At 14, doctors diagnosed Jennifer Spaventa with reflex neurovascular dystrophy, a painful condition that leads to severe joint and muscle pain. That same year, after extensive physical and occupational therapy, Spaventa found her calling.
“Occupational therapy is all-encompassing. You look not just at the diagnosis, but also at what the patient wants or needs to do to adapt each activity so they can carry on with their lives.”
Spaventa, a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) student, recently completed an internship at the Braille Institute in San Diego, where she taught cooking classes to people who are vision-impaired in partnership with another student from the university. Here, she shares how her fieldwork has already made her a more confident, comprehensive occupational therapist:
“We taught two cooking classes for clients who are blind or have low-vision.The whole kitchen is adapted, with puffy paint on an array of tools. We started with a microwave class. The start button had a square, there were numerals on the one- and two-minute buttons, and so on. We made chicken pot pie, mug pizza, mug cake, and an omelet. They loved the different ideas, and really appreciated learning new ways of doing things that would make it easier to get around the kitchen safely.
“In our next class, we had a student who used the stovetop and the oven. She had diabetes, so we made zucchini noodles using a hand-held Zoodle first for a low-carb ‘pasta.’ Next, we found a cookie pizza recipe that uses almond flour, has low sugar and carbs, and topped it with yogurt as the frosting. We added strawberries and blueberries for more taste and texture.
“With both classes, we showed clients how to adapt everyday kitchen tools, like using a hardboiled egg slicer to cut strawberries. We also demonstrated mesh cutting gloves. You put one on the hand you are not cutting with so if the knife nicks the glove, it won’t slice your finger.
“Everything we did was a form of occupational therapy and the clients had no idea! That’s what we learned in our Psychosocial Intervention course: The best therapy is when clients don’t realize they’re receiving it.”