Visitors to the Darien YMCA on Wednesday afternoons may be surprised to see several students with chef hats and aprons preparing food in the Community Room.
The young cooks are taking the Darien Y's Keep Calm and Cook On program, just one of the many special-needs enrichment offerings at the facility.
Keep Calm and Cook on has been running at the Darien YMCA since the end of 2011. Students make a variety of dishes derived from different cultures and regions including quesadillas with seasoned rice, chicken dumplings with Asian noodle salad, and stuffed shells with three-bean salad.
At the beginning of class, the recipe is introduced to the group through an interactive book that the students read through with a volunteer. The group then moves on to the individual cooking stations with all the needed materials and labeled ingredients and follow a step-by-step video of the recipe being prepared through the use of an iPad and a large screen.
The class consists of children who have various special needs including visual impairment, autism or just require guidance with socialization. They are paired with a volunteer through each step of the class.
After the food is prepared, each child and their helper enjoy the meal and discuss their experiences in a conversation facilitated by the teacher of the class.
Director of Special Needs Terri Accomando said, "This unique class is one of the most popular of all our programs here at the Darien Y. It helps the students learn to follow step-by-step directions and socialize through the mealtime setting they experience at home."
For information, visit www.darien-ymca.org.