Therapeutic Cooking Experience Part 1…OTs rock


OTs can do day rehab groups that focus on community reintegration from rehab (like post stroke or new mobility device), such as going to the grocery store. Here is our experience with it.

Planning to Shop/Cook:

Last week, my group of 8 OT girls met to decide what we would shop for and bring. We decided on bringing some utensils or items from home, but buying salad material, Mexican pizza material, and cinnamon breadsticks material. Four of us would have simulated disabilities in the store with an accompanying OTS, then the partners would switch so that in the rehab kitchen, those with the disabilities now became the OT. In our group we had a blind group (blindfold), paraplegic group (wheelchair), lower extremity amputation group (crutches), and total hip replacement (walker, reacher, hip precautions).

Caption: Walking to the grocery store from the rehab hospital, which were side by side.

This week, we went to a local rehab hospital and met an OT, who went through our list of disabilities and assigned shopping/cooking responsibilities, and rearranged it some. She wanted the blind person to get the tomato and onion and have to feel/smell it, for example.

We then walked over to the large grocery store next door. We were quite a sight. Immediately a man offered OTS Virginia (my partner on the walker) an electric scooter. We smilingly declined. Virginia and I slowly walked to an aisle to get our first two items. She had to push a cart in front of her step by step with the walker. We then had trouble determining where the third would be (Boboli pizza crust). We discussed that in a case like this, someone like me might just run through the store, but in her case, due to fatigue and time, it would be best to ask people that came by -even random people. The first person we asked was deaf though, so we asked a few other random people. At one point we had like six people standing around us, a combination of employees and shoppers, trying to help us figure out where the pizza crust would be. We finally got an answer and headed that way. At that point, Virginia was fatigued enough that we pretended she was higher-level, putting the walker in the shopping cart and using that for stability. The OT told us that typically a person would have scouted out the store to know where things were in advance for fatigue/time, and that also the person probably would have used the electric scooter – she just wanted us to get a feel for the frustration and fatigue.

OTS Emily lead blindfolded Allison, which I’m sure was somewhat scary.

OTS Cheryl led OTS Marla, who had her leg rigged up behind her and on crutches.

OTS Julie lead OTS Brooke, in a wheelchair. She was a paraplegic, so she had good hand strength but poor trunk control, and had to anchor herself to her wheelchair with one hand to reach for something with her other.

We (the OT girls with the disabilities) all then paid for our various purchases using the cash given to us by the department for that purpose.

A strange older man touched blindfolded Allison’s shoulder in the check-out line to say “I’m really good looking, you would like me”. This really bothered Allison as she felt her space had been violated.

In our check-out line, our cashier asked the woman behind us (who happened to be the deaf woman from earlier), to borrow her savings card for us to use. The deaf woman did not understand what was being asked and was confused. Virginia said “She’s deaf” to the cashier, and the cashier’s face went blank and she turned away from the deaf person. It was a startling transition. It was like “You have no use to me then”. No smile, no nod…just an immediate face-away.

Once we had our groceries, Virginia was back on the walker, and she had to figure out how to coordinate her walker, the groceries, the shopping cart, and her reacher. She wanted me to help and I refused. “How are you going to do this, Virginia?” All the bag boys around us were like, We can help! We can help! And I was like no, she has to do this by herself. We decided ideally it would have been best for Virginia to return the cart with the groceries and reacher in it, then take out the groceries and reacher at that point. Luckily someone took away her cart and I took her reacher (since ideally it was supposed to be attached to her walker and it unfairly wasn’t).


Now that we had our supplies and were back in the rehab hospital, we decided who would do what in the kitchen. Our OT was great about pointing out we needed to be careful about what foods we assigned which patients. For example, you don’t want someone who can’t feel heat very well, to be browning the meat!

I was at the walker and to work on standing endurance, I had to brown the meat at the stove. This actually freaked me out as I have a phobia of fire alarms, E.coli food poisoning, and appliances. So not the best choice for me. Brooke was in the wheelchair chopping veggies, Cheryl was on her crutches doing the salad, and Emily was blind and making the cinnamon sticks. I took pictures when I could.


Finally, after a long hour or so of a hot rehab kitchen with 8 people in it, our food was done! We got to eat it with the OT and our professor. It was nice to eat the fruits of our labor, so to speak. The OT pointed out that this gives clients a reason to be more careful (and motivated), knowing they will be eating their work later! At first we still simulated disabilities, but eventually stopped, as we began discussing our thoughts on how the afternoon went.


The blind girls felt isolated a lot of the time, not knowing exactly what was going on and who was in their space. The paraplegics felt frustrated in their wheelchairs in terms of maneuvering. Virginia and I didn’t like the walker because of arm fatigue as well as difficulty in doing minor tasks. For example – if I need to hold on with both hands and I am at the stove and I get raw meat all over my hands, do I get the raw meat on my walker to go wash my hands? Stuff like that. And the girls with crutches felt awkward and unstable. Overall it was a really good experience and an eye-opener, to realize how every little thing can potentially betime-consuming, frustrating, fatiguing, and/or isolating. We got lots of smiles and help at the store but we’re a bunch of cute girls clearly on a learning mission – I’m not sure people are so quick to smile for the average elderly person or person with a severe disability.

By this time it was around 4:45 and we were antsy to head out due to severe weather headed our way. Most of us drove home while listening to the radio DJs tell us funnel clouds were popping up all over and it was very dangerous. That was a fun experience, I tell ya. We all (most of us) spent the rest of the night cowering as tornadoes went everywhere in the mid-South, including over Memphis.

I’m going to include as many pictures as I can in this post and then post the rest up above. Sorry this was so long but I wanted to share all the details.
PS: My email box is big again and I have a lot of readers to respond to – please bear with me – I’ll try to get everything cleaned out and responded to within the next few days! I swear I love all you guys to pieces…

Feb 07, 2008 | Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 2