In honor of Autism Awareness Month, meet Bo, a kid for whom a plate of noodles is more than a meal—it’s a way to connect with those who love him.

By Cecily McAndrews
March 29, 2017
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robert and bo cancro making pasta
Photography by Lucy Schaeffer
| Credit: Photography by Lucy Schaeffer

When he was 2 years old, Robert Cancro, nicknamed Bo, was diagnosed with nonverbal autism. Watching him struggle to communicate, his parents, Katie and Robert (above, with Bo), spent years looking for a way to draw him into family life. His breakthrough happened in an unexpected place: the kitchen. One Sunday when Bo was 7, Robert was making pancakes and his son reached for the whisk, so the two made them together. The change was instantaneous. Bo had a tendency to withdraw and repeat lines from movies over and over again. But when he cooked, he was relaxed, confident and focused on the task. "Even for just those moments, he overcame his challenges," Katie says. "It's like he found his passion in life." Four years later, Bo, now 11, makes whole meals for his parents and siblings—Katherine, 10, and Daniel, 6—with only a bit of assistance. His new fave is homemade pasta. Inspired by Bo, his folks started the Fill-A-Need Foundation (fillaneedfoundation.org) in 2012 to provide career training (including in kitchens) and other services for adults with autism—so people like their son can look forward to a delicious future. 

robert and bo cancro making pasta
Credit: Photography by Lucy Schaeffer

When you're ready to kick your pasta maker into high gear, check our our Homemade Pasta Step-By-Step

Hungry for some pasta? Get the recipes!

Homemade Pappardelle
Credit: Photography by Lucy Schaeffer
homemade pappardelle with peas and ricotta
Credit: Photography by Lucy Schaeffer
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For more mealtime fun, go to Yum-o.org, Rach's nonprofit organization. You'll find recipes, tips for improving food in schools, and stories of people who are changing the way America eats. How cool is that?!