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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


Say whattttt, that’s occupational therapy!? ⟩
February 3, 2015, by Jonathan

Fieldwork What are OS/OT?

It’s an age old question: what is occupational therapy? Funny enough, I ran across this on Facebook the other day:

What is OT?

Point being, occupational therapy is a vast field with many faces. An occupational therapist can work with a variety of individuals across a number of diverse settings. With that said, I think it’s because of this reason that it’s a challenge to find an all-encompassing definition of exactly what it is that we do. In my own experiences, my definition of OT is constantly evolving the more I am exposed to the different things that an occupational therapist can do. Just to give you a better idea of the many hats that OTs can wear, I will talk about some of my own experiences regarding occupational therapy and the various outlets I’ve had the privilege of applying my passion towards.

My first level I fieldwork was at City of Hope. Oncology is an emerging field in occupational therapy, and this was something I’ve always wanted to explore because I’ve always had a passion for working with individuals who have cancer. Over at City of Hope, I was doing a number of different OT interventions, such as mirror therapy, ADL/IADL training, therapeutic exercise, and energy conservation techniques. I remember one of my patients was a Mother. I remember her telling me during our sessions together that it was not the cancer itself that was the most challenging aspect, it was more so her frustrations of feeling that she was not able to engage in the roles and occupations that were meaningful to her. Specifically, she felt like she could not be the Mother she wanted to be, and she could not live the active lifestyle she had desired, because she did not the same energy she once had to undertake these ventures. Thus, in her therapy sessions we would work on energy conservation techniques and we would find ways to build her activity tolerance, so that way she felt more connected to who she was while battling her cancer. The context of occupation engaged her in therapy, and I really enjoyed my time working with her. Here’s a picture of my favorite place at City of Hope, the Golter Gate.

Golter Gate at City of Hope

Golter Gate at City of Hope

My second level I fieldwork was at Project 180. It was over here that I was working with individuals who were incarcerated or who were at risk for incarceration. I remember watching a 30 days documentary by Morgan Spurlock, and he mentioned a statistic that 2 out of every 3 individuals who are incarcerated will be readmitted back into prison. Thus, Project 180 aims to help these individuals who are at risk for incarceration develop the skills that they need in order to successfully reintegrate into the community. The interventions I was doing consisted of a number of things, including helping an individual find a job, develop a skill set for maintaining a job, helping an individual reconnect to their family, and basically supporting these individuals to turn the chapter and recreate a new life story that they could be proud of. Here I am with my friend Amy, on our last day at Project 180.

Project 180

Project 180

I’ve mentioned my time at the Honolulu VA in my previous blogs. It was over here that I was able to work with the heroes who have served our country in inpatient, outpatient, and home based primary care settings. Over here, I was able to help veterans rehabilitate injuries utilizing the occupations that they loved to do. Last semester, I did my level I FW in Pediatrics at NJA therapy services, where I was helping children with special needs in both school based and outpatient settings. Over here, I was utilizing interventions such as fine motor exercises, sensory integration, and ADL training to help these children live a life to their fullest potential. This semester, I’m working with individuals who have multiple sclerosis utilizing a lifestyle redesign model. In doing so, I’m putting in my 100% effort to help my participants reach their meaningful goals, and am supporting these individuals to connect to the occupations that provide them meaning.

Based on my experiences, here is my definition of OT: we are a health profession that helps an individual reach their meaningful goals and fullest potential utilizing meaningful activity. This can be through prevention or rehabilitation, but ultimately we use the context of occupation to help an individual get to where they want to be. We look at a number of factors, including social/physical environment, support systems, personal strengths, and participation patterns, to help an individual overcome the challenges that prevent them from doing what they would like to do. We utilize our skill set to help the people we work with, and put forth our efforts to empower these individuals to live a life engaged in the occupations that give them meaning.

With that said, I pose this question to you: What’s your personal definition of OT? 😊

— Jonathan


Giving Back, Looking Forward, Enjoying the Present ⟩
January 19, 2015, by Jonathan

Getting Involved School/Life Balance

Greetings everyone! Hope you all had an amazing holiday season and have gotten 2015 started on the right note! As for me, my break went by super fast . . . but I guess that’s how you know it was time well spent! I did choose to stay local over the break, since I had a bunch of family and friends in town, but it was nice to just be home and relax/recharge in preparation for what will be my final semester in the master’s program!

