The Autism Friendly Kitchen

There is nothing wrong with my kitchen, except that it doesn’t have a fruit slide!

Love this fruit slide! Totally want one image credit: soaskdesign.com

Love this fruit slide! Totally want one
image credit: soaskdesign.com

It’s fine for an adult who enjoys cooking and likes to display some of the kitchen paraphernalia they have collected over the years. I have cooked thousands of meals in here, entertained friends and family, personally introduced the world of food to seven babies, fed countless toddlers and perfected the art of one handed cooking (the other holding a baby).

My oldest boy, who just turned 6 and is autistic (with a dash of visual & intellectual impairment) has been getting bigger and stronger. More and more he has started exploring the world outside of his ribbon (a passionate, committed, long term relationship). He has become more and more interested in things that are hot.

It started out with a fascination of exhaust pipes. Yes, of cars. Going shopping? Random checking of exhaust pipes as we slowly move our way through through the car park. No idea if they will be hot, cold or somewhere in between.

don't touch!

don’t touch!

Then I would find the knobs for the cook top & stove, turned up full blast. Every time I turned my back. The oven is a great source of mystery and intrigue for my little boy. And the gas burners, well they are just so beautiful he wants to reach out and grab them.

don't touch!

don’t touch!

The kettle? Yes indeed. Enormous fun turning it on and off as often as possible. And the microwave. Please don’t touch! But the worst? Water! By far, the most aggravating – turn that tap OFF! And the most dangerous – boiling hot water. Turn around while he’s having a bath and – flip – hot water blasting.

don't touch!

don’t touch!

So my perfectly fine kitchen is being re-done with safety in mind. My goal is not to keep my boy out of the kitchen. In fact, I want him in there as he learns the important independence skills that are based in the kitchen. I do however, want to keep him out of danger, so safety is the main design feature.

So here, dear reader are my autism friendly, kitchen design considerations for your perusal. If you have any more to add, please do, but it’s more or less too late for me. As the kitchen goes in this week.

  • Carefully choose who you will be working with on this project: If you are using a kitchen design company, make sure they are flexible, have a good range of options and are willing to solve any problem for you, listen to your ideas and work WITH you.
  • Let them know that your top priority is safety and that all your decisions will be based on safety features. Ask them to talk you through whatever safety features they may have to offer.
  • Benches – height and depth make a difference. Get your bench set as high as is comfortable and make it as deep as possible. It gives you more opportunity to keep things out of reach. I have set the tap for the kitchen sink into the bench behind the sink. If you do this, you will need to make sure that it comes withOUT a tap hole pre-drilled
  • Choose a tap set that does NOT have a flick mixer, if it can be avoided. That flick is all they need to get a terrible burn, they are harder to manage than a regular tap.
  • Kid safe magnet locks for every door. They do not supply them for drawers (apparently) but if you have the choice of a cupboard over a drawer, go for the cupboard. The magnet lock system uses a master magnet ‘key’ which frees the lock. You may choose to keep one cupboard accessible – in here you can keep the items you child likes to use. That way, they are learning where to get things from and where to put things away – safely. As they become more and more responsible, you can gradually free/unlock the doors.
  • When you choose the hardware – handle or knobs, ensure that they can be secured with safety devices (if you aren’t able to get the magnet locks.
  • Cupboards: like most people you want as many as possible for the space, but for a different reason. You want every thing behind closed (locked!) doors. Set the upper cupboards as high as is reasonable.
  • Pantry: make it as big as possible! A space where as well as food, you can keep medical/safety supplies (I keep a fire blanket & fire extinguisher in the kitchen), small appliances, sharp knives and whatever else you need to keep safely away. I will also be putting a lock on this door. The beauty of a pantry is that with one door, you can keep your child safe from so many things!
  • Appliances are coming with more safety features these days thank goodness! I have chosen a dishwasher where all the controls are inside the door. There is nothing except a digital window on the external door, plus a child lock.
  • With the stove & cooktop, I am moving from my stand alone unit, to a wall oven and an induction cooktop. Good bye gas (sob). I am having the wall oven set as high as possible and the microwave, set above that. Again, the oven I have chosen has a ‘quiet’ design style, with minimal buttons and a discrete handle.
  • The induction cooktop has a range of features that will help to keep my little boy safe. This is a very fast form of cooking and there is no ‘hot’ element. There is also a child lock on the controls.
  • Electrics – I had a really good discussion with my electrician about the location of power outlets and the use of isolation switches. I am putting the power outlets under the overhead cupboards where that is possible. I’m putting an outlet in the pantry, so that I can charge any re-chargeable small appliances in there. I’m also putting in a high shelf as a changing station for the phones/ipad etc., so will have an outlet there as well.
power, I will have it!image credit: myhomelookbook.com

power, I will have it!
image credit: myhomelookbook.com

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  • Finally, the layout. Every kitchen is unique but most have the main work space against the wall or on an island bench. I have created a space with a single, limited entrance with a dead end where the oven & cook top are located. It means that when I am in the kitchen I can limit access to some extent. If necessary, I can put a gate at the entrance. I also wanted to have a safe space away from the equipment/appliances where all my kids can learn about cooking, so this has been incorporated into the design layout.

I’m almost there! The kitchen is just about cleaned out and we are now dining out on the back veranda. It’s actually quite lovely sitting out there in the early evening. I’ve got the bare minimum I need to do basic cooking and feed the kids – it’s a bit like indoor camping!

hmmm.....what would be a SAFE colour?

hmmm…..what would be a SAFE colour?

Now, colours? That’s just a whole other post!

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