Children with special needs struggle with social and language skills, making friends, teamwork, staying on task, focusing and self-esteem. Beverly Palomba, a veteran special needs educator and author of the one-of-a-kind cookbook, Special Day Cooking: A Life Skills Cookbook, has graciously agreed to be interviewed for the blog to share a little bit about her new venture.
Upon moving to San Francisco roughly 26 years ago, Beverly has been a teacher for the past twenty years, working exclusively in Special Education. She created a life skills cooking class at the local high school geared to the needs and abilities of her students. From this class curriculum her book was born. We discussed her book as well as her passion for writing it. I hope you enjoy!
Claire: As a first of its kind, what inspired you to write a cookbook for people with developmental challenges?
Beverly: My intention when I started teaching cooking to special needs children was that they would become independent in the kitchen. When I realized that there wasn’t a cookbook out there for them to use that met the criteria they needed to be successful, I decided to take the recipes from our classroom lessons and publish a cookbook.
Claire: What would be your advice on how a family with a special needs child goes about starting to cook from your cookbook?
Beverly: First, I would take a tour of the kitchen with your child. Check to be sure that equipment such as; mixing bowls, mixing spoons, measuring spoons, toaster, cutting boards, etc. can be easily reached. Then, show your child where the ingredients such as, spices, oil, dry ingredients are stored and that they can be easily reached as well.
Doing this with your child lets them know you are working as a team, that they are a part of the process, and their input is important. Be excited! If they see excitement in your eyes and hear it in your voice, they will feel excited too.
Then, pick out a recipe together. Choose a very simple recipe. Not just a few ingredients but a few directions as well. I always recommend doing a recipe a few times until the child feels comfortable with the layout of the recipe and the process. You want them to become independent cooks and you want to feel comfortable when they want to try something on their own.
My recipe to success when teaching cooking to special needs children; consistency, repetition, patience and a large dash of humor.
Claire: What do you think are some fundamental skills a child should have before being able to use your cookbook?
Beverly: It’s hard to say what age or level a child should be at to start cooking, especially with special needs children. It all depends on the individual child’s development. As in learning any life skill, the earlier the better, so it becomes second nature to them.
Claire: What makes “Special Day Cooking” different from other children cookbooks that are on the market?
Beverly: Special Day Cooking is different from other cookbooks (children’s or adult’s) in the layout. The recipes in my cookbook are designed to teach new cooks the process of cooking and each recipe is consistent in design. Special Day Cooking is also designed to grow with the child as they learn to cook. Special Day Cooking has very simple recipes to start with and more challenging recipes once the cooking process is learned.
Claire: In what ways do you think learning to cook would enrich the life of a child with special needs?
Beverly: Wow! Cooking has soooo many benefits!! When we are cooking there is so much going on. It just doesn’t teach an invaluable life skill of cooking a meal independently but it also it can teach how to follow directions, develop language, build social skills, self-esteem and confidence. It can give a child a sense of belonging, foters teamwork and prepares for independent adult living.
“Special Day Cooking” is available on Amazon or through Beverly’s website www.specialdaycooking.com
Photo courtesy of Contra Costa Times