University of Southern California
University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Student Ambassador Blog

Caroline

Take a Peek at Pediatrics!

, by Caroline

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Whenever I give prospective students a tour of our facilities and classrooms during Information Sessions, the Pediatrics classroom tends to get a lot of “oohs” and “aahs.” Rightfully so! Half of the classroom is filled with colorful things to jump on, climb on, swing on, and crash into, which certainly looks a lot more fun than most classrooms I’ve seen! OTs who work in Pediatrics definitely try to make everything they do with their pediatric clients fun and engaging, and the same can be said for our Pediatrics professors. I spend 9 hours each week in my Pediatrics class, but it’s so much more than a lecture with my professors talking at me the whole time! The course integrates team application activities, case studies, and a lot of exploring and trying out different assessment and intervention approaches.

I’ve already told you about my Fieldwork experience in a school-based setting, but now let me give you a peek into my Pediatrics course!

I don’t have pictures for privacy reasons, but we had the opportunity to interact with children and with parents when learning about doing parent interviews and conducting standardized assessments. As a class, we got to practice interviewing a parent of a child who receives OT services, and he was able to give us feedback about how we did. Additionally, professors bring their children into the lab, so we can look at their primitive reflexes and learn about how to conduct standardized assessments. We learned that it’s a lot harder than it looks, but that it becomes easier as you get more familiar with the assessments.

Goldfish, pretzels, and other snacks used for a grasp analysis activity.

Different snacks used for a grasp analysis activity

When learning about different grasps (how we manipulate our fingers and hands to grab objects) our professors brought in some snacks. Grabbing yummy snacks and bringing them to our mouths was definitely an inherently motivating and fun way to review the various types of grasps. I realized that we grab a sunflower seed differently than we grab something bigger like a cheese-it, which is something I hadn’t thought about before. Next time you’re eating a snack, pay attention to how you pick up your food to eat it!

Play doh and connect 4 treatment activity

We planned a treatment using Connect 4 and Play-Doh

When practicing planning treatments that address different fine motor skills, our professors put random objects on the table and told us to come up with a fine motor skill treatment using those objects on the spot! My group had play-doh and Connect 4, so we decided to hide the Connect 4 pieces inside the play-doh. That way, by manipulating the play-doh, the child is building up strength in the small muscles in their hands. Then, we can address grasp when looking at how they hold the Connect 4 pieces. We also came up with ways to change the activity to make it more challenging and less challenging. It may look simple, but there’s a lot of thought behind each pediatric treatment!

Different games used for visual motor intervention.

Lots of different games can be used in OT!

When learning about visuomotor integration (how our vision and perceptual skills work with our fine motor skills to help us interact with our environment efficiently), we got to try out a lot of different games and think about how they could be used in treatment. One of my professors said something that really stuck with me: generally, the children that OTs work with may have a hard time playing a game exactly as it is designed or following the exact direction. This means that it’s the OTs job to adapt the game and make it the right challenge for each child, allowing them to work on certain skills, but feel successful and have fun at the same time. OT treatment with children can often look like play, but there is a lot of work going on at the same time!

Handwriting Without Tears materials

Some of the materials used in the Handwriting Without Tears Program. I practiced using the wooden blocks to put together a few letters!

When learning about handwriting interventions, we got to explore the Handwriting Without Tears program, which aims to do exactly what the name sounds like! For children who have a hard time learning to write or making their writing legible, working on handwriting in therapy could start to feel boring and like work, so a couple of OTs created the Handwriting Without Tears program to make handwriting intervention more dynamic and fun. Children can practice writing on an etch-a-sketch and chalkboards and can form letters with play doh and wooden blocks. This program uses a multisensory approach and has a lot of different options to make treatment fun and different. I’ve used this program used at my fieldwork site, and the kids definitely enjoy it!

Sensory Integration swing

Getting a little vestibular input from one of the swings!

SI lab

Check out some of my classmates on other swings!

Finally, last week we were learning about Sensory Integration theory and intervention, which was actually developed by A. Jean Ayres, a former OT faculty member here at USC! We learned all about our sensory systems, how they’re supposed to work, what it can look or feel like when they’re not working as they should, and what Sensory Integration can do to help. My professor reminded us that you should always try out an activity yourself before having a child do the activity in therapy, to ensure that it’s the right level of challenge and actually addresses what you want the intervention to address. So, we did exactly that! We explored the lab space and got on different swings and equipment to see what it feels like, how challenging they are, and how our bodies feels afterwards. It was such a fun day!

SI Ball pit

Just two peas in a pod getting some tactile input!

