Thursday, March 12, 2015

Therapy in the Kitchen

When we were celebrating S’s Gotcha Day with fondue, I was watching him stir the pot, literally, and I grabbed my phone to take a picture. 
“Really, mom?  What could you possible blog about with this?”  
Oh, I had an answer. "Cooking and therapy - a perfect match."



When S was a fifth grader, he worked on food preparation skills in Occupational Therapy.  He exited OT as an early middle school student.  Last year, we had him start again.  We asked that they work on helping him with cooking skills and strategies.  S’s goal is to live independently; therefore, he needs to be able to eat.  Contrary to his thinking, food just does not appear in the refrigerator in single serve reheatable containers.

Last year's Occupational Therapy services were very beneficial to him.  The OT has children who are college age, so she was able to provide S with real world examples of the need to cook.  She had him preparing different food items for the staff at the clinic (biscuits, brownies, etc.).  One day we met at one of this organization's Rehab facilities so she could monitor him in a full size kitchen.  She was impressed with how much he could do.  It also showed her areas to continue working with him.  

One of the most difficult areas for S is baking.  There is a lot of planning and movement around an oven.  The OT brought in a toaster oven for him to try.  That worked very well.  S now has his own toaster oven.  When he uses it, he puts a chair in front of it so he can sit while he is maneuvering pans in/out of it.

We have S prepare single serve containers of food items from larger quantities:  yogurt, granola, meal items. We also have him cook large meals and divide things up. He is a fan of "one bowl" meals. He will mix all kinds of things together.

Through the years, we have tried different kitchen items for S.  In addition to his toaster oven, he likes the following:
Ove Gloves :  S loves these for his toaster oven!  Oven mitts are difficult for him to put on, and he feels unsure of himself when he is wearing these.  With the Ove Gloves, he is very comfortable working with the toaster oven and hot pans.  If he is comfortable, he is relaxed.  If he is relaxed, his tone doesn't kick in.  If his tone doesn't kick in, he can move much better.
Pampered Chef Small Micro Cooker:  This has a handle and a lid.
Rubbermaid containers:  These are S's best tool in the kitchen.  It allows him to carry his food without spilling as he walks (remember he's walking with crutches).  
Tervis Tumblers:  Easy for carrying drinks.
Ziploc bags

For S, the therapeutic benefits are extensive.  He is working fine motor (cutting, stirring, peeling, measuring, pouring), gross motor (moving around the kitchen safely), motor planning (how to carry things from A to B), executive function (what items do I need, creating lists, planning a shopping trip), and paying attention to time (how long does something need to cook and what else needs to be done in that time).

I think I will hang out on the couch with chocolate and let S work in the kitchen.

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