Poem echoes beliefs in OT

As I read this today, I was struck by how much it reflected many beliefs in OT…that the simple, ordinary things in life are often the most meaningful. Do you agree?

“Learn to like what doesn’t cost much.
Learn to like reading, conversation, music.
Learn to like plain food, plain service, plain cooking.
Learn to like fields, trees, brooks, hiking, rowing, climbing hills.
Learn to like people even though some of them may be different… Different from you.
Learn to like to work and the satisfaction doing your job as well as it can be done.
Learn to like the song of birds, the companionship of dogs.
Learn to like gardening, puttering around the house, and fixing things.
Learn to like the sunrise and sunset, the beating of rain on the roof and windows, and the gentle fall of snow on a winter day.
Learn to keep your wants simple and refuse to be controlled by the likes and dislikes of others.”

-Lowell C. Bennion

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Do you document your consumatory scholarship?

As one who has long been interested in things like electronic portfolios, this article in Academe Today caught my attention. The phrase, consumatory scholarship, is a new one to me but refers to the things we do in preparation for teaching – in other words, scholarly teaching.

There is an excellent book on course portfolios, Making Teaching and Learning Visible, by Bernstein, Burnett, Goodburn, and Savory. I have always loved the title. How do we make the many aspects of teaching visible as much of the work that occurs is “behind the scenes.”

So what things do you do? Do you blog specifically about your teaching work? Is it part of your annual review process? What new ideas do you have?

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AOTA 2012 – It was an excellent year!


AOTA 12 Opening Ceremony – April 26, 2012

While my mind is still full from AOTA 12, I wanted to capture some of my thoughts and experiences from the conference.

1. The attendance was great!!!

I saw some reports that the attendance neared 6000! It felt like a lot of people were there – but in a good, energetic way.  In my recollection, this may have been one of largest attended conferences since AOTA 2003 in Washington DC. Location obviously impacts attendance, but it is surely a reflection of the health of the profession. Also the large number of student attendees is always wonderful to see. The future of profession is is in wonderful hands with the energetic, committed, and enthusiastic OT students who will be entering the profession. Additionally, the facilities in Indianapolis were great and the organization of the conference was first-rate!

2. An open journal for OT has arrived!

I have attended many education conferences where the concept of open access journals has been discussed, and I think this is an exciting development for OT. The Open Journal for Occupational Therapy has launched and manuscripts are now being accepted. The editors have been very thoughtful in their approach and are undoubtedly committed to expanding the opportunities to disseminate knowledge about applied clinical research, educational research, and innovations in the field. For more information visit OJOT!

3. Increased emphasis on OT education research

Without a doubt, AOTA’s focus on evidence-based practice can be seen in the focus of conference and the content emphasis of AJOT – and that is a good thing. The challenge (in my experience) is that OT educators start presenting at other conferences and publishing in other education journals. While this has its benefits, I do think it has the potential to dilute a critical mass of OT education research from being developed. It is interesting to see how other health professions such as nursing, physical therapy, and dental hygiene have proceeded to develop  discipline-specific education journals and related conferences. The EDSIS OT Education Research Forum shared many ideas related to developing an organized OT education research agenda. They also discussed plans for an OT Education Summit in October 2013 in Atlanta. These are exciting endeavors!!!

4. The social media presence was exciting!!!

From the theme of the Slagle Lecture (@promotingOT) to presentations, OTs adoption of social media has truly become evident! This is the first time that I recall of AOTA specifying a conference hashtag and promoting it so well prior to the event. While the number of people tweeting was still very small relative to the attendance, it was a dedicated group! Perhaps most important were the conference presentations related to the use of social media in OT. I think providing examples and personal experiences is one of the best things presenters can do when introducing the benefits to others. Although I was unable to attend their session, there was a group who undoubtedly did just that! This is so timely and exciting to see!

5. Personal relevance of social media

For me, this conference was such a reinforcement that the time and effort spent engaged in using social media for professional purposes is time well-spent. For instance, Susan Burwash (@subu_OT)  and I could barely contain our excitement upon instantly recognizing each other in a session. It truly was a warm greeting between two friends – although we had never met in person before that day!!! But in coming to “know” each other through social media over the past year or so, we knew about each other’s work and aspects of our family life and interests. And it was wonderful to see Anita Hamilton (@virtualOT) who I had the good fortune to meet at WFOT 2010, but have continued frequent contact with over the past two years via social media.

