La Rabida opens therapy kitchen

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Patients at the children's hospital will gain added independence thanks to special kitchen features and occupational therapists' support. (WLS)

In a typical kitchen, Madison Levickis faces challenges with seemingly simple tasks because of her physical disabilities, which include trouble walking and using her arms.

"Some of the things that Maddie has mentioned have been like, 'I want to make mom breakfast on her birthday or I want to be able to make something by myself,'" said Lucia Arellano, who is Levickis's occupational therapist at La Rabida Children's Hospital.

Now, the 14-year-old is learning these skills inside a new therapy kitchen which was officially opened Monday. Kids like Levickis will gain added independence thanks to special kitchen features: "We have special cutting boards for someone who only has the use of one arm," explained the hospital's director of rehab and child life, Colleen Harper, adding, "We have weighted spoons and knives for children who have difficulty with coordination."

There are also moveable surfaces with added gripping so kids can stir without having to hold down a bowl or plate; spaces for children with walkers or in wheelchairs to work; plus, the décor and kitchenware was all deliberately chosen to create color contrast "so that they can easily see where the cup is, where the plate is, where the bowl is," Harper explained.

The kitchen's even equipped with a "hi-low" table that Harper said helps kids with their balance and stability (no matter their height). She added that this is about more than just learning skills for daily living; it's occupational therapy in disguise.

"This is all about making things easy in preparation for things that are harder," she said.

The transformed space was made possible by the Starlight Foundation and a donation from Dunkin' Brands' Joy in Childhood Foundation. Dunkin' pledged $1.5 million for 10 total Starlight Sites, including this kitchen, hoping to bring joy to kids across the country.

At La Rabida those smiles will come from cooking. Monday it was rice pudding with more sweet treats to come.
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