The Bergenfield Public School District and Bergen County Special Services together operate the Tri-Valley Academy, whose mission is to provide comprehensive education services for students with autism, from ages K-21. One way is through “Cooking up Confidence.”

Students at all grade levels take part in daily cooking activities as a way to develop knowledge and practice skills that will help contribute to the goal of independent living. The cooking is age-appropriate, ranging from making chocolate pudding – in first grade – to preparing homemade pizza and salad for high school students. The kitchen is outfitted with a microwave and toaster oven donated by teachers. A refrigerator and various supplies and materials are provided by the Bergenfield School District.

Perhaps few skills are more “core” to survival than cooking, yet here, cooking is also used as an innovative approach to facilitate social interaction and communication skills, develop abstract concepts, learn sequencing skills, follow instruction and explore cause and effect.

Individual and small group instruction and task analysis are used to isolate skills at each step. Using smaller steps allows students to practice until they are able to master a certain skill.

Gradually, as their capabilities expand, students take on more complicated recipes. Students even recently developed their own cookbook, featuring the recipes that they successfully completed.

Support has also been provided by the Bergenfield Elks Lodge 1477 and the Dumont Elks Lodge 2593.


Contact: Dr. Arthur Freiman, director of special services, Bergenfield,


Recognized by the 2014 Innovations in Special Education program