6. Never underestimate the value of attending your professional conference

At this point in may career I have been to quite a few AOTA and state-association conferences. I also attend a number of education conferences. I can remember being a novice therapist and feeling as if conferences were a lifeline to continuing to grow my knowledge and skills. And while there is always the need to continually learn and add new skills throughout your career, I think most would agree that your learning needs change over time as you amass a variety of experiences. Conferences are places to attend sessions to learn new things, but they are also invaluable if not irreplaceable opportunities for networking and finding collaborative opportunities with others. But perhaps most importantly, it is an annual opportunity to step out of your routine and pause to reflect on new ideas and opportunities. It can become very easy to want to continue with your current routine and feel you don’t have time to take time away from your practice, your facility, your clients, your teaching and grading requirements (yes – it is now finals week for us!), and the rest of your life responsibilities. But it is so important to remember that conference is a time for renewal.  A time to learn from your peers and see the many wonderful things that occur in our field; and to consider ways to continually incorporate innovations in our daily work.

All in all, it was a great conference and I truly came home with many new ideas and renewed energy! See you in San Diego (#AOTA13).

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OT A to Z: E is for Eleanor Clarke Slagle

Often deemed the “mother” of OT in the United States, Eleanor Clark Slagle is undoubtedly one of the most influential figures in the development of the field of occupational therapy. Biographical information about her is relatively scarce but they are some aspects of her life and work that are known. She was born in Hobart, NY, on October 13, 1871. She was a social worker and has personal experience with disability in her family as her father had become disabled due to an injury he suffered in the Civil War and her brother had tuberculosis.

It was while she was working at Kankakee State hospital that she took a course in “curative occupations and recreations” offered at the Chicago settlement house, Hull House, because of her concern about the “detrimental effects of idleness” on the patients. Now a proponent of the therapeutic value of occupation, she began offering training courses in occupations at Hull House. For a period of time she was the director of occupational therapy at Johns Hopkins. Then in 1917, the year the profession formalized itself, she was named the supervisor of all OT programs in the state of Illinois.  She also started the Henry B. Favrill School of Occupations, which served as a model for other occupations programs.

At the third annual meeting of the profession, she was named president and she served various leadership roles throughout her career. In 1922 she established the headquarters of AOTA in New York and worked as the director of OT for over 20 years at the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene. She died on September 18, 1942 in Phillipse Manor, NY.

It was clear that Eleanor Clarke Slagle was passionate about the use of occupations as a means to promote health and function. I wonder if she could see the profession today, in what ways would she be pleased? Are there aspects with which she would not be pleased? Given her commitment to the implementation of occupations in various settings, it is evident that she saw the need to meet the occupational needs of clients with whom she worked and had a new vision for how this should be done. I think I can say that OTs are grateful for her intelligence, commitment and passion to the ideals of occupation as a therapeutic process. Thank you, Eleanor.




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OT A to Z: D is for Deprivation

The concept of occupational deprivation is not necessarily new in occupational therapy, but I do think it is one that continues to gain attention as the area of occupational justice continues to develop. Wilcock (2006) defined occupational deprivation as deprivation of occupational choice and diversity because of circumstances beyond the control of the individual or the community.

There are a variety of circumstances that may limit occupational choice such as socioeconomic factors. This may affect many clients with whom occupational therapists work, as it is also linked with disability status. Whereas it is important to consider occupational deprivation on the individual level, perhaps an area where OTs have a real opportunity to share their expertise is in the community.

In thinking about your community, are there instances or events that have the potential to result in occupational deprivation for those who may have difficulty accessing them to participate? For instance, in my city, there are a number of festivals and fiestas held. Some of the events are manageable, but others are very difficult for those with mobility impairments to attend. Since my mother uses a wheelchair, I know the first-hand experience of trying to access the parking situation, if our city bus system is providing transportation to the event (always a good option as it is completely accessible and negates the need to find accessible parking) the terrain on which the event will be held, and estimating the crowd size to determine how safe it will be to navigate. And all of this must occur BEFORE the event to determine if we will attend.

So it is easy to see why there are many community events that are not an option for someone with a mobility impairment to attend, or the planning to attend just becomes too overwhelming and it is easier just not to go. But these are the very in stances that result in occupational deprivation for many in our communities.

What instances of occupational deprivation do you see for your clients or for members of your community?

