Skip to content



The “Full Life” blog is a place where we celebrate families affected by autism and offer tips and tools for living life to the fullest. Nancy Greeley, from Dedham, has three boys and is a step mom to one teenage daughter. Her 15-year-old son Aidan was diagnosed at three and a half with autism.  We asked Nancy to share her favorite family recipes and a few tips for cooking with your young adult on the spectrum



Family dinners are a staple in our house. We make it a point to connect around the table five nights a week. This may sound like a lot of work but I make sure to involve everyone in my family, including Aidan.   Aidan’s tastes often change but a consummate favorite of his is spaghetti with meat sauce. Try this one!



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion (I go light because Aidan doesn’t like too many)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup minced celery
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint (optional)
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 (10.5 ounce) cans beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese



  • In a large skillet, warm olive oil over low heat; saute onion, garlic and celery until onion is transparent.
  • Stir in butter and increase heat to medium; brown beef until no longer pink. Mix in sugar and 1 teaspoon salt; lower heat and stir for about 3 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, combine tomato paste and broth; pour liquid and basil to pot. Simmer over very low heat for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil with 3 tablespoons salt and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Slip spaghetti into water holding on to ends until strands soften a bit. Cook over high heat for 7 to 8 minutes only. When properly cooked, raw taste should be gone but still have a firm texture.
  • When ready to serve, combine pasta with meat sauce; serve on a warmed platter or bowl topped with parsley and Romano cheese.


Aidan’s job is to help set the table, stir the sauce (and make sure I don’t use too many onions), check the noodles and, of course, supervise.  Involving him in the kitchen has taught him so much, from the importance of teamwork to how to be flexible and recognize the value of family time. I feel good knowing that this tradition is fostering independence and confidence that will serve him well when the day comes for him to be out on his own.

Bon Appetit,

Nancy Greeley


Looking for tips on cooking with your child?  Check Have a favorite recipe or dinnertime tradition?  We’d love to hear about it so share it with us on our Facebook page!