Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cooking boosts skills of children with special needs

Before Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer calls her son George to the dining room table, he is bouncing around the living room, walking back and forth, clambering onto the couch, pressing himself against her as she walks by, his hands a frenzy of motion, his mouth spouting agitated gusts of impatience.

Then, finally, it is time. Kaplan-Mayer escorts George, 9, and his sister June, 6, both decked out in colorful aprons lovingly made by Grandma, to the table, which is laden with apples, bananas, honey, grape juice, nuts and spices.
It is the eve of Passover and they will be making the traditional charoset, an activity both children have been looking forward to all morning. June is excited, too, but George, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3, is given to a more restless anticipation.

But as Kaplan-Mayer places an apple in his hand with a corer and divider, gently instructing him to push down on the center, the transformation is remarkable. He becomes quiet, taking to the task with an earnest concentration and simple joy that lights up his face.

“It really helps him focus,” says Kaplan-Mayer, noting that other steps in the recipe — such as cutting the apples, peeling and chopping a banana, crushing the nuts, pouring all the ingredients into a bowl and stirring them — all help with stimulating his senses and improving multiple skills, including those he will need to hold a pencil and write. And as he works with June, who is just as involved in every step, he’s learning even more.

Read more of Naila Francis' PhillyBurbs article HERE.
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