With that said, I am feeling rejuvenated to finish off this last semester strong mainly because I got to engage in some of my favorite occupations over the break, such as hiking, running, playing music, and of course hanging with my friends and family. In addition, I also had the opportunity to experience some pretty amazing moments over break. My 9 month old nephew took his first steps! I like to think (emphasis on like to think) that I may have had something to do with his developmental milestone, since he was pretty much my practice subject for all that I was learning in the pediatrics immersion. :lol: I also had the opportunity to see Conan O’Brien (who I happen to think is the funniest man on the planet) at one of his TV show tapings, courtesy of my friend Brian, who’s also in the program.

Lastly, one of the most heartfelt moments of the break was when I had the opportunity to deliver donated toys to some children who needed it the most. Every year during the holiday season, my sisters and I have a tradition of donating toys to the children of Los Angeles County USC hospital. This year, as the USC Occupational Therapy and Science Council Philanthropy Chair, I chose to open up this donation project to the faculty, staff, and my fellow students of the program. The donation project was also expanded to benefit the children of the VIP (Violence Intervention Program), a wellness center down the street from our campus that provides support and advocacy services for children who are victims of abuse, neglect, domestic violence, sexual assault, and children who are placed in the foster-care system. The response was nothing short of amazing! As I was putting the toys together, I could not help but be overcome with joy because my colleagues, teachers, and co-workers’ generosity served as a reminder of what the holiday season is truly about: spreading a positive impact to bring joy into the lives of others. All together, we collected over 100 toys that were donated to the well deserving children of the Violence Intervention Program, creating some priceless holiday memories for these families. Here’s a snapshot of the donations!

VIP Donations

Shoutout to the person who donated the doggy! Ha I kidd, that’s my dogggg.

As I embark on my final semester of the program, please tune in for more blog updates from my fellow ambassadors and I! There’s a lot to look forward to this semester, including electives, OT month, my leadership capstone externship in the Philippines, and of course, graduation! As for now though, I will enjoy the ride while I can, and I’ll be sure to document these experiences so that way you’re riding shotgun with me :coolsmile:

Until next time,
— Jonathan


Pedal Pushers! Pedal to the Medal, Giving Back Shifted to Another Gear! ⟩
November 14, 2014, by Jonathan

Community Getting Involved What are OS/OT?

Hello there everyone! Hope that you’re all doing great!

This past Sunday, some of my fellow classmates and I had the opportunity to help out Pedal Pushers, a Los Angeles chapter of Ambucs Inc., a non-profit organization that helps to provide adaptive tricycles for children and adults through fundraising within the community! The opportunity to get involved with this awesome cause was wheely fun and wheely rewarding 😛 This amazing organization was brought to my attention by Sonserey, a member of Pedal Pushers, who I had the pleasure of meeting at OTAC. I SPOKE (hehe) with Sonserey and she told me all about Pedal Pushers and Ambucs, in addition to the story of what fuels their efforts. Sonserey is an occupational therapist who works in pediatrics. She told me that when she’s doing an evaluation, much alike most OTs, we start off by trying to decipher what the client’s meaningful occupations are. A common response from the kids she works with is to “ride a bike.” However, for some children with special needs, a traditional bicycle may not be the most practical option. Thus, Amtryke therapeutic tricycles were created to offer an adaptable, universally designed option for children with varying levels of physical abilities! The Amtrykes can be custom made to have a number of features, based on the child’s abilities, safety, and family preference. These features include hand or foot operation, rear-assist steering, assistive pedals, in addition to other adaptations. The best part is, everything on the Amtryke can be adjusted, so the child can continue to use their Amtryke as they get bigger and grow older!

What my classmates and I had the opportunity to participate in on Sunday was actually the final phase of the Amtryke process. It all starts off first with raising enough funds to be able to purchase the Amtryke for the child. Committed families, friends, and communities focus their efforts in hopes that they can make the child’s dream come to fruition. Second, the child is then assessed and fitted for their very own Amtryke. Therapists will collaborate with the children and their families in designing a unique Amtryke that best fits the child’s abilities, function, and interests. The final stage in the process was what my classmates and I had the pleasure of participating in on Sunday! There’s a build an amtryke work shop in which therapists and volunteers will actually create the Amtrykes for the children. The children and their families then pick up the Amtrykes, give it a test drive, and then get to take their Amtryke home! The whole process requires a great deal of diligence on the child’s part, as they patiently wait for an Amtryke they can call their own.

