OT and Urban Design

An article this morning in Acedeme Today discussed the work of Richard Jackson. Formerly of the CDC, Dr. Jackson’s current work focuses on urban design as a way to support health. The article states:

In recent months, Dr. Jackson has released another scholarly book, an edited collection on the topic, called Making Healthy Places: Designing and Building for Wealth, Well-Being, and Sustainability (Island Press), and he is also the host of a four-part miniseries called Designing Healthy Communities, which will air on public television starting this week. The series, which features a companion book, is clearly meant to sway public opinion.


The idea of urban desing has always interested me, although I know very little about the discipline. It would seem that this is a perfect intersection of design and OT. Who better to be involved in addressing issues of the designed environment to support healthy routines and lifestyles, social interaction, and accessibility than OT?

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OT: Helping people “tinker” to improve their health and well-being

By way of a post yesterday, my friend Susan, introduced me to a research group called The Institute for the Future. The range of their work is fascinating and will definitely take some time to explore and more fully consider. However, when their stated areas of interest are categories such as “work and daily life,” “technology and society,” and “health and health care,” an OT is bound to take notice! Susan posed the initial thought about what potential role OT could have in the consideration of the future proposed by IFTF’s research agenda. Specifically, IFTF’s Health Horizon’s Program has published a fascinating map to facilitate thinking about the use of science and technology to increase the “capacity for well-bring.” After considering the 2020 Forecast Map for a bit, it is clear that OT certainly has the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings to support many of the initiatives outlined here.

For instance, the challenge stated is the need to transform our bodies and lifestyle as a means to support health and well-being. As part of this challenge, issues such as obesity and aging are mentioned. In order to address this challenge, IFTF identifies four categories of “resources” that can be considered: information, practices, people, and tools. With regard to practices, it is proposed that in the future, people will benefit from “tinkering their way to well-being.” Specifically, “the health-changing practices of the coming decade will be less like heroic feats and more like tinkering…” Whereas IFTF addresses aspects of science and technology to support this practice, OTs hearts should be singing at this notion!!! This is EXACTLY what we are skilled at doing with our clients and families!

In what ways do we already help people “tinker” to improve their health and well-being? Just off the top of my head (and I know you can offer many other examples from a variety of practice settings), I think of things like:

  • adapting a task to better match a person’s skill and performance abilities
  • adapting a person’s environment to support participation in his or her daily occupations
  • suggesting changes in a person’s routine that will support occupational performance
  • facilitating participation in occupations that support health and well-being
  • utilizing adaptive equipment or other forms of technology that support occupational performance and community-based living

ITFT also addresses “tensions” that may exist such as unequal access, different rates of adoptions, and other unintended consequences. And they readily state that one of the primary tensions in healthcare is payment for services. OTs will certainly agree that this remains an ongoing challenge, especially in the realm of prevention, health promotion, and community-based programming. But it is exciciting to consider the “What ifs…?”

So what could the future look like if OTs were integral in helping people “tinker” to improve their health and well-being?

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Reflecting on 2011

New Year’s Meme

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

Planted herbs, worked with hospice on behalf of my grandmother, supervised a student’s thesis

2. Did you keep your 2011 resolutions, and will you make more this year?

I resolved to attend more to my health and lose weight, which I did well with in the first half of the year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

A wonderful colleague did.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

This year was very difficult in this regard. My grandmother passed away on August 13th, three months to the day after her 90th birthday. Prior to this, my 26 year-old cousin died on May 5th in a car accident, and his grandmother passed away on July 1st.
5. What countries did you visit?

No international travel for me this year. My annual trip to Belize did not occur due to reason #9.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

2011 was a very difficult year emotionally preparing for the passing of my gradnmother, so I really hope that 2012 will be much more peaceful.

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Professionally, I received a unviersity teaching award which was very humbling. Personally, it was trying to ensure that my grandmother’s end of life care met her needs. Also, my husband and I became members of a church and it has been more enjoyable than I anticipated and brought more comfort following my grandmother’s death than I expected.

