Cooking for Independence: Middle School Students Gain Skills While Cooking


Gloria Mixon


Middle school students with intellectual disabilities often have difficulties achieving independence with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs); therefore, these skills must be taught in school. IADLs are a complex component of skills that require a higher level of cognitive reasoning such as community mobility, shopping, meal preparation and clean-up. A cooking club was utilized to help intellectually middle school students with disabilities gain independence in IADLs. Those students were enrolled in a multi-aged, self-contained, special education class when they participated in the cooking club; they showed an increased independence with meal preparation, shopping, community mobility, purchasing transaction skills, menu selection and overall self confidence.

For the past decade, there has been an increased focus on integrating people with intellectual disabilities into the local community (Drysdale, Casey & Armstrong, 2007). This has created a need to equip those individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in this community. Some of the skills needed for success include: community mobility, shopping, and meal preparation which require more abstract cognitive skills. These complex skills have been defined as instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) by the American Occupational Therapy Association (2008). Because parents of children with intellectual disabilities tend to be over protective, independence in IADLs must be taught in school (Drysdale, Casey & Armstrong, 2007). The purpose of this paper is to describe how a cooking club was utilized to help middle school with intellectual disabilities students gain independence in IADLs.

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