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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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Tai Chi and (Chai) Tea ⟩
, by Clarissa

Classes Community Diversity What are OS/OT?

This morning, I saw a group of older adults practicing Tai Chi in a park nearby my house and I felt so happy! Why, you ask? I took a class last semester geared towards creating a community project. My group members and I interviewed experts, talked to community members, and designed a program for (you guessed it) Tai Chi!

Older adults are often at risk for falls and social isolation. In our research regarding Tai Chi, we found evidence in the literature supporting Tai Chi’s positive effects on fall prevention in older adults — it helps with factors contributing to falls like balance, coordination, and fear of falling. To address fall risk and social isolation, we decided to write a proposal for creating a Tai Chi class followed by time to socialize with tea. The social relationships built through tea time could also motivate the older adults to join our class.

We decided our target population would be older adults in Monterey Park, a city just east of downtown LA. The city has a 66.9% Asian population. In our research, we also found that Asians were less likely to talk about their lifestyle to their health providers so they may have needs that aren’t being met. The cultural familiarity of Tai Chi (and the tea!) may work to encourage their attendance to our program.

To explain the title of this blog post — my group really wanted to name our project Tai Chi and Chai Tea but had to very sadly let go of it. Chai tea’s sugar content may not be the best for older adults. The title lives on here. Woohoo!

Here’s a picture of me and my awesome group on poster presentation day!


Accessibility at Disneyland ⟩
, by Alisa

Diversity What are OS/OT?

Last week my uncle and his family came to visit from Thailand. It was their first time in the United States. I had an eye-opening experience to begin to understand what it was like to live with a T4 spinal cord injury. I was playing tour guide for some of the days. At Disneyland the accommodations were spectacular. They have done a good job in making most of the rides accessible for people using wheelchairs. I had my handy dandy Guide for Guests with Disabilities. We went to Indiana Jones, It’s a Small World, the Jungle Cruise, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyager, Star Tours, Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, Innoventions, the Haunted Mansion, Mickey’s House. While some of the rides didn’t require my uncle to transfer, many of them required transfer either to a higher seat or to a lower seat. My uncle thought that at times he was just going to wait for us, but I insisted that his son and I could lift him. He was able to enjoy all of the same rides with us, and I thought that this is how everywhere should be. I didn’t see my uncle as a person who is disabled, but the environment made him that way. I thought about universal design and the importance of making all spaces accessible for everyone. I appreciate the fact the guide provided a description of where the accessible entrances are located. During lunch we saw a Jedi Training Academy workshop for kids, and I also got to learn more about what it’s like to live with a spinal cord injury for over 20 years. He knew I was studying to be an occupational therapist and even offered himself as a case study. After I took them to get jelly beans and dinner at Rainforest Café, I dropped my uncle and his family off at the hotel exactly at midnight. It was a Cinderella story after all.


Robotics and Occupational Therapy ⟩
, by Myka

Classes Diversity Videos What are OS/OT?

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!

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