A recipe for cooking up fun and learning for kids with autism

The kitchen is the heart of a home. We gather there, we talk and share there, we find nourishment for our bodies and souls there. As the room where we often start and end our day, the kitchen is a welcoming place for the whole family.

For kids with autism, the kitchen also offers a cornucopia of fun learning opportunities for building important skills as well as confidence. Cooking itself is a veritable recipe for growing towards independence!  

The Benefits of a Family Cooking Together for Children with Autism

Each time your child with autism helps out in the kitchen, the experience….

  • Encourages them to socially interact and practice their social skills in a low-pressure environment. Social skills are vital for success in school and throughout life. Cooking with their family helps them to learn how to take turns, share responsibilities, and communicate with others.
  • Expands their food preferences by introducing them to new foods and dishes. When kids have a hand in cooking food, they’re more likely to try what they’ve made. This is especially helpful for children who have aversions to food or sensory issues.
  • Increases their independence, because cooking requires a lot of planning, organization, and problem-solving that help teach children practical life skills that can be applied and used in other areas of their life. (We ABA therapists call that generalization.)
  • Builds their self-esteem. Successfully completing a task and being able to share the finished product with others can give your child a sense of accomplishment and pride. This is especially true for kids who may have negative experiences in social settings, like school, and struggle with academics, making friends, or other activities.
  • Develops their fine motor skills. Cooking involves working with your hands and fingers, also known as fine motor skills. When your child is stirring, shaping, chopping, and measuring, they’re practicing they’re fine motor skills. Start with simple tasks and work up to more difficult ones. Cooking activities also help your child develop hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and the ability to follow instructions which are useful in many other activities in your child’s life.

Tips for Making Cooking Fun for Children with Autism

Children learn best when they’re enjoying themselves in the process. To help ensure your child has fun and benefits from the cooking experience with family, here are some important tips to consider before getting started.

  • Think about your child’s safety and prepare them beforehand about what they shouldn’t touch in the kitchen, if they’re not able to follow simple instructions. Let them know why they can’t touch the stove, for example, because it could burn them. You can model the appropriate behavior for them or use labels or color-code items to tell your child what’s okay to use and what to stay clear of without asking for help first.
  • Cook basic recipes with simple ingredients and easy steps. Using visual supports can help your child better understand each step and what the finished creation goal looks like. For example, you’re making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Visual aids could be pictures that represent the items involved (the ingredients and the utensils) and how to put them together.
  • It’s a lot more fun to cook things we like, so focus on your child’s favorite foods to start. Like most children, teaching a child with autism is going to be much easier if you incorporate their interests and preferences. They’re more likely to stay focused on the task at hand if they’re cooking something they love to eat.
  • Cooking naturally involves the senses. Is there anything about cooking that could trigger sensory overload in your child? A sensory issue could negatively impact their experience of cooking or preparing food. Make adjustments or plan ahead, but also encourage trying new things. Listen to your gut about what your child will tolerate. Even if your child doesn’t like touching food, they can still help out in the kitchen by setting the table or collecting ingredients from the pantry.
  • Most importantly, be patient and celebrate your child’s successes along the way. If that peanut butter and jelly sandwich turns out a little messy, it will still be yummy.

With expert ABA therapy, a brighter future for your child is on the menu!

Two years old might be a little too young for cooking in the kitchen, but it’s just the right age to start ABA therapy, the gold standard in autism care and treatment.

Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy, as it’s also known, has been in practice for several decades. It’s proven to help children with autism in all the key areas of development, from communication and language to self-help, academic, and social skills.

Here at The Behavior Exchange, we offer all the right ingredients for your child to reach their full, wonderful potential in a fun, caring environment full of imagination and possibilities. We’re also proud to be a Behavioral Health Center of Excellence® with the highest accreditation possible for a center-based ABA therapy provider.

If you’d like to learn more, please visit us online, email, or call 972.312.8733. We’ll save a place at our table for your whole family!





Ashvina attended University of Bombay and graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce. She got her Montessori Diploma in 1985 and taught ever since. Ashvina came to TBE in January of 2016 as Admin Assistant. During the years she got the opportunity to learn and work in different departments such as HR, Finance, Office Manager and Executive Assistant. Last summer TBE bought billing in house and her current focus area is Revenue Cycle Management. She is detail oriented and enjoys working with people. Ashvina volunteers to deliver meals to seniors and local shelters on the weekend. She loves to spend time with her family and grandkids. Ashvina loves her job because she enjoys hearing different points of view, and she feels her contributions help fuel the direction of our company.

Working with children comes naturally to Angela. Her mom was a special education teacher for 30 years and often had Angela join her for Take Your Child to Work Day. And in high school, Angela spent every summer as the nanny for a little boy with an autism spectrum disorder. It was this experience where her passion for working with children with autism started to blossom.

