Meal Planning

CIP Brevard is an organization that was founded to supply a transitional apartment program for individuals to learn the skills necessary to live independently.
We provide a variety of educational opportunities to our students. One of the skills we help teach our students is Menu planning and preparation.

This can be broken down in a few stages:

Menu planning requires a lot of communication, organization, problem solving and planning for our students. Because of this we have the students meet in groups with their roommates so that they can work together to come up with a plan for the week. Our students are required to cook at least one meal per week for their roommates. Each group discusses ideas for meal and works with their roommates to work around allergies and preferences.
The students are required to find a recipe on line or in a cook book and print a copy of the recipe for their cooking night. They use these recipes to create a shopping list based on the necessary ingredients.
Finally the student will need to plan for breakfasts, lunches, snack and meals for the weekend The role of the staff is to facilitate communication between the roommates, help the students come up with ideas for healthy meals and help then search for recipes.

Grocery shopping with adults with Asperger's can be difficult and time consuming but is an important skill when working toward a life of independence. Grocery shopping requires many executive functioning skills such as organization, prioritizing and pre planning. Many of our students come into our center without these skills and grocery shopping is an activity that allows us to teach executive functioning skills that can be used in many other areas. It is important when beginning the task of grocery shopping that the student is prepared and knows what to expect when entering the grocery store. It may be a good idea to show them a map of the store or at least explain to them what they can expect to see when entering the store.

It is also important to have a detailed grocery shopping list with them when they arrive at the store. This is a part of organizing and pre planning. When arriving at the store with the student, help them find the most efficient way to complete their grocery shopping while creating a routine that they will be able to follow in the future. The goal should always be for them to learn to complete this task independently. Your role as a caregiver or parent is to help them learn these skills so that they can do them on their own when they attain independence. Students should prioritize groceries they need for recipes over food that they want as snacks for budgeting and heath purposes. Help the students compare prices, find healthy alternatives and pay attention to nutritional content.

In the future this will help students maintain a healthy life style and bring an awareness to staying within a budget. Finally, make sure to stay with the students during checkout to help them with using their debit card or cash.
I would always suggest starting with cash to help the students learn the value of money. Sometimes when using a card it is difficult for the student to understand where the money comes from or how it effects their account balance. Also, make sure they are socially appropriate during their interactions with the cashier and other grocery store staff. These quick interactions are very important for their overall social growth.

Our program is designed to provide feedback at varying points in the living skills training to help student's learn from their mistakes and hear different ways to improve. The students eat together and share about their experiences. They take turns making dinner during the week.  The bonding allows the students to grow socially. The student who is cooking that night must be prepared to begin on time. This presents real life opportunities for the students to work through social conflict. If another student's dishes are in the sink or someone ate the food that the student bought for dinner, it creates a real time conflict. The Living Skills instructors are there to help the student resolve the conflict to different degrees. The program is designed to support students with the obstacles that may prevent them from living independently and being self sufficient.

Many people with autism say things exactly how they see it which can help the other students see how it their behavior looks to others. The students can make choices to accommodate the others that they are cooking for. For instance: If a fellow student does not like shell fish the student cooking may choose to substitute shrimp for another item. This teaches compromise and problem solving skills. After the student's eat the email there is a short "group meeting". Students are encouraged to share if they liked the food, what they did special to accommodate the others and if they had any trouble with each other.

This video was designed to share with you the process of mela preparation and how it can be effectiflve taught to young adults with autism.