Planet Rachael: Food for thought over learning life skills

Wendy Johnson finds joy in Rachael’s efforts at cooking, despite her choice of recipes

Wendy Johnson finds joy in Rachael’s efforts at cooking, despite her choice of recipes

Picture: iStock

Having a learning disability or autism means that, in general, people find it harder to learn certain life skills.

As everyone is unique, problems experienced vary from person to person, but may include aspects such as learning new skills, communication, money management, scholastic work or personal care.

Rachael is one of the lucky ones as, with the help of her family and two support workers, she manages to live in her own flat, albeit with heavy input on skills such as money management and housekeeping.

All things nutrition

This is not a great skill deficit combination when it comes to a chance to buy in bulk, and store like a squirrel, while living in a small flat.

Nowadays ‘Project Rachael’ is about learning all things nutrition, from budgeting to preparing and cooking food. Our main problem is that Rachael loves a cookbook (more bulk buying) and there is an ever-growing chasm between the sensible everyday food that would be useful for Rachael to learn to cook and the recipes she insists on reproducing.

Some of these recipes are the type of thing usually found in eye-wateringly expensive Michelin-starred restaurants, using ingredients you can’t find without a pig and a forest, with names you can’t pronounce, and that she actually doesn’t like.

Follow the recipe

The following text conversation between us illustrates my point:

Rachael: ‘I cooked today.’

Me: ‘No way! Go Rachael! What did you cook?’

Rachael: ‘Cod and prawns with fennel and white wine sauce – only I didn’t put prawns in it as I am vegetarian.’

Me: ‘Rachael sounds lovely, but you don’t like fennel or white wine either and the recipe still has fish in it.’

Rachael: ‘I know but I had to follow the recipe.’

Me: ‘Did you eat it?’

Rachael: ‘No, I’m vegetarian, aren’t I?’

Planet Rachael remains the go-to destination for reminders that joy in life is diversity.

Wendy Johnson is head of safeguarding adults at risk and nursing lead for learning disabilities at Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Swindon, and writes about life with her daughter Rachael, who has autism

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