Occupational therapy students assist adults with autism in Costa Rica

OT students Costa Rica Aug 2013

From left to right, ECU occupational therapy students Keli McColl, Farrell Wiggins and Brittany Robertson work with adults with autism in Costa Rica.

 In August, four students from the ECU occupational therapy master’s degree program traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica on a medical mission trip.

Katie Hopkins, Keli McColl, Brittany Robertson, and Farrell Wiggins spent a week working in a day program named ASCOPA for adults with autism. They assisted staff in creating activities and implementing sensory integration techniques to help enrich the lives of the participants.

Autism is not as well known in Costa Rica as it is in North Carolina. Even for those who know what the diagnosis entails, resources for adults and children with autism are scarce. This program is one of a kind, as most adults with autism in Costa Rica have two options: stay at home and receive assistance from their parents or be institutionalized. Instead, the program allows the adults to go to school and receive both a traditional education and life-skills training. 

The students from ECU created sensory-based activities for the adult participants and assisted with their daily activities. These included making paper, greeting cards, and gardening, which they sold at events throughout the year to raise money and awareness about autism. They also had an amazing time building relationships with the participants and staff, all of whom welcomed them warmly. 

In addition to volunteering at ASCOPA, the students traveled throughout Costa Rica to learn about the culture and lifestyle of the country. Costa Rica’s landscapes are as varied as they are beautiful. The students, who will graduate from ECU on Dec. 13, visited the mountainous rain forest, as well as the active Arenal Volcano and the beaches. 

OT students in Costa Rica Aug 2013

From left to right, ECU occupational therapy graduate students Farrell Wiggins, Brittany Robertson, Katie Hopkins and Keli McColl.

-Brittany Robertson, Occupational Therapy Class of 2013