Meal Preparation

By Courtney Tabor-... on Oct 14, 2016

Meal preparation is an important component of independent living skills. As children grow, they are increasingly able to get or prepare food for themselves, from getting a snack from the cabinet to pouring their own cereal to making their own grilled cheese sandwich. Meal preparation skills vary from person to person, of course. While one person might be comfortable preparing a fancy three-course meal, another’s skills may not go much beyond putting a frozen pizza in the oven. However, it is generally expected that by the time an individual reaches adulthood, she should be able to make food to sustain herself, if she has the cognitive and physical capability to do so. For students with vision impairments, this is no exception. However, many students who are visually impaired need intentional instruction to learn meal preparation skills, because they cannot visually observe how meals are prepared or because they have not been given the opportunity to do so.

This activity is a great opportunity for parents and other caregivers to help a child with a vision impairment increase her independence and prepare for transition to adult life. The activity assumes very little prior experience with meal preparation. Students with more experience can learn to prepare meals that involve more advanced utensils, appliances, and skills. Students with complex needs who may not be able to prepare their own meals can nonetheless participate in some portions of this activity, such as learning to recognize and choose a food they would like to eat or helping to put food into the microwave.

Materials

  • Microwave
  • Prepackaged single serving microwavable meal (i.e. Healthy Choice frozen dinner)
  • Bump dots or other labelling markers, if needed
  • System for recording directions (see below for ideas)

Procedure

  1. Use bump dots or other markers to label microwave buttons with the student, and allow student to become oriented with the microwave.
  2. Work with the student to access the directions on the packaged meal. Solutions depend on the student’s vision and skill level and can include:
    • Using a handheld magnifier to read package instructions
    • Writing package instructions in braille or on a note taking device
    • Researching package information/instructions online at a site such as www.directionsforme.org
    • Using a device, such as a Pen Friend, to record voice instructions to be attached to the package
  3. Assist the student in following the instructions to prepare the meal.
  4. Provide instruction on how to determine when a food is done, how to handle hot items, and how to transfer food to a bowl or plate.

Variations

  • Family members or instructors can select portions of this activity to work on depending on a student’s specific needs. For example, an entire lesson can be spent learning a system for accessing food packaging information.
  • This activity also addresses compensatory and assistive technology skills.
  • To add a community component to this activity, students can take a trip to a local grocery store to learn about the various food options they can prepare using the skills that they have. If a student becomes comfortable using a microwave, she can learn about the various microwavable food options at the store. This will help the student to learn that she has access not only to the one meal she has learned to prepare, but to many other meals and food options.

Meal preparation collage