Student-Led Cooking Class Offers Independence, Life Skills For People With Physical Challenges

Monday, April 12th 2021, 5:39 pm

TULSA, Oklahoma -

A cooking class led by two University of Oklahoma-Tulsa graduate students is giving people with physical challenges independence and some new skills in the kitchen. 

Some of the people who come to Tulsa's Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges were born with physical challenges. Others, after suffering a stroke or accident, found themselves re-learning how to do things that used to feel so easy.

"I never really liked to cook prior to my stroke nine years ago, but I think now that it is more of a challenge, I enjoy it," said participant Sherri Watson. 

The Center is more than building full of resources.

"This is the family, the community, the sense of community. I am not the only person with a disability, you know? Every day I come here, I realize that things could be a lot worse, so I have no reason to complain," said Watson. 

Among the many support groups, classes and programs offered, Hartley Bowman and Reagan Collins teach a cooking and nutrition class.

"I am getting my doctorate of physical therapy at OU-Tulsa and Reagan is getting her master's in occupational therapy," said Bowman.  

They are part of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship and this cooking class is a project they designed to serve a need in the community. They wanted people with physical challenges to know what adaptive tools they can use in the kitchen and teach nutrition.

"We were able to help her advocate for herself to get adaptive equipment installed in her apartment, including a mirror over the stove that allows her to see what is cooking because before, from her wheelchair she was unable to use the stove because she was fearful of getting burned," said Bowman. 

"I can't cut fruit with this hand. Thanks to them and the things they have helped us obtain, we can now cut fruit, peel oranges, do stuff that we haven't been able to do in ages. It is a lot easier with their utensils," said participant Bryan Lohmeyer. 

"They taught us about the rocker knife, that you can hold and just kind of rock across the vegetables," said Watson. 

What Bowman and Collins didn't realize is that participants would be taking away much more than cooking lessons - they get some of their independence back.

"One of our participants at the end of the course, she went from having her daughter make her meals and everything for her to coming back and telling us, 'I actually made lunch for my daughter today,'" said Collins. 

"My stamina, my determination, my stubbornness - it is what gets me up every day. I won't be beaten," said Watson. 

If you would like to become a volunteer or donate, visit The Center website here.