Wilcock, A. (2006). An Occupational Perspective of Health (2nd Ed.) Thoroughfare: Slack.

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OT A to Z: C is for Conference

In the United States, April is OT Month. It is also the time when the AOTA annual conference is frequently held, as it is this year. I have been fortunate to be able to attend the AOTA conference quite a few times in my career. It is always an event that is well-planned, full of terrific information and resources, and a wonderful opportunity to see and interact with OTs from across the country.

This year will be the 92nd Annual AOTA Conference!!! This means that the first conference was held only a few years after the profession was formally organized in the United States in 1917. If time travel were possible, it would be so fascinating to travel to the AOTA conference in the 1920s or 1930s. I can only imagine the excitement those early OTs must have felt in gathering together as a nascent profession. I like to think that if they were able to travel to the conference this April, they would be pleased and proud to see what terrific things have been accomplished in our profession!!

See you later this month in Indianapolis!!

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OT A to Z: B is for Beliefs

I love the series, “This I Believe,” which is a public project in which people express their beleifs that serve as their guiding principles. Sometimes the essays are on a specific topic such as love or parenthood, whereas others are more general in nature. IF you visit the website, you will also find numerous essays that have been submitted on OT!

However, since April is national OT month in the US, it seems fitting that we take the time to reflect on some of the beliefs that guide us as OTs.

As an OT, I beleive that…

– all people have a right to participate in the activites and occupations they choose

– occupation both sustains and promotes health

– everyone needs to maintain an overall balance in their occupations to sustain optimal health and wellness

– OTs’ role and responsiblity is not just to individual clients and family but to community as well

– the ordinary tasks in our daily life create a rhythm and meaning that, while often automatic, is inherent to our purpose

– occupational therapists have a pivotal role in assisting clients and families see that although their lives may have been altered by injury or illness, the life they will come to live may be different than what they envisioned, but it will be a good life.

What are some of your core beliefs as an OT?

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OT A to Z: A is for Adaptation

Aside from occupation, I am not sure there is a concept that is more inherent to occupational therapy than that of adaptation. While we see the concept of adaptation in other fields (biology, psychology, anthropology), I think the knowledge and skills to address adaptation as an outcome of the therapeutic process is one of the most valuable things OTs can offer the clients and families with whom they work.

The range of things that we can assist our clients to adapt is really interesting. Clients may adapt their behavior, such as when they modify their behavior to seek achieve a desired goal or outcome. Routines can be adapted in order to support function such as incorporating time in a client’s daily schedule so he or she can engage in healthy activities or leisure activities. Temporal adaptations may support various aspects of occupational performance, such as when a work schedule is altered to enable a person who needs more time with his or her self-care routine to fully carry out the role of an employee. Perhaps a task may be modified or adapted, or the use of adaptive equipment may enable a person to perform a specific task. Adaptations of physical environments can be very useful in supporting occupational performance. Adaptations may occur in the home or in the community.

The ability to see the need for adaptations and make appropriate recommendations come from an OTs training, education, and experience. OTs are skilled in the ability to analyze a person’s abilities, the requirements to perform a task or activity, and the context in which this activity takes place. By examining this confluence of factors, OTs are uniquely able to recommend adaptations that support the occupational performance of our clients and families.


Photo is by familymwr and used under Creative Commons License for Attribution  http://www.flickr.com/photos/familymwr/4910960070/

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What do you look for in an applicant to OT school?

Every year during the admissions process, the same question tends to be asked in various ways: What do you look for in a future OT student? What qualities do you think make the strongest OT program candidates? What does the program look for in the students it chooses to accept for admission? I am often curious if students use my responses to self-assess their standing in the admission process, or if it is just an appropriate thing to ask when a faculty member interviewing them asks what questions they may have.

There certainly is no single vision of what the “ideal” candidate for OT school should be like. Our profession is a diverse one, and it is important that we admit and prepare a diverse group of people to enter our profession. Some candidates will be “traditional” college students, having completed an undergraduate degree just prior to pursuing a graduate program in occupational therapy. Other candidates have had previous careers in a variety of fields and for some individual reason, are now choosing to pursue a career in OT. Some candidates are international students, whereas others grew up and were educated in our city. Some candidates have had to overcome significant challenges to achieve their education, whereas others have had a clear path to pursue an advanced degree. Some candidates are very outgoing, whereas some candidates are more reserved. These individual differences in experience, background, and personality are good, because the clients and families with whom they will work will come from a wide variety of backgrounds and have very different personalities as well. However, aside from these varying individual factors, I do believe there are some things that candidates should possess. Five of these things include:

