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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Student Blog


Part-time Fieldwork >

by Myka

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I love my part-time fieldwork doing Lifestyle Redesign® for College Students here at USC! In our program, there is an option to do part-time fieldwork during the second year of the Master’s degree. Because I was a teaching assistant for the summer classes last summer, I am doing my first Level Two fieldwork right now. It’s a big commitment — about 20 hours a week for the whole school year, basically.

Although this is really time consuming, I really enjoy doing my fieldwork. I’m working through our USC Occupational Therapy Faculty Practice with college students. I mainly work through the Disability Services and Programs office with students with learning disabilities, ADD, anxiety, and depression. I also work with other students who want to improve their coping skills and maximize their time in college. This is an exciting area because I am really working on wellness and prevention for these students — it’s a lot like life coaching. I am able to be a full OT and use the range of skills that I’ve learned in practical and theoretical classes. At one of my Level One Fieldwork opportunities, I was basically stuck with the upper body (it was an acute inpatient setting). In my current fieldwork, I can help students with time management, stress management, weight management, focus, and goal-setting to improve their lives. I can go to the store with them to pick out healthy, easy to pack lunches for long school days. I can go in their dorms and apartments to help them organize and create a healthy environment for studying and sleeping. I can go for a long walk or to the gym and work on weight management and increasing energy.

As you might imagine, it’s a pretty fun job! It blends some aspects of psychosocial work with health promotion and wellness. I also get to lead groups at our gym on campus regarding the topics I have listed above. Next week, I’m leading a group on stress management to help students prepare for finals and final projects. Because I’m a college student, too, these topics really help me to be the best student I can be! I definitely need to utilize stress management techniques — I had a midterm on Monday and have another one due next week!

I really feel that I help other students on campus live their lives to the fullest! I’m planning on incorporating the things I’m currently learning and utilizing in my future practice as an OT — in any setting!


Robotics and Occupational Therapy >

by Myka

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Different disciplines can work together to help people live their lives to the fullest! Right now I am taking a really exciting class through the Engineering department called Innovative Technology for Autism Spectrum Disorders.  It is taught by Olga Solomon, a linguist and autism researcher in the OS/OT department here at USC and is funded by a grant from Autism Speaks.

This class has been really great because it is interdisciplinary and we have both engineering and occupational therapy students. We are in small groups and each group is developing a grant proposal for an innovative technology to use for people with autism to help them do the things they need and want to do.  Last week in class we learned about socially assistive robots, which are robots that don’t touch people but can help encourage people and help people with autism learn social behaviors. Here is a video of a socially assistive robot helping someone in therapy to do exercises:

The video also mentions at the end that these types of robots are being used with many different populations, including people with autism.  You can see from the video that socially assistive robots may become more used in occupational therapy, as we can have them work with our clients for a different method of providing therapy. I asked the class whether they thought robots could ever take over OT jobs if trained well enough. We agreed that we should be safe from a robot-takeover (I, Robot, anyone?), but robots can definitely be used to supplement occupational therapy.

David Feil-Seifer, a PhD candidate in Engineering, came in to speak to our class about his work with these robots. He showed us videos of his research and we saw that children with autism responded positively to the robots and that using this type of technology may be very beneficial in teaching social skills to people with autism and helping them communicate.  He then took some of us to the Interaction Lab, which is featured in the video. We got to see the robots (including the one in the video) and meet some of the other students who work in the lab.

I wanted to take this class to become a well-rounded clinician, and this class is a great opportunity to blend disciplines and engage in mutual learning with engineering students. I can see using robots and other technology in all forms of OT, and am excited to learn more about technology that is used therapeutically. When I started OT school, my dad told me to be the most cutting-edge clinician I could be. “Develop OT robots!” was one of his ideas.  At the time, I just rolled my eyes (this is the guy who thought OT was helping people find jobs), but now I think this is a really exciting idea.  I’m so glad I’m getting this opportunity to learn about exciting new trends in the fields and work with engineering students to develop technologies for people with autism!


Things to do in LA… >

by Michelle

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So I went to Disneyland about 4 times in the past 2 weeks and that go me thinking about what LA has to offer. There is so much stuff in the area that you’ll never be bored. Here are some fun things that I have found to do in the Southern California area within the past 2 years.

Disneyland. This is my friend Nicole and I at Disneyland around christmas time, it was such a beautiful sight.

Malibu Beach. Nicole, Audrey and Me are all in the program and frequently we go to the beach and relax. Sometimes we bring homework, and sometimes we ban it from being allowed. But we always have a fun time.

The Pumpkin Patch. I went with my cousins who live in orange county, it’s a really fun time. They have kiddie rides and kettle corn and usually some sort of live entertainment.

Oktoberfest. In Huntington Beach this is an opportunity to be full emerged in Germany culture and tradition in the month of October. They have a band that they fly in from germany for the whole month and authentic cuisine and beverages.

Camping. We went camping in Santa Barbara but there are several locations around LA that aren’t as far. It’s a cheap and fun way to have some friendly bonding and time with the outdoors.

