What CAN He Do?
by Emily Coleman
My daughters always want to help me in the kitchen…well, not always. They like baking and helping make dinner, but not necessarily doing the dishes. Usually, that’s when they disappear. However, while cooking, they see me moving about and getting into all the cupboards and their natural curiosity draws them to my side.
My visually impaired son, Eddie, is often drawn to the kitchen, too. The smells of dinner may bring him in, or simply the sound of cupboards opening and closing. To him, this all means that there is food happening, and he doesn’t want to miss out. The problem is, once he arrives and finds nothing is quite ready to eat, he gets really mad.
This weekend, I decided to have him help me make some muffins. I realized that if he wasn’t part of the process, he wasn’t going to understand what was involved. This is easier said than done because he doesn’t like to be put to work…and he generally doesn’t like to be “made” to do anything.
I could make him help me in every step of the process. I could hold his little arm with a spoon attached and make him mix the ingredients. I could force him to stay with me in the kitchen until every last part of the recipe was complete and then insist he wait with me patiently for fifteen minutes until those muffins were done.
I could have done all of that…and then we both would have been angry, irritated, tired, and hating cooking in general. Instead of forcing Eddie to participate in every aspect, I simply thought, “What CAN he do?” And also, “What would he like to do?”
Eddie enjoys tasting the ingredients, so sampling would have to be allowed. Also, he knows the location of the main parts of our kitchen…the refrigerator, the pantry, and the sink. So, if I asked him to do things in relation to putting items away, he could complete the task with little assistance…and therefore minimal irritation.
I had him stand at the counter as I brought out each item. To keep his attention this required lots of cheesy singing to the tune of “Row Your Boat” that sounded something like this:
“Making muffins in the kitchen...can be lots of fun! Eggs, oil, mix, and water...that is how it’s done!”
You’d be amazed how good I’m getting at making up songs.
Anyway, as I added each ingredient, I politely asked him to put it away. “Eddie, please put the oil in the pantry. Eddie, please put the eggs back in the fridge. Eddie, please put the dirty dishes in the sink.” You see my point. He was helping, he was learning where things go, and he was actually happy to do it.
We finished the lesson with only a couple of minor meltdowns from either of us. While we waited for the muffins to cook, we had some quality time playing his favorite games. In the end, we had delicious muffins, I felt like we’d accomplished something, and I was again reminded of what Eddie CAN do.
Time well spent.
Re: What CAN He Do?Posted by Susan Harper on 11/5/2013 at 7:03 AM
You stated that beautifully! So, how is that different than how you teach your sighted children? You found the things he can do and from those lessons, you bridge to the more difficult and less fun parts of the task. Learning takes many forms. Play is the task of learning in many cases for our children and so much more fun. I get the me melt downs. We've all had them. If someone tells you it is all roses, well, there version is suspect. But in the end you celebrated with that age old tradition of breaking bread together as family! Blessings.
Re: What CAN He Do?Posted by Liz N on 11/24/2013 at 11:45 AM
Your creative singing-while-cooking approach gave me a flashback to the awesome "Cricket's Cookery", which provided songs to go along with all of the recipes. My favorite lyric was "add some nuts and chocolate bits...stir as if you're having fits!"
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