Sandra Lee & Easter Seals help make meal-time ease a must for parents

Semi-Homemade magazine cover and pictures of Sandra Lee\'s school visit
Easter Seals is thrilled to be featured in the latest April/May issue of Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Magazine! Here’s an excerpt:

Offering hugs from her heart is only one of the ways that Sandra is pitching in at the Easter Seals. To help highlight April’s Autism Awareness Month, Sandra recently spent some time in the Bronx Child Development Center in New York, in the school’s play kitchen and classroom, where 95 children between the ages of 18 months and 5 years receive one-on-one pre-K care. To help up the ante, Sandra will be bargain shopping for Semi-Homemade ingredients at Safeway grocery stores this spring. Since 1986, Safeway has partnered with Easter Seals, creating a companywide fund-raising effort and a tear-pad promotion that collects donations from customers at checkout; please help us this year!

Foodies and fans of the Food Network know of Sandra Lee’s passion for simple solutions that create dramatic results in all areas of home life.

Easter Seals is excited to be working with Sandra Lee to find unique ways to help make life a little easier for families living with autism — possibly uncovering some of those simple solutions that could work well for your family.

And what better place to start than with food! Sandra Lee gave Easter Seals a handful of delicious recipes featured in the current issue of her magazine and worked with us to offer a few suggestions for adopting the recipes for children with autism.

Today’s families — especially families living with autism — are strapped for time and cash, making meal-time ease a must. We know that children with autism may have strong food preferences and can be very choosy eaters, further complicating family meals. Developing independent living skills, including cooking and kitchen safety, is an important part of Easter Seals’ services for individuals with autism.

Additionally, one of the findings of our Living with Autism Study reported that families with autism are more likely to eat a sit-down dinner at home five days a week or more (44% compared to 32% of parents with typically developing children).

Tips for Making Meals Fun for Your Child with Autism

With that, consider testing out a few of Sandra Lee’s cost- and time-saving recipes and keep these tips in mind:

  • Involve your kids in making a part of the meal—they may be more interested in eating something they helped to prepare.
  • Explore different textures to encourage your child with autism to try the Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Mash them completely for a smooth presentation or leave a few lumps. Maybe your child will prefer “bumpy” potatoes.
  • Make the Pepperoni Pattern Pizza and let your kids add their own preferred toppings to a pizza section — maybe adding more mushrooms and no olives.
  • Serve salad ingredients for the Spinach and Hearts of Palm recipe in separate dishes if your child doesn’t like foods to touch — and then, kids can dip the different veggies into the dressing.
  • Try a boneless pork chop for the Pork Chop with Apples — some children with autism don’t like having the bone with the meat.
  • For children who steer clear of vegetables, puree broccoli or other nutrient-rich vegetables and add it to the spaghetti sauce. Make sure the vegetables are invisible.
  • Separate items in the Shrimp Stir Fry on your child’s plate to encourage them to eat the snow peas, shrimp, and cole slaw separately if they don’t like their foods combined.

Parents know their children best, so this is really just a beginning. Please share some of your meal-time tricks of the trade with us — we’d love to hear what works best for your family when it comes to food.


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  1. Beth Finke, blog moderator Says:

    Of all people, *I* should never have let that title go up on this post. Our son is 22 years old and has severe and profound disabilities. Gus lived with us at home until he was 16, and I can promise you I didn’t do all the cooking or shopping during that time. In fact, I did very *little* of the cooking and shopping – Gus’ dad was always more of a “maternal” caregiver than I was – he still is! Which makes me wonder about that “maternal” word, too. Hmmm. For now, you will see we’ve changed the word in the title to “parents” and taken out the word “moms.” Thanks for the heads up, Dennis.

  2. Patricia Wright Says:

    Okay Mike and Dennis – point taken. You are right. Easter Seals strives to be inclusive. Will be careful in the future not to fall into stereotypical gender roles. And Christina, thanks for focusing on the positiveness of the message, this was its intent.

  3. Mike Says:

    I think Dennis has a grip. And a point. I agree, Christina, this is a positive thing, regardless. The story is great, but the headline isn’t. For a very long time now, lots of families haven’t had the luxury of traditional divisions of labor–special needs children or not. Everybody–mom, dad, siblings–does whatever it takes. I’m not hurt personally by the headline, it just is an anachronism, and as such, inaccurate.

  4. Christina Says:

    Dennis get a grip. Nobody is shutting you down. Let’s not make this about you and your worries. Easter Seals and Sandra Lee are doing the world of autism a great service. Awareness is half the battle. I know firsthand that raising a child with autism puts you on the defense a lot, but let’s step back, breathe, and see this for what it is. A positive focus on a community that could use some more positivity whenever possible. Thank you Easter Seals and Sandra Lee, from this mom and her husband (a dad).

  5. Dennis Says:

    Sandra Lee makes meal-time ease a must for moms? What about dads? Welcome to the 21st century, Easter Seals. Dads cook now, too. And help with homework. And housework. And child-raising. Especially when the child has autism — everyone needs to be involved. I’m disappointed in this headline.

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