Hiking. There are tons of hikes around the LA area. Griffith Park is a location that is near the hollywood hills that many people choose to hike. There is even a hike that will lead you to the hollywood sign.

Restaurants. LA has some great restaurants to choose from, like this one that is an old fire house in downtown that got converted.

Skiing. Big Bear Lake is only about 2–3 hours away and it is a great place to go skiing. It also has many activities to do when it’s not the winter time.

Hollywood Blvd. There is always a fun pretender to see and take a picture with on this historic walkway. Here is me and Johnny Depp.

I hope this helps convince you all of everything that LA has to offer, comment on this post if you know of other great activities that I didn’t list.


Looking Back — Summer 2008 >

by Mari

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When it all began…

As we’re nearing the end of our OT school journey, I can’t believe we’ll be graduating so soon — I have mixed feelings of excitement to be done, sadness to leave the comfort of student life, and anxiety about where I’ll end up in the future. I can just remember when I was in the process of applying to OT school and deciding where to go, when I had my weekly email and phone conversations with Sarah Kelly to ask her my list of questions and help with the decision process! It’s definitely true that time sure flies by when you’re having fun! Lately, I’ve been thinking about all the amazing times I’ve had at USC in the past couple years. So, for my next few blogs, I thought I would take you back through my experience as an OT student at USC!

First, we start with the summer of 2008 when we were immersed in what it really meant to be a full-time student! We didn’t know if we were going to make it out of the summer still being able to think and function during our fall semester classes, but of course, it was completely fine!

As we were lined up to go into the auditorium, I’m sure everyone remembers the first people they befriended! For me, it was Wendy and Miriam!

Here’s Wendy and I pretending to be happy right before our Kinesiology final. 😉

Although it was a lot of studying, we definitely found time to have fun too! We love celebrating birthdays!

Here’s Tina blowing out her candles at the Wine & Dine event hosted by the OT House.

And this is a group picture from Miriam’s birthday — we went to a modern-day play of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew and ate at the Tofu House in Korea Town!

We also had fun in Dr. Fazio’s Skills class, which worked out to be the perfect stress reliever from Kinesiology and Neuroscience!

Here’s an angel pot holder that I made from ceramic tiles and grout — probably one of my favorite pieces!

And who knew Neuroscience could be fun too (sorry, Myka — she’s another Student Ambassador who was a Neuroscience major)?! At the end of the summer, I brought in a cake that was in the shape of spinal bone, marking a few of the tracts that ran through it. A little nerdy, I know, but I always think there’s some way to incorporate food into your projects — it just makes it more fun for everyone!

And that’s about it for the first summer. It was definitely a busy summer, but filled with fun as a great start to OT school! =)


The Lived Experience >

by Myka

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In OT school, we don’t focus on the diagnosis or the lesion, we focus on the client’s goals and dreams — and help them make stories to succeed!

During undergrad, majoring in neuroscience, I didn’t think too much about the lived experience of what I was learning about. I was too busy figuring out where the lesion in the brain was, or discussing the philosophy of mind, or understanding abnormal psychology. The first summer of the Master’s program here at USC we take a neuroscience foundation course, and I thought I would be an expert and be familiar with all the material. I was excited to learn that many guest speakers had been invited to really talk to us about their lived experience with different neurological disorders or injuries. This was an aspect I had missed out on during undergrad. I learned that in OT, we don’t focus on the diagnosis or the location of the lesion or injury — we look at function and goals. When our clients are having difficulty doing the things they need and want to do, we work with them to fulfill their goals and live their lives to the fullest!

One of my favorite speakers was a girl not much younger than me, Allison, who has cerebral palsy. She talked to us about living with this disability which looks different on the outside, but she is a typical college student. Well, I shouldn’t say typical. She writes screenplays and is hoping to transfer to USC. She is also a stand-up comic, performing all around Los Angeles. She actually just won first place in the qualifying round at a comedy contest! I’m friends with her on Facebook, so can keep up with her there. I thought of her today because I met with the current neuroscience professor for the undergraduate OT program and told her about our guest speakers, and got in touch with Allison so that she could come speak to that class. She replied that she would love to come. When Allison spoke to us, she had good advice for us future OTs. She told us to assume competence, and that OTs need to work with their clients’ goals in mind, not their own goals for the clients.

Having these guest speakers in our neuroscience class really opened my eyes to what I would do as a future OT. I had thought about going to medical school, and enjoyed taking tests in college that were very clinical and diagnostic. But what I really wanted to do was help people individually, and understand each person as a unique individual with goals and dreams. Elizabeth Yerxa, one of the founders of Occupational Science and former chair of USC OT, said: “Medicine is concerned with preserving life; occupational therapy is concerned with the quality of the life preserved.” I know that in this profession I will be able to change lives for the better and am so excited for my future career!

Check out this link to see Allison’s live performance!  Allison Cameron Gray performing stand up comedy

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