In the Kitchen with Noah – How to Use Visual Recipes with PECs

If you think about it, following even a simple recipe is the perfect time to work on many fundamental academic and language skills.  Food is a very good motivator for many children with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs.  So I thought we’d spend a few minutes today in the kitchen.

For our children to learn, there must be something in it for them.  Following a recipe requires that they follow directions, look, listen, obey, remember, select; and the fruit of their rewards is always something yummy.   They are also practicing delayed gratification, which all children need help with.  Using recipe boards are the perfect way to integrate all this for the visual learner.

 1. Keep a variety of recipe boards on your refrigerator. Out of sight is often out of mind; so you want these visible where you will be reminded to use them. I keep mine in a plastic envelope I bought at Office Max. I placed a super magnet (make sure to keep magnets out of the hands of any child who might swallow it) on the inside of the envelope to keep it attached to the side of the refrigerator.

2.  At the appropriate time, have your child select which recipe he is going to follow.  Even if you are deciding for him, let him find it from your collection.  We use these mostly at snack time.  I let Noah choose his snack from a choice board,  Snack Choices Board (PDF).  It was created on, so it is completely editable on that site at   Then he goes and finds the corresponding recipe from his recipe envelope.

3.  Using the recipe board, gather your ingredients, using every opportunity to sign, say and point (or just say and point).  Especially if your child is new to PECs, make an extra set of PECs to attach to the corresponding ingredient, so your child can match PEC to PEC as a prelude to matching PEC to object.  In any case, point out to your child that the PEC corresponds to the ingredient.  Use words like “match” and “same.”

5.  Follow the step-by-step directions on the recipe board.   If directions are numbered, make sure to point out and vocalize the numbers as you reach them.  Use words like “first”, “next”,  “last,” “in”, “out” and “pour”.

6.  When you complete the last step, sign, say and point “all done.”

7.  Put away all ingredients, using this as an opportunity to one by one say “all done” or “bye-bye.”

8.  Encourage your child to enjoy his snack with “good job” and “you did it.”

We’re looking for more recipe boards, so if you’ve made one or have found them on-line, we’d love it if you would share.  I’ll be adding a few of ours, and I’ll be searching over at as well.

Bon Appetit!

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