An intervention programme to promote social communication skills for prelinguistic children with autism spectrum disorders: “Kids in the Kitchen”



The kitchen – a place filled with delicious aromas, the clatter of pots and pans, and the warmth of family togetherness. But for parents of pre-verbal children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the kitchen can also present challenges in fostering social communication skills. Here’s where a ray of hope emerges from a recent study published in March 2024 by the European Journal of Special Needs Education – the “Kids in the Kitchen” (KiK) program.


This blog post delves deeper into the KiK program, exploring its foundation, the reasoning behind its approach, and the potential it holds for families with pre-verbal autistic children.


The Communication Gap in Pre-Verbal ASD


Children with ASD often experience delays in communication development. This can be particularly challenging in the pre-verbal stage, where they are yet to develop spoken language skills. This gap in communication can make it difficult for parents to connect with their children and impede their social development.


Why “Kids in the Kitchen”?


The KiK program takes an innovative approach by utilizing the familiar and engaging environment of the kitchen to bridge this communication gap. Meal preparation offers a treasure trove of opportunities for interaction and social learning. From following recipes to taking turns stirring a pot, these everyday tasks provide a natural context for practicing social communication skills.


The Power of Playful Learning


The beauty of KiK lies in its emphasis on playful learning. Instead of a rigid curriculum, the program equips parents with strategies to weave social communication into the fun and shared experience of cooking with their children.


Here are some of the core strategies that parents learn through KiK:

  • Joint Attention: This involves guiding the child’s focus on shared objects and activities. For instance, while mixing ingredients, a parent might say, “Look how the batter is getting smooth!”
  • Social Reciprocity: Encouraging turn-taking and responding to the child’s cues is a crucial aspect of social interaction. Parents can model this by taking turns adding ingredients or asking the child simple questions about the cooking process.
  • Verbalisation: Narrating the steps involved in cooking and using simple, clear instructions provides valuable language exposure for the child. Parents can also encourage verbalization in the child by offering choices (“Do you want to stir the batter or add the sprinkles?”)


Building Bridges Through Everyday Moments


The study suggests that the KiK program has the potential to significantly improve social communication skills in pre-verbal children with ASD. By incorporating these strategies into everyday routines, parents can create a nurturing environment where their children can learn and develop crucial communication skills in a positive and engaging way.


Beyond the Kitchen: A Spark of Hope


While the current research focused on the kitchen setting, the principles of KiK can be extended to other daily activities – bath time, playtime, or even getting dressed in the morning. This empowers parents to transform everyday moments into opportunities for social connection and communication development.


The KiK program offers a beacon of hope for families seeking to bridge the communication gap with their pre-verbal autistic children. While further research is needed to explore the program’s long-term effects on a larger scale, KiK presents a valuable and practical approach for parents. So, next time you’re in the kitchen, remember – it’s not just about creating delicious meals, but also about fostering precious moments of connection and communication with your child.



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