8. What was your biggest failure?

I don’t think I had any huge failures this year, although I did regain some of the weight I lost in the first part of the year.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I became ill, developed an infection, and had to have my gall bladder removed while we were on vacation in Florida. Yes, that was a little stressful.

10. What was the best thing you bought?

My iPhone.

11. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My husband, who was a wonderful support in helping me cope with my grandmother’s illness. And he stayed with me at the hospital the whole time I was there (did I mention it was our vacation?) for my gall bladder infection and subsequent surgery.

12. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

No one

13. Where did most of your money go?

My grandmother’s expenses, car repairs, some on entertainment (mostly eating out).

14. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer? Sadder, thinner (relatively speaking), poorer (due in large part to some HUGE car repair bills in November which took a big dent out of savings!)

15. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Exercised, read more, seen more movies

16. What do you wish you’d done less of?


17. Did you fall in love in 2011?

I am sometimes amazed at how I seem to constantly fall in love with my husband and we have been together for 24 years

18. What was the best new book you read?

The Lotus Eaters
19. What was your favorite film of the year?

Up in the Air, although I think I saw less than 5 movies this year

20. What kept you sane?

My kitties, a good counselor who was able to help me address issues related to grief
21. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

As difficult as it is to lose ones you love, you do survive it and they somehow are always a part of you in a very comforting way.

I hope 2012 is a year filled with wonderful things for you!

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Professors as entertainers? Certainly engagers!

Jeff Solingo’s article this morning in The Chronicle of Higher Ed, Pay Attention in Class,  certainly poses some interesting discussion points. Some key points that he addresses include:

  • The amount of distractions such as Facebook students have available to them during classes due to technology
  • The consumer-mindedness of students and parents
  • Does the consumer-mindedness of students result in an expectation that the professor should be a performer and keep students entertained?

In reading the article, I began to consider my experiences in occupational therapy education and how these issues applied. First students do have “distractions” available to them. But let’s be honest, students have always had distractions available to them. Thinking back to my undergraduate days, laptops were available but  prohibitively expensive, so they weren’t yet commonly used by students. We certainly didn’t have smartphones. But we did have paper and pencil. And yes, as studious as I was and as much as I loved most classes, I remember passing notes to classmates. So whereas the modality of distraction is different in classrooms today, I am not sure it is realistic to expect 100% attention of all students all of the time.

For better or worse, these aspects of technology and “distractions” are not only a part of our classes but a part of all of our lives. I attended a professional meeting about a month ago, and was similarly struck that during the presentations, probably 75% of attendees  — who were faculty and deans — were on their phones. I can’t say if they were texting, tweeting, emailing, or playing games, so we will stop short of any discussions on the ability for most to successfully multi-task. However, I think it illustrates that students’ behavior in this regard probably mirrors our own more than we care to admit.

As far as the consumer-mindedness of students and parents, I say this is only reasonable, especially given the cost of higher education. Education is a type of service for which our students are paying to receive. In the health professions, students implicitly trust that we will prepare them to successfully enter their chosen profession. They put a lot of trust in us and in our abilities as educators. I know some say the consumerism mentality is a foray to a slippery slope of issues like grade inflation and a sense of entitlement on behalf of the student. But I think there is a lot of territory to address between “the customer is always right” mantra and authoritarianism on the part of institutions to say that students have no prerogative to have certain expectations of their educational experiences.

But is it one of students’ expectations that we as faculty must be entertainers? Entertainment is probably not the best choice of words. Undoubtedly, it is human nature to want to be engaged. Occupational therapists certainly understand the core of this concept! It is human nature to be actively engaged and we are most successful when we are motivated. With regard to educational situations,  we have all undoubtedly had experiences that seemed endless because of lack of engagement, and we have all had great experiences because the person who was presenting the information was passionate about the topic and maintained the participants’ interest. So again, students’ expectations are really no different from our own. And if students are generally engaged, isn’t it safe to assume their attention to other distraction will naturally be less? So should professors be engagers….absolutely!

