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Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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USC Chan Aligns with the HollyRod Foundation to Focus on Common Needs of Those Affected by Autism →

Apr 23, 2015, by Mike McNulty, in General News

The USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy has aligned with the HollyRod Foundation as part of the division’s ongoing commitment to understanding and providing family-centered resources to people with autism spectrum disorder.

“USC is home to a community of scientists and clinicians who are engaged in research and treatment to ensure that children, adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders and their families can fully thrive,” said Dr. Florence Clark, associate dean and chair of the USC Chan Division.

Together, HollyRod and USC will strive to support the immediate needs of families and individuals affected by autism. From day-to-day needs of the family such as ensuring each member has a valued role to prevocational training of the diagnosed child for successful transition into adulthood, the partnership hopes to empower all individuals who are impacted by an autism diagnosis. 

The HollyRod Foundation was started in 1997 by actress Holly Robinson Peete and former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete ’89 after the Peetes’ eldest son, RJ, was diagnosed with autism. The foundation helped create RJ’s Place — safe havens in children’s hospitals and autism centers across the country that provide refuge for siblings of those with autism who might accompany them to treatment.

Autism can impact families physically, emotionally and financially. In fact, a person with autism will spend on average between $1.4 to $2.3 million over a lifetime for educational interventions, training and health care, according to Autism Speaks, a leading autism advocacy organization.

“This unique alignment between the USC and the HollyRod Foundation will accelerate our mission of enabling people to realize their optimal potential for participation in the everyday activities that make life meaningful,” Clark said.

The partnership also contributes to USC’s multidisciplinary initiative focusing on autism research, treatment and resources for day-to-day and community intervention.

Ten Years of Occupational Therapy in Africa →

Apr 22, 2015, by Mike McNulty, in General News Student News Alumni News

More than 200 USC students have taken advantage of an ‘amazing journey’ that led to Ghana


Bonnie Nakasuji ’74, MA ’94, OTD ’08 first went to Ghana in 2003 with a simple mission. She wanted to match patients with wheelchairs.

Two years later — thanks to her passion for occupational therapy and a good deal on airfare — Nakasuji returned to Ghana with 10 students from the USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy to help adults and children with disabilities.

During the past decade, Nakasuji, an adjunct associate professor at USC Chan who coordinates the division’s leadership externship to Ghana, has ushered 232 USC occupational therapy students to Ghana, taking on some 50 duties, from arranging air travel to lecturing at universities.

“It’s just been an amazing journey. When a student has an opportunity to give professionally, it’s really rewarding,” Nakasuji said.

Continue reading at USC News.

Video game developed at USC lets patients play their way through rehab →

Apr 20, 2015, by Mike McNulty, in General News

Mystic Isle tracks the coordinates of players’ movements, giving therapists valuable data on progress and future sessions


Video games for health are not just for fitness gamers who’d rather stumble through Zumba alone than with a judgy gym rat.

Clinicians and game developers at USC are teaming up to advance and validate video games for rehabilitation, a segment in the games-for-health industry that is helping stroke patients, paraplegics and others regain their dexterity through play.

The USC therapists and technicians have teamed to develop Mystic Isle, a game that quantifies and tracks patients’ movement in space as they tackle a series of rehab exercises.

Mystic Isle is being played in clinics all over the world as patients recover from the physical and cognitive effects of stroke.

Continue reading Video game developed at USC lets patients play their way through rehab at USC News.

The Help Group and USC Form a New Partnership →

Mar 6, 2015, by Mike McNulty, in General News Student News

The Help Group is pleased to announce an innovative partnership between The Help Group and the University of Southern California (USC) Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. The Help Group – USC Occupational Science Initiative is dedicated to developing evidence-based intervention programs for children with autism spectrum disorder through an interdisciplinary team of researchers, educators and clinicians.

The collaboration was established to better identify how animal-assisted intervention can be integrated into a curriculum that meets the educational and therapeutic needs of students in The Help Group’s five autism schools.

“With the success of our Paws and Pals program, we recognized the benefits of having volunteers and their therapy dogs visiting our classrooms and interacting with children across the autism spectrum,” said Dr. Barbara Firestone, president and chief executive officer of The Help Group, a national non-profit organization serving children with special needs related to autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays, abuse and emotional problems. “The Initiative holds great promise as one of the first of its kind to demonstrate how therapy animals can be utilized to help to facilitate social behavior and communication in children and teens with autism.”

Leading the effort on behalf of USC is Dr. Olga Solomon, assistant professor at the USC Chan Division. Dr. Solomon, a 2014 Summit presenter, also led a Distinguished Lecture Series presentation at The Help Group on “Animal-Assisted Therapy in Classroom and Clinical Settings” to provide practical strategies for including therapy dogs in a school setting. Joining The Help Group, under the mentorship of Dr. Solomon, is occupational therapy doctoral resident Allie Ticktin.

A program development and evaluation project is already underway this academic year at The Help Group. Therapy dog/handler teams are working in coordination with therapists and educators to develop animal-assisted activities for five-to-seven-years-old students with mild cognitive delays and social and communicative challenges.

The Initiative is The Help Group’s third partnership with a leading research university. In 1999, The Help Group partnered with the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior to create The Help Group Neuropsychology program, and once again in 2007 to form the groundbreaking Help Group – UCLA Autism Research Alliance.

“We are delighted to join with USC on this cutting-edge initiative to expand research into animal-assisted intervention,” said Firestone, “and look forward to a productive collaboration to foster growth and progress for young people with autism.”

USC Chan Students Go 3 For 3 in AOTA Elections →

Feb 27, 2015, by Mike McNulty, in General News Student News Alumni News

All three USC Chan Division students running for elected positions to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Assembly of Student Delegates (ASD) won their respective races. Joseph Ungco MA ‘16 was elected chairperson, Ellen Wleklinski BS ‘14, MA ‘15 was elected vice chairperson and Elizabeth Peters MA ‘16 was elected secretary.

The ASD is the legislative body for student input and concerns into AOTA affairs. As a standing committee of the Representative Assembly (RA), the ASD Steering Committee serves the ASD membership by synthesizing student concerns to represent the student point of view to the Board of Directors, the Representative Assembly, the Commission on Practice, the Commission on Education and other AOTA bodies as needed.

In other election results, alumnus and Board of Councilors member Shawn Phipps BS ‘97 was elected AOTA Vice President and alumna Arameh Anvarizadeh BS ‘05, MA ‘06, OTD ‘07 won her race for California representative to the RA.

View all AOTA 2015 Election Results. Congratulations and Fight On!

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