1. A foundational understanding of OT. Undoubtedly, a strong candidate to an OT education program will be able to articulate a general understanding of the field. In my experience, applicants who have observed OT practice in a variety of settings are best prepared to do this. An applicant should able to speak to what is it that OTs actually do, what is the typical focus or goals of OT treatment, and how OTs work with their clients. They should be able to share experiences they have had in seeing an OT work with clients. Of course, this will vary somewhat by practice setting, but if all an applicant can offer is that OTs help people, the concern becomes that he or she may have too limited of an understanding of OT and may be pursing something that is ultimately not a good professional fit.

2. A passion for pursuing a career specifically in OT. Applicants come to learn about OT in a variety of ways. Some have had personal or family experiences with an OT, some know an OT, and others see or hear something about OT that catches their attention. Some applicants have known for years they want to be an OT whereas others have learned of the profession more recently. There are all kinds of paths to becoming an OT, and that is exciting. However, an applicant should be passionate about why they want to pursue a career specifically in OT. Applicants may discuss they are attracted to being able to address the things that are meaning and purposeful in a client’s life. They may offer that they are attracted to the holistic approach of the field. They may like the versatility of the field and the creativity that is required. A variety of reasons may exist, but it should be clear that the applicant sees a fit between their interests, values, and abilities and the field of OT. Yes, OTs “help people,” but so do all other health professionals. And for that matter, so do accountants. Expressing a desire to help people is probably not compelling enough to demonstrate why you want to be an OT.

3. Strong communication skills. At risk of seeming cliché about this, strong communication skills are essential for a future OT. Being able to express oneself in a clear, organized, and effective manner are critical. OTs will be required to communicate with clients, family members, staff, peers, and other professionals everyday of their professional lives. Therefore, applicants must demonstrate the ability to express themselves effectively to be considered a strong candidate for admission.

4. Engagement in activities outside of the classroom. I assess this characteristic in a broad way and in the context of the students’ experience, but strong candidates are typically engaged in things beyond going to class and doing very well academically. For a traditional college student, this may take the form of being engaged in campus activities or community service activities. For other students, this may be in form of work experience or family activities. Regardless of the actual activity, being involved in other activities is a way to demonstrate the ability to work with others, to assume leadership roles, and to manage multiple demands in life — all of which are important as an OT student and a future OT.

5. Experience of working with a wide variety of people. Similarly, this may take different forms depending on the student and his or her life experience. Some applicants extensively participate in community activities with people with disabilities or underserved populations. Some applicants have served in the Peace Corp or have participated in other types of service activities locally or abroad. Some applicants coach their younger siblings’ soccer teams. Again, the actual activity may widely vary, but they all serve as evidence of an applicant’s ability to work with others from various backgrounds, solve problems, be creative, and assist in meeting the needs of others.

What other characteristics do you think applicants to OT education programs should possess to be considered a strong candidate for admission?

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OTs as “public intellectuals”

In 2009, I have the tremendous fortune to present at the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning conference. It was an amazing few days devoted entirely to research and discussion related to teaching and learning. Among many of the great presentations was a keynote presentation delivered by Dr. Tai Pesesta. The complete transcript of her presentation can be read, but one of the things she challenged the audience members to do was to be “public intellectuals” in their fields. I agree that the term “intellectual” may be somewhat distancing, but the heart of her message was that if we only strive to reach those in our field, then we risk being idiosyncratic. She said it was imperative to think about a broader audience for our work. It has been two years since I heard this presentation and this notion has stuck with me all of this time. Although Dr. Peseta’s message was geared toward those in academia, I have continued to contemplate this message and see the connections to OT.

This week AOTA announced that they had created several Pinterest boards, including one for OT blogs. This is such an exciting thing to see as social media can undoubtedly be a tool in which OTs have the opportunity to reach a wider audience. Who may our audience be? with whom do we want to engage in conversations? Perhaps it includes clients, those from various aspects of our communities, those in other disciplines, or those contemplating a career in OT. But the fact that a growing number of OTs are putting their thoughts, words, ideas, experiences, and information out in a public forum is an incredibly exciting thing! Perhaps it is through these avenues that OTs will develop many opportunities to engage the “public” audience.

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