This statement from the article really resonated with me:

Gandhi argues that if Harvard (or any college, for that matter) doesn’t respond to this competition for students’ attention, it risks making the educational experience irrelevant. “Professors need to start thinking of themselves as service providers who must constantly innovate to serve students better, servicing students’ curiosity and their desire to apply knowledge to create impact,” Gandhi maintains

As OT educators, we have meet our accrediting standrds with regard to content in our currciculum.  Most OT educators are passionate about teaching, because it is a career path they have actively pursued and attained additional qualifications to do so. And we are fortunate in that our students are highly motivated. They may not love every course they are required to take, but they are in our educational programs because they are working hard to become OTs. So we are fortunate because we have a  lot with which to work! Therefore I think the concept of educators being “service providers” who work to  engage students in their educational process is something OT educators are very comfortable doing! Do you agree?

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Carl Sagan, Women Explorers, and OT

In honor what would have been  Carl Sagan’s 77th birthday, @Lettersof Note posted a letter from Carl Sagan sent to members of the Explorers Club. Written in 1981, Dr. Sagan implores the club members to admit women into its membership, providing numerous examples of women who had made significant contributions to exploration and discovery including Sacagawea, Mary Leakey, Jane Goodall, and others.

The Explorers Club did admit women later that year, but reading Dr. Sagan’s letter made me consider how different many male-dominated fields are than ones like OT, which are primarily female-dominated. Whereas men such as Adolf Meyer, William Rush Dunton, and Herbert Hall were certainly integral to the inception of our profession, Eleanor Clark Slagle has always been attributed as the “mother” of OT.

It would be nearly impossible for us to imagine having limited access to professional or interest organizations related to our profession, but Dr. Sagan’s letter surely illustrates that as recently as the 1980s, this was a situation encountered by women scientists and explorers.

But are there separate issues when your field is largely female-dominated? Surely this shaped the development of the profession, but in what ways? Some authors, such as Gainer, Miller, and Hamlin have separately examined the relationship between feminism and OT, as it has been considered in other “helping professions.” In an ever-changing era of health service delivery, how does it continue to impact our profession? I think these are ideas worth “exploring,” as an ode to Dr. Sagan.

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My breakup letter to my former smartphone

Dear Mr. Smartphone:

I don’t know if this will come as a surprise to you, but I have
grown restless in our relationship. It has been gradual and I have wavered
about this decision, but I think the time has come to go our separate ways

I know we have been together for a long time – probably close to
10 years or so by now. As it is with most relationships, things were great in
the beginning. There was really nothing to compare to you, and you were steady.
You weren’t flashy, but you always delivered. And you were there through the
ups and downs in life. Sometimes you brought great news, and sometimes you
delivered sad news. But most days were filled with a comfortable routine. I
could glance at you and you would signal to me with your sweet and gentle red
light. Maybe I eventually took our relationship for granted, but it became so

Others did start to appear, and at first they were easy to resist.
They were just too brash, had too much swagger. You were familiar. I knew what
I had in you. Although you were steadfast, you did improve and change over
time. You grew, offered more options, and admittedly, you became better
looking. I mean it with all of my heart when I say that I appreciated these
changes as I knew you were just trying to make me happy year after year. But I
have changed too. When we first became an item, I was a young, ambitious
professional. Staying connected to work was something I felt compelled to do
and you helped me achieve this. But I am older now. I still work hard, but I
strive for more balance in my life now and need a partner who will support the
things that are equally important. I will admit that I am looking forward to
the fun and excitement my new partner will offer to me. Things like being able
to tell me what song is playing on the radio, or what the rating is of a
particular wine when I am at dinner with friends. I know it may not seem all
that important, but I want to be able make my photos look like our family
photos from the 70s. I am sorry, but that is just something you can’t do for
me, no matter how much you might want to.

I will admit, I do feel a bit guilty about ending things. I knew
Friday night would be the last night we would be together. When I plugged you
in for the last time, I did experience a wave of nostalgia for all that we have
been through together. I waited for your little red light to blink at me just
one last time. But I knew I was making the right decision.

So thanks for the memories and I wish you and those who carry on
with you all the best.



