Even though Lydia Wilkins jokingly describes herself as the "world's worst cook", she believes that cooking is a fundamental skill that autistic people are often denied because of the way it's taught and explained.

So Lydia wrote The Autism Friendly Cookbook with 100 recipes graded by sensory as well as dietary requirements, and by how much energy you've got as well as duration. She interviewed 30 other autistic people for recipes for the book.

Published in November, the cookbook also decodes cooking terminology, explains sensory-related issues, highlights useful adaptations people can make in the kitchen, and gives tips for parents and teachers looking to find out more.

Her publishers Jessica Kingsley describe it as "the first recipe book written and designed specifically for autistic people" and have given the North East Autism Society an exclusive discount code for the book - available by clicking here or entering AUTBOOKNEAS as the checkout.

Here Lydia explains what she sees as the traditional barriers to autistic people in the kitchen, and gives us one of the recipes in her book - a glitter chocolate Fidget Bar, perfect for children and young people.

(Credits: Jessica Kingsley publishers, left; Shona Louise Photograph, right)

"Cooking is important because we should be supporters of independence. Education should set you up for later on, and cooking should be taught in an appropriate way.

"But a lot of people I spoke to about this said they'd been infantilised during education on the assumption they're autistic and therefore wouldn't need these skills.

"The format of lessons doesn't help. I remember lessons when we were given a demonstration on, say, making puff pastry, and were supposed to go away and replicate that. It wouldn't always have the instructions with it, and if it did they were written in a way that assumed you'd already been told how to cook at home.

"Other barriers depend on a person's sensory profile and comorbidities. We have this idea that you have to stand up to cook, but if you have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, standing up for long periods is not a good thing.

I can only talk for myself, but I have hyper-sensitivity to noise, even things like the oil crackling in the pan or someone else in the kitchen screwing something up to put in the bin.

"In terms of language, recipe books are not very accessible to us. They assume everyone knows what all the different terms mean. So when writing the book, I added a chapter for terminology. But it was hard - language can be a fluid concept.

"It's really hard to get down on paper what a 'drip' or 'drop' of something is, or what it means to 'drizzle' something across a tray!

"For the recipe itself, executive functioning comes into play. If you measure things as you go along, if you have several things in the oven and some on the hob, sequencing tasks becomes really quite difficult quite quickly. So when writing the recipes I wanted to unpick that. I don't see why it's such a bad thing to first have all your ingredients measured out and lined up.

"How people eat is really important too. Just because culturally we have this idea of people being fussy if they don't eat something, doesn't mean we shouldn't think about the reasons why. One of the strategies I used to teach parents in a project about food was - 'here's a dish change the format to suit the sensory issue.'

The example we used was carrots; if a child struggles with the crunch, because of the texture or the sound, why not blend them and serve them like that? It's quite simple to think that through.

"If someone has dyspraxia, there are adaptations that can be put in place. If you struggle with motor skills, there are jar openers and weighted cutlery. You can buy meal separators for about £5 - for someone with sensory avoiding issues, that's a wonderful piece of adaptive equipment.

"About 60 people worked on this book - all except four or five were disabled and/or neurodivergent, right down to the disabled photographer who took my author photo, and Emily at @21andsensory who did the illustrations. That was important because we are so underrepresented in publishing.

"I'm the world's worst cook! Yet I can feed myself at quite a basic level. As a journalist, you can execute a project, you don't necessarily have to be the best at it.

"My favourite recipes in the book are avocado on toast for breakfast, stuffed sandwich for lunch, my mother's recipe for easy-flip quesadilla for dinner, and Lalaine's Victoria Sponge cake named after a friend of mine. It wouldn't be my book without lots of cake recipes!"

Lydia's tip for parents and teachers supporting an autistic or neurodivergent person in the kitchen:
  1. Read my book! 
  2. Failure is a way to learn. If things go wrong, don't take over, barging them out the way without explanation.
  3. An autistic person has feelings and access needs, yet so very often it's on us just to adapt and cope. So if there's a problem, consider whether there's a sensory issue at play.
  4. Make adaptations in the kitchen, they're not shameful. 
  5. If an autistic person has questions, don't just repeat them back to them and don't explain as if to a child. Engage with us as people in an age-appropriate manner. 

Here's a recipe from Lydia's book that's easy to make and perfect for Christmas - the Fidget Bar, which uses a pop it fidget toy as a mould.

You can also download it here.