Occupational therapy students assist adults with autism in Costa Rica

 College of Allied Health Sciences  Comments Off on Occupational therapy students assist adults with autism in Costa Rica
Dec 112013
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 





April is Occupational Therapy Month

 College of Allied Health Sciences  Comments Off on April is Occupational Therapy Month
Apr 122013

IMG_1674[1]aOTs are part of a vitally important profession that helps people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.

Meaghan Johnson, on an adaptive tricycle, is a second year ECU OT student. She describes why she decided to pursue occupational therapy.

I was first introduced to OT a few years ago when I was a teacher assistant in a pre-kindergarten special needs classroom. While there, I was able to observe the school OT as she worked with a few of our students within the classroom setting. But, it was when I observed a private OT session for a student that I was babysitting that I was really drawn to OT and knew it was the perfect career for me. The students’ OT had me sit in the room during the therapy session and explained all the things that she was doing and why she was doing them. She then explained activities and techniques that could be implemented in the classroom based on school related concerns that I mentioned. Her ideas resonated with me; I was able to immediately see how occupations can be used as a means to improve quality of life. I began researching more about the field- the more I learned, the more excited I became to start pursuing OT as a career.

 Tell me about being an OT student at East Carolina University.

I am a second year student in the OT program at ECU with only a few more weeks of classes remaining.  After completing the spring semester, I will begin two 3-month fieldwork experiences—one at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh and the other at Duke Hospital in Durham.  Although my time as a classroom student is coming to an end, I can look back at my time and see how much I have learned and grown from my experiences in this program. 

 There are 25 students in the OT program; we all have every class together except for labs where the class is split in half. Needless to say, we have grown very close to one another. Our program focuses on teaching us the fundamental skills we need to be competent therapists in whatever environment or setting we choose. Our curriculum is a balance of theory, assessments, and treatment techniques and how to implement these to address participation in daily life activities such as dressing, feeding, social participation and leisure activities. Our professors encourage us and want us all to succeed, not only in the classroom but out in the field as well. 

 We are all members of the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA).  Through this organization we have had the opportunity to volunteer at events and programs like the Special Olympics and the Autism Society and participate in walks to raise money for ALS and Autism. We have also learned from educational events- like CarFit and non-violent crisis prevention.  These community activities have helped us to advocate for occupational therapy as well as expand our professional knowledge and develop new interests.