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10 great things about ActionCamp San Antonio 2011

On Friday, October 28, 2011, I attended my first unconference, ActionCamp San Antonio 2011, which was presented by Action San Antonio and the San Antonio Nonprofit Council. The focus of ActionCamp is to bring together non-profit organizations and educators who are interested in the effective use of social media. I have been curious about “unconferences” some time, so I was really excited about the  experience. Utilizing this type of approach for a conference or workshop requires a different style of organization as at least a potion of the content is generated by the attendees. Although some sessions were already established, there is still space left on the schedule for others to add to the agenda based on their interests and experiences.

When “campers” arrived at the venue, we were given a card to mark down session we were interested in attending, and encouraged to add to the agenda. There were about 150 attendees and all gathered in one room to start the morning. The “camp counselors” (aka, organizers of ActionCamp 2011 including @colleenpence, @MomonMars, @fransteps, @lukelibrarian, @themollycox) provided an explanation of how the day would function  and things to keep in mind. This included to feel free to move between sessions to fit your interests.

In short, it was a FABULOUS day overflowing with learning and networking opportunities. While my mind is still buzzing from all of the new ideas and new things I want to do, I thought I would capture some of the greatest things about the day. So, in no particular order, here are 10 great things about ActionCamp San Antonio 2011.

1. The ActionCamp “camp counselors” did a great job in coordinating the day. They did great job coordinating the event, but perhaps most importantly, they facilitated an environment that was fun, relaxed, and welcoming. They set the tone that everyone is knowledgeable about some aspects of social media and  a new learner in others areas.

2. The blend of educators and non-profit organizations is a terrific mix of company. Many of their interests are similar, so networking is easy and fun!

3. You didn’t feel bad for being on your phone during sessions. I have been to a number of conferences in past few years in my own discipline and I am one of just a few people on their phone or computer during the sessions. This makes me feel a bit awkward as I would guess others nearby are assuming I am not interested in the content. But of course, that’s not it at all. So it really was fun to be at a gathering where engaging with others via social media was not only encouraged, but expected!

4. Seeing examples of best practices. It seems like every few days there is a new tool or app available. As exciting as that is, sometimes it makes you feel like a hamster on a wheel in that you will never catch up! But seeing things in action gives such a clearer picture of how it could work for you. Even better, seeing an example of a tool you are already familiar with used in a new and different way makes you leave feeling like you could implement a similar project to suit your interests. For instance, @pagetx demonstrated how she has used flickr to host photo contest as well as gain wonderful images for use in other aspects of her social media activities for the Lower Colorado River Authority.

5. Learning about new resources. My typical habit at conferences is to keep a separate list of all of the resources I want to look up after the conference. I have come to judge the utility of a conference for me by how long the list is by the end. Two to three new resources is fairly typical at this point. So how many items were on my ActionCamp resource list? Goodness, I am still counting but probably about 15!!! Everything from blogging resources, to templates, to hosting options, to a company that will help you build mobile apps! All of this gathered in a span of about seven hours! Now if that isn’t worth the unbelievable low registration fee of $25, I don’t know what is!

6. Meeting people you “know” but have never actually met. One of the greatest things about social media tools like Twitter is interacting with people in your community. However, a number of these may be people who you have never met in person but connected with over a shared interest. But since ActionCamp attracts people in the community who are very active users of social media, you get to meet some of the people you are already following. (Of course, you meet lots of new people too which only enhances the day!)

7. Learning from what others have tried that didn’t work as they had hoped. Pamela Price of @redwhiteandgrew presented a session on her experiences of attempting to replicate a national public campaign with a strong reliance on social media on the state level. The goal was to establish a victory garden at the Texas Governor’s mansion, similar to the one that was established at the White House. Given that no such garden has been planted at the governor’s mansion, you can guess how the campaign went. But what was so interesting was Pamela’s reflection on what factors impacted the process on the state level, and what she would do differently in hindsight. While it was very interesting to hear of her experiences, it made me realize how valuable it to learn not only from the successes of others, but also the things that didn’t work out as well. I tuly commend her for her refelction and willingness to share her insights..

