Autism and Culinary Abilities – Autism Parenting Journal
Meet Tanishq, an autistic boy whose love of cooking has inspired other children with special needs.
Autistic people have a number of special abilities. Recognizing and promoting such special abilities from an early age can help the child in the spectrum in many ways. Here is one such example of an 11 year old kid on the spectrum who now has an account on YouTube and Instagram to share their cooking skills.
My son Tanishq was diagnosed with PDD-NOS when he was two years old. As a young child, he did not have the tolerance to sit down and watch cartoons; Instead, he spent most of his time watching food channels on TV. Most of the shows were short and repetitive, so he enjoyed watching them.
One day as a five-year-old he insisted on turning dosa (a breakfast staple in southern India). His grandmother allowed him and saw that he understood the ability to easily pour the dosa batter. Little by little I realized that he liked to cook and encouraged him to help her in the kitchen. His motor skills also improved continuously by participating in kitchen work.
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The programs Tanishq saw on television were in Hindi, so he learned the Hindi names of most of the ingredients. Growing up, he learned to explore YouTube and looked for many of the shows he used to see on TV.
He insisted on doing something he saw on YouTube and we helped him replicate it. Tanishq now conveniently cooks South Indian staples such as rice, sambar, sabzi, idli, dosa, and chutney.
If he cooks something other than the usual, I take pictures and film it. When such a video was shared with close friends, within a week they had returned pictures of their children with special needs trying each other in the kitchen. Tanishq was very happy and excited to share his cooking videos.
During the lockdown, we created an account for him on YouTube. We have it Wonderfud with the slogan “Eating is Ishq with Tanishq! ”(“ Ishq ”means love / passion).
We have also opened accounts on Instagram and Twitter with the same name. More than 60 videos are uploaded on these channels and you can see a wide variety of foods from Indian and global cuisine prepared by Tanishq.
Tanishq always decides which dishes to prepare. He cannot be asked to do anything for the video. He only cooks when he wants to.
We cannot interrupt Tanishq while cooking; he’s so focused. He will neither wait for the videography nor repeat a step to take the picture. He also refuses to formally dress up for a video recording.
So when the ingredients are at home, Tanishq starts cooking and I record from a distance. Then it is uploaded to the channel with slight editing. He’s now verbal and his cooking vocabulary has improved tremendously – he loves to comment on while cooking. Some celebrity chefs he admires have encouraged him and featured him on their Instagram stories and tweets.
There are many children with autism who have good cooking skills. We hope that Tanishq’s cooking videos will motivate many parents to encourage their children to explore and enjoy this area.
Tanishq has epilepsy and sensory problems. But his love of cooking makes up for it all and has helped build his self-esteem. We hope his skills will inspire more families with autistic children.
This article was published in Issue 124 – Autism Around the World
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