Structuring the HOME for Children with Special Needs, Part III

Cindy Golden, OMAC Consulting


This is the 3rd part in a series on Structuring the Home for Children with special needs.  The last post we focused on organizing a kitchen for an older child or one with fewer needs and this post will focus on children with more significant needs. 


Our students with more significant needs will require more time and more structure in order to develop independent skills in the kitchen.  It is very possible that these children can develop some level of functional skills but it is important that you begin very early.


Below are five practical ideas for creating structure and promoting independence in the kitchen.  The first and most important is to teach your child what he or she can and cannot touch in the kitchen:  Safety is a priority.


Nonverbal or less verbal child with more significant needs


1.       Involve your child in as many aspects of life in the kitchen as is possible.

·         Wash/dry dishes

·         Wipe the table

·         Set the table

·         Use the dishwasher


Of course you have to make the steps simple and discrete.  Use a visual schedule like we discussed in the last post.  When I say involve your child, this may mean putting plastic cups on the top rack of a dishwasher or putting placements on the kitchen table.


2.      Cook with your child.  There are many sites online that offer visual supported recipes you can use with your child.  Here are a few of those sites:


Tin Snips


Symbol World


Special Education Technology



Use the recipes from the sites above to create a specialized cookbook for your child. Use a 3-ring binder and plastic document sleeves to create a cookbook with recipes using visual supports.  Not only will your child love to use this while cooking – what a wonderful gift for a teacher.




3.      Let your child help make good food choices.  Grocery Pecs is a good site with picture symbols of foods.  A great way to help your child learn about good food choices is to use a plastic divided lunch tray and food photos to teach the child about foods that go together to make a healthy meal.


4.  Teach the child about food storage.  Which foods go where:  Refrigerator, Freezer, Pantry.



5.      Place picture symbols as labels to cabinets and place Stop Signs as visual reminders.  















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