese. Try to fill up on the good stuff so there isn’t so much room for the junk. We avoid GMO foods as much as we can. When we have a party or event to attend, we do not limit the junk food intake, but we do prepare for the aftermath and clear off the calendar for a few days afterwards to simply be home, low key, relaxed setting. Chemical related: we do not use chemical filled products on the kids bodies. I make our shampoo, conditioner and deodorant. I buy as natural as possible sunscreen with no nano and other naughty chemical bits. We mostly use vinegar and water to clean with instead of chemical cleaners. We homeschool and limit the outside stimulation when needed. We by no means are 110% natural, but we are far more natural than we used to be and we know when chemicals are being out into run bodies thru food, topical products, environment breathing, etc. if you happen to read my blog about our last week you can see I finally gave into my daughters year long plea for pink hair…I cringed at the thought of the chemicals used and cut the wait time in half so I could rinse rinse and rinse some more that much sooner! Haha! There are a lot of micro stressors in today’s world that weren’t there a generation ago…and I think that book does have some valid info on how those stressors pile up on us autistic or not…but I do not think its a cure book…more of an wow that is interesting what works for some and not others and I have seen this or that in my child and didn’t realize it could be this or that behind it…more of that sort of vibe to the book for me… 🙂

  3. hecticpeace says:

    we know when chemicals are being out into run bodies thru food, topical products, environment breathing, etc.

    That would be… we know when chemicals are being PUT into OUR bodies thru food, topical products, environment breathing, etc…..if autocorrect didn’t take over my sentences haha!

    • grahamta says:

      Thanks for the info about what you are doing and the book. We are pretty good about chemicals (actually we are both chemical engineers). I think that major makes us more aware of everything out there! Some people would think the opposite, but my husband is the most chemically conservative guy I know!

      As for food, I try to buy all organic, wash everything like crazy, etc.

      There is not way to avoid it and there is actually no way to tell all the things that can really harm us, especially cumulative effect. It is scary!

      • hecticpeace says:

        Up…lol…we have the engineer gene here too…haha…we blame our differences on the engineer gene, but we also feel very blessed to have the engineer gene as well, can’t imagine life different! 😉

  4. grahamta says:

    I should say we are also mostly vegetarian in the house…my husband is totally and my daughter and I eat chicken occasionally.

    • hecticpeace says:

      Us too, generally the meat we do eat is venison from our property…it’s the most organic, local, grass fed lean meat we can find. 🙂 life is an adventure and I certainly never meant to offend if I did. We are all plugging along thru our own adventures doing what works for our families. I like hearing what others have to offer in ways of ideas, information, references, please always feel free to share with me greatness that happens for you guys. 🙂

  5. grahamta says:

    offend heck no! I am just sort of blunt with my responses…working on it. Seriously considering reading that book now though. But the research is moving so fast I almost want to wait for her update. I found some good talks of hers on youtube which were very rational and backed by as much supportive research as she could find at the time. Thank you for bringing a good thinker in the bio world into my awareness!

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