8. Opportunities to just ask questions about aspects of social media. There is so much to learn about the everr-changing world of social media, that you don’t always know what the next step should be. So sessions like a Q&A on digital tools such as the one facilitated by @colleenpence and @LuisSandovalJr are really, really helpful. Come. Ask questions. Get answers. How great is that?

9. Crowd sourcing questions.  I had never seen this done at a conference before, and I have been to A LOT of conferences in my professional lifetime. Essentially, attendees were encouraged to write their questions on sticky notes at the beginning of the day and place them on the wall in the main meeting room. Then, if a person’s question was answered during the day, he or she was to remove the post it. At the final session of the day when everyone regathered, the camp counselors reviewed the remaining questions, grouped them, and made sure the areas of questions were addressed. It was such a great way to ensure that everyone ended the day with their primary questions being addressed.

10. Great door prizes…um…I mean sponsors. Drawing for door prizes is always fun throughout the day. Although I didn’t win a door prize (…sniff….sniff), they included books (yup, that’s on my resource list from #5), gift cards, and Sea World passes. The sponsorship of ActionCamp 2011 undoubtedly defrayed expenses, and in return, the sponsors received recognition throughout the day as well as many thanks on a variety of social media tools. So thanks again to@SeaWorldTexas, @constantcontact, @TWCable, @rackspace, and @ssfcu.

I know that I will be able to implement many new activities as a result of the things I learned at ActionCamp 2011. I am already looking forward to ActionCamp 2012!

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Connecting in the global world of OT

When I became an occupational therapist in the 1990s, electronic tools such as email were just emerging. The world has certainly changed over the span of a few decades! Whereas a few may disagree, I think the changes that have occurred as a result of the development and expansion of technologies has had a positive impact on our daily lives, especially in being able to connect with one another.

In thinking about World OT Day, I truly appreciate how online technologies and social media have connected me with a dynamic, inspiring group of OTs who I would otherwise never have been able to “meet.” Through a combination of Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, I learn from my international colleagues – ranging from OT students, practitioners, academicians, and researchers – everyday!

This wonderful groups includes:











…and others!!

The things I learn from my global colleagues includes:

  • issues facing OTs around the world
  • teaching resources
  • practice-related information
  • the many and varied creative interests of OTs
  • resources, resources, resources!!!

It is truly hard to imagine my daily and professional life without this connection. And with events like the OT Virtual Exchange, I know we will only to continue to grown, learn and connect…together!!!

Happy World OT Day!!!!

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Change of address

In an effort to move most of the contents of various projects to WordPress, I moved my robust somewhat inconsistent blog, OT Explorations from Blogger to WordPress. I know it will take me a bit of time to learn the technical aspects of WordPress, but that’s ok.

Onward and upward!

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OT A to Z Challenge: O and P are for Occupational Performance

It seemed fitting to do double duty and combine “O” and “P” as occupational performance reflects that which is truly OT!

Occupational performance is the completion of an occupation or an activity that requires the interaction of the person, the context, and the activity. Many things – including things we have addressed in our OT A to Z Challenge – may support or hinder a person’s occupational performance. For instance, a person’s habits may improve occupational performance by enabling him or her to more proficient at an activity. Conversely, features in a specific context may hinder a person’s occupational performance.

What are examples of occupational performance? Much of what a person needs or wants to do throughout the day constitutes occupational performance – a person getting up and getting ready fro the day, a young child engaged in play behaviors that are necessary to acquire developmental skills, a person participating in a leisure activity or hobby, a student participating in a classroom setting, a person socially interacting with his or her peers to maintain social relationships, a father preparing a meal fro his family, a person balancing his or her bank account in order to manage their finances, a person taking care of a pet…and the list would be nearly endless.

How does an OT address occupational performance? As part of an evaluation, an OT will assess the client’s occupational performance needs and goals, strengths, and problems areas. Occupational performance is often observed in context to identify what supports performance and what hinders performance. Then, the OT will address with the client specific performance skills (sensory, motor, cognitive, etc.), performance patterns (habits, roles, routines), context, and activity demands.

There is probably no other profession that views activities in the way OTs do – as an interdependence between the person, the activity, and the context!

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