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Autism and Culinary Skills

January 3, 2022

Meet Tanishq, an autistic boy whose love for cooking has inspired other special needs kids.

Autism and Culinary Skills

Autistic individuals display a range of special skills. Identifying and encouraging such special abilities from a young age can help the child on the spectrum in many ways. Here is one such example of an 11-year-old child on the spectrum who now has an account on YouTube and Instagram to share his culinary skills.

My son, Tanishq, was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at the age of two. As a young child, he didn’t have the tolerance to sit and watch cartoons; instead, he used to spend most of his time watching food channels on television. Most of the programs were short and repeated, so he enjoyed watching them. 

As a five-year-old, one day when he insisted on flipping Dosa (a breakfast staple in South India). His grandmother allowed him and saw he grasped the skill of pouring the Dosa batter easily. I realized gradually that he enjoyed cooking and started encouraging him to assist her in the kitchen. His motor skills also continuously improved due to his participation in kitchen chores.

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Encouraging an interest in cooking to inspire others

The programs Tanishq used to watch on television were in Hindi, and so he learned the Hindi names of most of the ingredients. As he grew up, he learned to explore YouTube and would search for many of the shows he used to watch on TV. 

He would insist on making something he had watched on YouTube, and we would help him replicate it. Tanishq now comfortably cooks South Indian staples like rice, sambar, sabzi, idli, dosa, and chutney.

When he cooks something different from the usual, I photograph and video it. When one such video was shared with close friends, within a week’s time, they had sent back pictures of their kids with special needs trying their hands in the kitchen. Tanishq felt very happy and was elated to share his cooking videos. 

During the lockdown, we created an account for him on YouTube. We’ve named it Wonderfud with the tagline “Food 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 variety of foods from Indian and global cuisine prepared by Tanishq. 

Tanishq always decides what dishes to cook. He cannot be asked to make something for the video. He only cooks when he wishes to do so. 

We cannot interrupt Tanishq while cooking; he is so focused. He will not wait for the videography nor will he repeat a step for the sake of recording. He also refuses to formally dress up for a video recording. 

So if the ingredients are available at home, Tanishq starts cooking and I record it from a distance. Then it is uploaded on the channel with slight editing. He is verbal now and his cooking vocabulary has improved tremendously—he loves to comment while cooking. A few 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 Tanishq’s cooking videos will motivate many parents to encourage their children to explore and enjoy this field.

Tanishq does have epilepsy and sensory issues. But his love for cooking balances everything and it has helped to improve his self-esteem. We hope his skills will inspire more families with autistic children.

This article was featured in Issue124 – Autism Around The World

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