University of Southern California
Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Redesigning Lives Globally
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OS/OT Student Blog


Coming to your Senses →

Oct 23, 2014, by Jonathan · email · Leave a comment

Hello everyone! Hope that you’re all doing great! Things have definitely been picking up as we’ve just reached the halfway point in the semester. From full time fieldwork, to the OTAC conference, to midterms, to planning events for OT Global Day of Service, and everything in between, I’ve definitely been keeping busy! With that said, it’s especially during times like these that I try to really focus on maintaining balance in my life, by making sure that I am making time for the things that are particularly meaningful for me. It’s funny, the other day while I was on a run, I was thinking about the things that I do in my life, and the commonality amongst my occupations. In doing so, it made me recollect to a self discovery I realized in my mental health Immersion - I engage in occupations that provide a lot of stimulation to my senses! A couple weeks ago, Brenda had walked into the office and told me that she had just completed the Adult Sensory Profile in her mental health immersion. For those of you that don’t know, the Adult Sensory Profile is a self questionnaire that uses Dunn’s Model of Sensory Processing to help you discover your own sensory profile, and how this processing pattern affects functional performance. Dunn’s model is divided into four sensory profiles: low registration, sensory seeking, sensory sensitivity, and sensation avoiding.

After Brenda had told me about that she had completed the profile, it made me reminisce about when I had completed the profile last spring semester during my mental health immersion. Based on the questionnaire, I ended up discovering that my profile is sensory seeking. The following are characteristics of someone who is sensation seeking: enjoys sensory rich environments, creates sensation, and has behavioral responses to counteract a high sensory threshold. All of a sudden, a lot of the things I do in my life made sense…

from my love of being in the water
Jon in the Water

to my obsession with food
Jon - Mac and Cheese

to my passion for music

Jon - Guitar
Jon - Love of Music

to how I run, mainly for own therapy
Jon - Running

to being consumed by my own wanderlust
Jon- RedRock

All these things and more are bounded by one commonality: I am constantly seeking sensation in my environment. It’s funny how the self-reflective nature of OT school brings so many things together in your own life. Which prompts the question… are your own occupations satisfying your sensory needs?

With that said, have a sensational weekend everyone wink

- Jon


OTAC Conference →

Oct 22, 2014, by Bindi · email · Leave a comment

USC has been so good to the MA1s, they recently sponsored us to attend two days of OTAC conference in Pasadena. Thank you Dr. Blanche for making it happen.

We attended the student track and it was very informative. There was a large focus on fine motor activities, traumatic brain injury and recovery and my favourite was a presentation on coaching a student with autism. Our very own Dr. Samia Rafidee was a super star and everybody loved her presentation. Students sitting next to me asked if I went to USC and when I said yes, they expressed how lucky we are to have her as a lecturer! It was amazing seeing how many presenters in student track were from USC - either alumni or faculty.

The sessions were great, but what really had me excited was the keynote address from Dr. Michael Iwama, the founder of the Kawa (river) Model. He gave a powerful and entertaining address, I was amazed by how he understood cultural diversity and how difficult it can be to generalize an OT model/ approach universally. I experienced this first hand when I was doing my bachelors of occupational therapy in small university town in South India called Manipal, and later when I started practicing in Kenya.

Besides the academic benefits we thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit hall with all the pens, sticky notes, stress balls and other cool stuff we gathered. My classmate Disha won an iPod from UCLA Health and I won a spa voucher!! Yaaay!

Freebies aside, we managed to get a lot of information about the different jobs available out there for us as OTs, and it was comforting to know as international students that there were very many companies that sponsor the work visa we will require after the OPT period is done. We also walked around and explored a very tiny part of Pasadena and appreciated the picturesque area by taking lots of selfies and hoping to get some of the beautiful architecture in the background.

Lets keep the profession moving forward and sharing the knowledge!


Dr. Michael Iwama and the Kawa Model →

Oct 22, 2014, by Brenda · email · Leave a comment

This past weekend, I attended the 2014 OTAC Conference and this year it was held in Pasadena, CA. One of the biggest highlights from this event was meeting Dr. Michael Iwama! I was star struck to say the least. Fortunately, he made himself very available to everyone who wanted to speak with him and I was even able to take a picture with him.

Dr. Iwama and me at the 2014 OTAC Conference.

