(Picture Credit: pixgood.com)
We made a plan in therapy a couple of weeks ago that Thomas was going to pick one day a week and make a menu, a grocery list for that menu and then shop by himself for all of the ingredients. We forgot about it last week but yesterday not only did we not forget about it, Thomas did it all pretty much like a pro.
I came home from my doctor's appointment after having left him a note to plan his meal before I got back and when I came home he came right to me and excitedly announced that he wanted to make enchiladas. Wow. He couldn't have picked a more difficult meal to make! He insisted that he wanted to make that so he made a grocery list (only forgetting that he needed a seasoning packet) and we headed off to the store.
The plan for me was to hang back and let him do everything on his own but he needed a little bit of help. He didn't know to look at the signs above the aisles so I pointed those out to him to help him navigate where all of his ingredients might be. The first place we got stuck in was the seasoning section.
It was very interesting and kind of sad to watch as he searched the seasoning shelves for the right one. Imagine if I divide the shelves up into 4 quadrants. Thomas stood there for the longest time and searched every quadrant but the lower left one. I don't know what kept him from looking down there but he tried and tried to find what he needed in those other 3 quadrants. Finally I asked him what color the brand's packing was and he said it was orange so I told him he needed to look amongst all of the orange packaging for what he needed. Finally he looked in the lower left quadrant and found his seasoning. I really wish I knew why he didn't even see that lower left quadrant without my help. I wonder if that's a function of his cognitive difficulties.
Then we found most of his other ingredients and I taught him about looking at the pricing differences and to look even further to the bottom of the shelf price to the part where it says the price per ounce. I told him that was just another resource for him to pay attention to when he was deciding between different brands of a product.
Then we came to ground beef. There was 10% lean, 15% lean and 27% lean. I told him that I usually buy the 10% lean because it's the healthiest but I told him that if he were on a budget that he would need to consider the other choices. He needed a pound of ground beef so we talked about the 15% lean and the 27% lean choices. I explained to him that the 27% lean was full of fat and would cook down quite a bit and he would end up with less than a pound of cooked meat plus it would be a less healthy choice. Thinking like he was on a budget, he chose the 15% lean. I know if he were on his own he'd probably have to go for the 27% lean because it's the cheapest but I wanted him to think about healthiness too.
We came home and took a break because the shopping had stressed him out. We had gone to self-checkout and even with no one in line, he felt intense pressure to do what he was doing. I had to stop him at one point as his anxiety skyrocketed and show him that there was no one else in line and that he could take his time. This seemed to help.
After his break at home he began to cook. He started with the sauce and did really good! I only had to give him a little bit of help. I was impressed. Then it came time to cook the meat. He did better than the last time he cooked ground beef in that he wasn't as afraid of the heat from the stove but he cooked it for a while and then asked me if it was okay. It wasn't. There was still pink meat everywhere. I told him it was still pink and he said he didn't see any. I couldn't believe that he couldn't see it! It worries me because if he were cooking for himself on his own he would have ended up eating raw meat. So I pointed out all of the pink parts, which he still couldn't see, and he cooked it for a while longer. I'm not sure how to teach him to see something he just doesn't see.
At one point he had both the sauce cooking and the meat and he got very anxious having to multitask. Keeping the sauce stirred and cooking the meat was almost too much for him to handle. He did make it past that step, though, and I told him how proud I was of him that he didn't just give up.
Then it came time for layering the different ingredients. I taught him how to start then sat back down in my chair and let him handle the rest. He did really good but was very caught up in doing it perfectly. He's so intense about things like this, the need to make things exactly right and it makes me sad for him that he can't be more relaxed. He completed them, though, and got them in the oven.
My stomach was growling as I smelled them baking and I told him I couldn't wait to try what he had made. When Dan came home, Thomas met him at the door very excited to tell him that he had made Dan's favorite dinner. It was then that I realized that he had chosen this meal to impress his dad.
When we all sat down to eat and each of us tasted it we were so impressed. I complimented Thomas on how delicious they were and that he had done the whole dinner like a pro. He was so proud!!!
So, his first foray into planning and executing a meal went amazingly! I am very proud of him for fighting through the anxious parts and I am proud of him that he didn't hand any of the preparation over to me to do. For the most part, I sat in my chair in the kitchen watching him and offering a couple of pointers but in the end, he owned the success of the meal.
I couldn't be more proud of him!