The whole building process we engaged in on Sunday was fun, informative, and extremely rewarding. When the children and their families arrived, you could see the excitement on the children’s faces. To see how ecstatic they were when they first hopped on their Amtryke and propelled a couple feet forward was absolutely priceless! The genuine elation that consumed the kids was contagious, and you couldn’t help but feel the same happiness. Thank you so much to Pedal Pushers and Ambucs for letting us be part of this amazing cause! Here’s some pictures of the process, enjoy!

Amtryke 1st years

Amtryke Supplies

hard at work

Putting in work

Almost done

finished product


there she goes!


If you’d like to learn more and get involved with Pedal Pushers/Ambucs, please feel free to visit them at pedalpushers2014.wix.com/pedalpushers and ambucs.org.

Also feel free to like Pedal Pushers page on facebook at facebook.com/PedalPushersLA

Thank you for reading! Have a great weekend, follow your passion, pedal on, but remember to not lose your balance 😊

— Jonathan


Coming to your Senses ⟩
October 23, 2014, by Jonathan

Life Hacks School/Life Balance

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

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. 😉

— Jon


Eyes on the Prize ⟩
October 2, 2014, by Jonathan

Admissions Life Hacks

Hey everyone! Can’t believe it’s officially Fall already! This means a couple things — cooler weather (hopefully), Fall sports (go Lakers, Dodgers, and Trojans!), and application season! For this blog, I’m dedicating it to the hopeful prospective students in the middle of their application process. The application process is a long road, requiring patience, diligence, and sheer determination. Reflecting on my own journey, I can definitely admit that I ran into my own share of challenges. Yes, it can be tedious — taking the GRE, fulfilling prerequisites, requesting letter of recommendations, etc. — at times it can be overwhelming. If you find yourself in this situation, all I can say is, remind yourself what is fueling all your efforts. I think at times, we get so caught up in the process and the end product that we forget why we are doing things in the first place. In my personal experience, I would do my best to give myself daily reminders of my dream. Some ways to do this, which worked for me, include the following:

Reading this blog: I remember meeting Ricardo, a past USC OT student ambassador at OTAC two years ago, and told him that whenever I found myself too caught up in the application process, I would visit this blog to envision what it was like to be a student. In doing so, this would remind me of what I was working towards, and the experiences I would eventually look forward to one day.

Keep immersing yourself in occupational therapy: Listen, you’ve already found your calling, which some people spend their whole lives looking for! Now that you’ve found that OT is for you, then all I can say is start living OT today! Whether that’s volunteering, reading up on research, attending conferences, advocating for OT, etc, it’s never too early to start practicing your calling in life!

Stay balanced: Balance is something we preach in OT everyday. Surround yourself in the meaningful occupations that define who you are, because those occupations will provide perspective, especially if times get rough. I understand that the application process is monumental, but so is living and enjoying your life! In addition, by living a life of balance, you’ll be immersing yourself in a concept that you’ll be emphasizing to all the people you will eventually help one day.

Surround yourself by people who will fuel your fire: By surrounding yourself by people who will support you unconditionally, they’ll be able to give you reminders of why you’re working towards your dream. These are the people who truly understand your passion, and will give you that extra push that you need. Whether that’s family, friends, or a mentor, I can honestly say that without these people in my own life, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Dream big: Finish this line: When I am an occupational therapist one day, I want to ________. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish as an OT. In doing so, you’ll give yourself that extra motivation as to why you’re engaged in the application process.

Patience, patience, patience: As i mentioned earlier, the application process takes time. It’s human nature to want instant gratification, but good things truly do come to those who wait.

Your best is all you can ask of yourself: Once you turn in your application, celebrate, blast your favorite song, and do your happy dance.  No matter the outcome, you’ve focused all your efforts over the last couple of weeks/months/years towards making your dream come true, which is all you can really ask of yourself. If that same effort shines through when you’re an OT one day,  you’re going to be an amazing clinician.

Acceptance Letter with Sister

One of the most happiest moments of my life — the day my acceptance letter came in. Here I am with my little sis, as we both got into our respective graduate programs on the same day!

Hope my words of encouragement serve you all well. Stay determined, stay hungry, and stay focused. It’s all worth it. Best of luck to you all!

— Jonathan

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