From there, she went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Sciences. She learned about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in a non-normative development class and from that moment knew that ABA would be her life’s work.

Angela moved to the DFW area shortly after and began working at The Behavior Exchange as a therapist. She worked on her Master’s in Behavior Analysis at the same time. A year after graduating, she earned certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Now, as a Clinical Director at The Behavior Exchange, she brings a life-long passion to her work, holding a special place in her heart for children with limited language skills and working closely with families to develop healthy sleep habits.

Danielle’s passion for working with families is deeply personal and from the heart. Her younger brother has an autism spectrum disorder, and through their journey as a family, she found her purpose in life as an advocate for individuals with special needs.

After graduating from the University of North Texas with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, Danielle began volunteering at The Behavior Exchange. She saw passionate therapists, meaningful change for clients, and families with hope for the future. After a summer of volunteering, she officially joined the team as Director of Admissions and found her home with The Behavior Exchange family.

With her extensive experience working as a client advocate with insurance providers, Danielle perseveres to help individuals of all ages and abilities receive the services they need to reach their full potential. She feels truly honored by each and every family who entrusts The Behavior Exchange to be part of their journey and is committed to the organization’s core values, mission, and goal of being a beacon of hope for the community.

Adam has always had a passion for helping individuals of all ages thrive and reach their full potential. He’s also an enthusiastic musician, songwriter, leader, and devoted family man, who has been helping children and team members grow with The Behavior Exchange since 2010.

Prior to joining the team at The Behavior Exchange, Adam was a mortgage loan consultant and grad student, pursuing his master’s degree in Education at the University of North Texas. He graduated in 2013 and also earned a graduate academic certificate in Autism Intervention. The following year, after years as a Behavior Therapist and seeing first-hand the power of ABA and the meaningful impact it can have on children and their families, Adam became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He then commenced from the Stagen Leadership Academy after completing the Integral Leadership Program (ILP), a 52-week practice-based program designed to develop executives serious about transforming themselves, their teams, and their organizations.

Adam is truly grateful to be a part of a dynamic, inspiring and compassionate team, and he’s dedicated to bettering the lives of all children and their families through the delivery of the highest quality of ABA services, while supporting the amazing team at The Behavior Exchange.

Soraya is from South Africa and moved to Texas in 1996. She graduated from The University of Texas and pursued a career, at that time, in Education. Soraya taught at a Montessori school for a few years and then took on a leadership role.

During her time in the education system, Soraya realized her passion was to assist children with special needs. So she joined The Behavior Exchange as a therapist, transitioned into a supervisory role in 2017, and a year and a half later, was promoted to Clinical Operations Manager.

She quickly learned the ins and outs of ABA operations and scheduling and successfully collaborates across departments to ensure The Behavior Exchange continues to provide quality services to clients and their families. She’s thankful to be part of such an amazing organization and excited to see what the future holds.

You could say Walter’s career started when he spent hours as a young child drawing superheroes and coloring maps. This passion, along with extraordinary swimming skills, landed him a full swimming scholarship at Texas Christian University, where he graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Graphics.

During the next 13 years, his design and art direction skills, conceptual-thinking abilities, and marketing-savvy know-how were honed at a few prestigious advertising and marketing agencies around the Dallas area. In the mid 2000s, he helped his wife Tammy Cline-Soza (founder and CEO of The Behavior Exchange) create a unique and concise brand for her new business. From logos and websites to uniforms, brand voice and visuals, Walter has been the main creative force for all things The Behavior Exchange.

Aside from giving birth to The Behavior Exchange brand, Walter is helping Tammy raise two amazing, beautiful children, River and Sierra. In his spare time (the two minutes he’s got per week), you can find Walter illustrating iconic landmarks of Dallas and Texas or looking around for this next open-water swim. Once he gets back in shape.

After 20 years of building The Behavior Exchange, literally from the ground up,
Tammy couldn’t be more proud of the team, culture, and organization that it has become.

As a family helping families, The Behavior Exchanges looks for opportunities that will make the biggest impact and produce life-changing outcomes – for clients, families, and even for team members. Tammy believes that if a team, a family, a community takes care of each other, the possibilities are endless and the relationships built along the way can make life more enriching and challenges easier to navigate. You could say her goal has been to build a kind of utopia full of support, love, and expertise that brings the best services possible to the community and ensures more families have access to those services.

Tammy and her family have dedicated their lives to the mission of The Behavior Exchange and continue to grow, learn, cultivate, challenge, support, and create better models for success. To that end, she is committed to her own leadership development and actively participates in advanced training, mentoring, and deep self-exploration on how to live out her purpose to love and support her family and help others reach their full potential. She takes her position very seriously and tries to serve as a channel for what the universe wants to come to fruition.

She also loves travel, gardening, being creative, MUSIC!, tennis, yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, being in nature, adventures, and more than anything, spending time with her husband Walter and their two beautiful children, River and Sierra.