Here at USC, we familiarize ourselves with his work during the Spring semester of our first year of the program. One of our readings for the Clinical Reasoning Class includes his article Toward culturally relevant epistemologies in occupational therapy.  In this article, he argues that in order to develop into a service that universally benefits all, we must strive for more culturally, relevant epistemologies, theories, and practice methods. He developed a conceptual model of practice that is known as the Kawa (River) Model. The Kawa Model uses Eastern philosophical views and perspectives to help view human occupation in a slightly different way from our Western common discourse. In order to transcend cultural boundaries, Dr. Iwama uses the metaphor of a river to illustrate a person’s subjective views of self, of well-being, and the meanings of occupations. With this concept, he encourages us to look at what the client perceives as personal assets, problems and circumstances in their lives, all of these representing different elements found in a river. As occupational therapists, Dr. Iwama states that we can focus on the spaces found in each client’s unique river and can view these as potential channels to increase the client’s flow through occupations. From this view, we become the people that enable the life-flow of our patients; another thing to add to my definition of occupational therapy!

Image taken from
Image taken from


Stress Overload! →

Oct 16, 2014, by Kristy · email · Leave a comment

Recently we had to write a paper for one of our courses, Health Promotion and Wellness.  It essentially required us to look at our own lives, and be our own OT!  It is amazing to me that even though we learn all of this great knowledge in the classroom and apply it to our patients, we rarely have time to apply it to ourselves.  I chose to discuss my stress experience and come up with a way to better manage my stress.  Why am I so stressed you might ask?  Sometimes it is difficult to manage my time as a student, worker, friend, and a person!  One thing that is wonderful about USC is that we have so many opportunities to be involved, but for someone like me, I tend to be overly involved and love to do EVERYTHING.  We have several student organizations on campus, there are many opportunities to volunteer, and many educational conferences or workshops to attend.  Some student organizations include the Occupational Therapy and Science Council or Student Run Clinic.  This weekend I will be attending the Occupational Therapy Association of California annual conference, and upcoming in the next month I will be going to the OT/PT Forum and the Student Run Clinic Symposium.  I love learning as much as I can about the field of occupational therapy as well as advocating for the field.  Another thing that has been going on this week is Fieldwork!  All week!  This is one of my favorite times of the semester because we do not go to our regular scheduled classes, but instead we attend our fieldwork all week so we can really immerse ourselves and see what it is like to be there full-time.  I am currently at an outpatient occupational therapy clinic, primarily focusing on hand rehabilitation.  It is a really interesting experience, and I have a lot to learn!  There are surprisingly a lot of things that could happen to just your hands, wrist, or elbow!  As someone who has come into the program wanting to work in pediatrics, this really opened my eyes to another venue of occupational therapy, and who knows, one day maybe I would end up in a setting like this!  This goes to show you the importance of engaging in our fieldwork experiences and taking advantage of the learning process.  By the end of the program, I will be placed in 5 different settings.  And this is still only a small sample of the many areas that you can work in as an occupational therapist!

Oh, and don’t worry about me and my stress level, I have come up with strategies to manage my stress.  One way I hope to manage my stress is by engaging in some of my old occupations, like playing tennis or figure skating.  I can’t wait to start incorporating these activities into my daily routines!  And also engaging in some of my newer favorite occupations, like baking, as I type this, I have banana bread baking in the oven! Yum!



Oct 15, 2014, by Claire · email · Leave a comment

Greetings from my kitchen table! I’m working from home and nibbling on a delicious lemon tart that my friend made (baking is her new occupation, to my delight!). Anyway, it is our one full week of Level I fieldwork, so our courses are actually paused for this week. I always look forward to the one full week of fieldwork during the semester! It is a very valuable experience for us as students to see what our fieldwork site does the rest of the week. You get to meet other clients and therapists, see other therapy sessions, participate in other groups, and learn a whole ton! My current Level I Fieldwork is at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. I am usually with my clinical instructor in outpatient occupational therapy and today I got to visit inpatient occupational therapy, followed by attending an aquatics group in the afternoon. So much fun! Fieldwork is definitely one of my highlights of the entire USC OT program. It’s great to see the things that we learn in the classroom come to life in real life applications. I commend our USC fieldwork team for working so hard to match us up with sites around LA and all around the nation – even around the world! Have a great week everyone – hope see some of you at the OTAC conference this weekend!

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