I’m so appreciative of all of the time and effort my professors put in when planning the course and the time spent in the classroom. I’m definitely a learn-by-doing kind of person, so I love when I get to be hands-on in the classroom. My pediatrics midterm is coming up next week, so I’m definitely starting to reflect on everything I’ve learned this first half of the semester. Wish me luck!

Linah

Why Did I Become an Occupational Therapist?

, by Linah

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Ever since I was little I loved helping people and found value in standing up for those who need it. I grew up in a household of doctors, so I have had a good idea about medicine and loved the science itself. Yet, I never saw myself as doctor. I found occupational therapy by accident. It was a new major in my university and when the time came to choose a specialty, I chose it based on eliminating other medical specialties. I did not know what occupational therapy is until my first class after I majored in it. And ever since, it was a love story for the ages. In occupational therapy I find room to be creative while still validating my ideas with scientific measures. It equips me as a practitioner with the knowledge needed to fully understand a client’s medical problem then provides the tools to find the best solution there is for that particular client.

Through offering customized practical solutions, occupational therapists are able to bridge the gap between culture and medicine on a client by client basis. And what better way is there to help implement change in social attitudes about health and disabilities? Another thing I love about occupational therapy is how it aims to empower its clients. The best way to represent a certain demographic is by enabling them to speak for their own. By educating them about their conditions, rights, and preparing them to face their societies with strength. As an occupational therapist I believe I am capable of doing so. I feel blessed to have found a career as enjoyable, and meaningful as occupational therapy.

Erika

Standardized Patients: the Good, the Bad, and Becoming the Hulk

, by Erika

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One of the best opportunities our program offers is the chance to practice transfers with standardized patients in our Adult Rehab immersion.

What’s a standardized patient?

It’s a person carefully recruited and trained to take on the characteristics of a real patient providing students with the opportunity to learn skills in a simulated clinical environment. Neat, right?

So far in my adult rehab immersion, we’ve practiced with standardized patients “recovering from hip replacements, back injuries, and stroke.” We’ve learned how to transfer them from laying in bed to sitting then to a wheelchair or walker! From there, we’ve also practiced how to mobilize and transfer these patients to the shower, tub, and toilet.

It’s been ADLmania!!!

Our Adult Rehab lab was designed to simulate common practice locations where we would actually conduct transfers and treatment sessions. On one side, we have an exact replica of what a hospital room looks like at Keck Medical center - from the beds to the toilet and shower. On the other side, we have a standard bedroom with access to a tub and toilet. Lastly, we have a fully functioning kitchen where we can practice various occupations like meal prepping, washing dishes, and cooking. What’s better than practicing real life occupations in a real life setting?

Hospital Room, USC ADL Lab

Bedroom, USC ADL Lab

Bathroom, ADL Lab

Readers, can I just say, the first time I practiced with standardized patients, I. Was. Terrified.

“I have NO clue what I’m doing. Are they going to be nice? Are they going to be painfully dramatic? Am I going to drop someone and break their hip a second time?”

My stream of consciousness spiraled into the dark depths of the unknown but of course, with all new experiences, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Sure, I think all of us students will admit that the first time, there was a lot of “uhhhhh….”s, big perplexed eyes, and unnecessary overexplanations of the protocol running through our heads and out our mouths. After that though, you realize that the standardized patients aren’t there to give you a hard time or to give Oscar-worthy dramatic performances but are there for you and your learning experience. While at times, they were committed to simulating pain (which was intimidating at first), they were incredibly kind and open to providing feedback on why they felt pain or felt discomfort. They were gracious in giving us as many opportunities to try again to make sure we get a specific transfer or handling right.

Transferring a standardized patient who has a T8 spinal cord injury from bed to wheelchair

Working on long sitting dressing with standardized patients with spinal cord injuries

At the end of the day, that’s what makes the opportunity of practicing with standardized patients valuable - it gives us the opportunity to spiral into our own fears then build ourselves back up with the support and feedback of our professors and standardized patients to reveal our own capabilities and strengths - all within a safe learning environment!

I want to close with some advice I was given while working with a standardized patient named Mel*. After I had transferred him, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “You have to commit. If you don’t commit, I won’t commit.” I’m not sure if this was a reflection of his practices as a method actor, but it completely changed how I transferred after that point. I became more confident. You know when Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk? It was like that without all the rage. Mel’s words transformed my identity from being a timid inexperienced OT student to a potentially strong, capable, and committed OT practitioner. Thanks Mel.

*All names mentioned in this blogpost are pseudonyms.

Ali

Bachelor’s to Master’s in Occupational Therapy: A community not just a major

, by Ali

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We just hosted our OT Welcome Back Dinner for the Bachelor’s to Master’s Degree Program students. With 9-11 students per graduating class, the Accelerated BS to MA community is a very small and connected group. Dr. Joanne Park and the rest of the admissions team organize events, such as this dinner, as an opportunity to share a meal with all the OT majors who can make it. We organized dinner, games, and the chance to meet their mentor/mentee groups for the first time.

