Gannon Occupational Therapy Students Throw a “Spring Extravaganza” for Service

Posted: April 10, 2014

For many young people, prom night is a much-anticipated peak experience. Bringing that experience to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is the inspiration behind "Spring Extravaganza," a community outreach project of the Gannon University chapter of Pi Theta Epsilon (PTE), a national honor society for occupational therapy students and alumni.

"Spring Extravaganza" is a dance for persons age 13-22, this year to be held on April 12. The dance will feature a disk jockey and activity stations for crafts, games, karaoke, snacks, dancing and performances.

The concept was pioneered last year by a group of five Gannon occupational therapy students to fulfill the PTE imperative of student service to community. The students were inspired by Spread the Word to End the Word, an ongoing campaign by Special Olympics and Best Buddies to inspire respect and acceptance through raising the consciousness of society about how hurtful words and disrespect can be toward people with intellectual disabilities. The campaign, aims to engage schools, organizations and communities to rally and to promote the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"'Spring Extravaganza' is not a dress up prom or costume party," said Bernadette Hattjar, Dr. OT, OTR/L, assistant professor in Gannon's occupational therapy programs and the PTE chapter's faculty advisor. "It's something special for a group of individuals who would otherwise not have the opportunity to go to something this big that was just for them."

Hattjar also cited the benefit for the student's in the demanding occupational therapy program. "'Spring Extravaganza' helps our students in assuming leadership roles and community skill-building. Because it's not an academic event, it forces many of them to step out of their comfort zone, and it's a good stress- reducer, too."