Cooking with Christine gives Ryan food confidence

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12 year-old Ryan is overcoming food challenges thanks to the creativity of his speech pathologist and a little inspiration from the TV show Masterchef.

Ryan has Autism Spectrum Disorder and experiences many challenges around food, which has led to a very restricted diet. Until recently, he would only eat Weetbix, yoghurt and the same slow-cooked casserole every day. Any suggestion of new food would cause Ryan to feel angry and at times hostile.

Ryan, his Mum Michelle, and Therapy Focus Advanced Speech Pathologist Christine Bosch have been working together to help Ryan increase the range of foods he eats and improve his nutrition. In Ryan’s earlier therapy sessions, he and Christine would have picnics at school where they would interact with a wide variety of foods. But when coronavirus (COVID-19)restrictions impacted face-to-face sessions, Christine came up with a fun way to encourage Ryan to try new foods and enjoy mealtimes online via teletherapy.

The solution was “Cooking with Christine”, a Masterchef-style competition between Ryan and Christine that saw them host a cook-off in their respective kitchens.

Ryan mixing in the kitchen as Christine watches via the lpatop

“We spend one session going through what we are going to make and discuss what food groups the ingredients belong to,” Christine said.

“Ryan enjoys science and has found learning about food groups very interesting. He also finds any change in routine challenging, so this first session helps him prepare mentally for trying new food.”

“The following week we cook – with Ryan supervised by mum – and the only way he can beat me is if he has at least 3 mouthfuls of what we make.”

“It has been such a success. He is interacting with food, smelling the spices and even tasting some of the ingredients as we go, which is something he never would have done before. Michelle can now put down a small serving of sultanas next to Ryan when he’s playing computer games, and come back to an empty plate!”

“I’m so proud of both Ryan and Michelle. They have done really well with the change in routine and Michelle has worked so hard to use new tools that help Ryan interact with foods. When the times comes to return to face-to-face therapy, we will definitely be continuing our cooking lessons.”

So far Ryan and Christine have made French toast, rock cakes and cheese puffs. Ryan particularly enjoyed the rock cakes and has been able to increase the range of foods he eats.

Therapy Focus provides comprehensive therapy services for children and adults with autism. We also specialist mealtime support services and dietetics services. For more information or to discuss your needs, contact us on 1300 135 373.

Ryan Harper with his freshly baked rock cakes

A boy sifting flour
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