Each student is assigned a mentor group, which consists of at least one freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior as a resource to ask questions and help support one another. We encourage these mentor groups to engage in their favorite occupations together or study together on campus.

These events are designed to foster the community, or OT Family, of progressive degree occupational therapy students throughout their five years with the program. As these students are on a fast track professional degrees, we want to ensure they feel a part of the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. It is important to note the BS degree does not permit students to be licensed therapists, but they will be ready to sit for the national board exam and become a therapist even sooner because they only have one more year of school to complete their Master’s degree.

This is a picture of everyone who was able to come out for the dinner!

This is a picture of everyone who was able to come out for the dinner!

 

Caroline

Let’s Talk Fieldwork – Part II: School-Based Pediatrics

, by Caroline · 1 comment

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In my previous blog post I explained how Level I and Level II Fieldwork experiences work in our program at USC, and shared about my previous Fieldwork placements. As promised, this blog is devoted to my current Level I Fieldwork experience!

I am in the Pediatrics Immersion, which means that my Fieldwork is also in a pediatric OT setting. I’ve been placed in a local school district, so I get to see school-based pediatrics. I was really excited when I first got my placement, because I had observed pediatrics before, but not in a school-based setting, so this would be a new experience for me! I spend most of my time at an elementary school, but my Clinical Instructor (CI) and I also go over to a local high school to treat some students there as well.

I just had my 3rd day at my Fieldwork site, and I have already gotten to observe and assist with so many different things! Because my CI has a pretty consistent schedule, I get to see the same kids each week. This allows me to see growth and change in the clients, helps them to become more comfortable with me, and gives me the opportunity to begin planning and leading treatments with them as I become more familiar with them, their goals, and their interests.

The elementary school where I’m placed has a pretty unique setup, because my CI has an awesome OT clinic room all to himself – mats, obstacle course, swings, and all! With all of the materials and resources, there are so many possibilities for treatment and intervention, which is so exciting!

Clinic space at my school-based Fieldwork setting

Here you can see the OT clinic space at the elementary school. Lots of space for obstacle courses, movement, and fun!

Table-top space in my school-based Fieldwork setting

The OT clinic also has a great table-top setup to work on handwriting and other fine motor skills!

A Typical Morning at my School-Based Fieldwork Site:

8:15 – Arrive, plan for the clients that day, prepare any materials needed.

9:00-9:30 – Pull a client out of class for an individual OT session. We used play-doh to work on hand strength, bilateral coordination (using both hands at the same time in a controlled manner), and pre-writing (by using the play-doh to spell out the client’s name).

9:30-10:00 – Pull another client out of class for an individual OT session. We used a three-step obstacle course in the clinic room to work on gross motor control (coordinating the large parts of your body, like legs, arms, and trunk to move) and task sequencing (progressing smoothly through a multi-step activity).

10:00-10:30 – Time for documentation and planning.

10:30-11:30 – We run an OT and Speech group with one of the Special Ed classrooms. We led the students through a song with choreographed dance moves (jumping, running in place, spinning) and then completed a craft activity based on the song that worked on fine motor skills (activities that require the use of the smaller body parts, such as the hands and fingers) like handwriting, cutting, coloring, tearing paper, and squeezing glue.

11:30-12:00 – Time for documentation and planning.

12:00-12:30 – Lunchtime (in the teacher’s lounge! It’s definitely not as mysterious as my elementary-school aged self thought it was smile ).

The mornings are pretty consistent, but the afternoons have a little bit more variability. Sometimes, we have meetings with parents and the rest of the team at school (Speech Therapists, Teachers, Psychologists, etc.) to address concerns or for an annual Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. At these meetings, it’s really cool to see the inter-disciplinary team working together to best support the individual child in the school environment. Other afternoons, we’ll go over to the nearby high school and work with some of the clients over there. I’ve enjoyed getting to see what school-based OT looks like for elementary-school aged children compared to high school students.

I’ve only had 3 days of Fieldwork, but I’m seeing individual clinic sessions with elementary and high-school aged students, group sessions, IEP and parent meetings, and more! My CI is also very open to me jumping in, taking charge, and planning and implementing some sessions with the kids. As I continue to learn more in my pediatrics class and am exposed to more at Fieldwork, I expect I’ll get more and more comfortable taking on more responsibility at Fieldwork!

My full week of fieldwork is coming up in a couple of weeks, so I’m looking forward to seeing even more clients! If you’ve observed OT in a school-based setting or have any questions about my experience, leave a comment below!

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