Gannon University Occupational Therapy Students Learn Through Service

Posted: June 2, 2017

One of the greatest challenges for teachers in the rehabilitative sciences professions is providing experiential learning opportunities to their students. Among the greatest advantages for a university with an urban campus, such as Gannon University, are the relationships forged with recognized organizations that can provide such opportunities.

One of those organizations is Erie Home for Children and Adults (EHCA) where occupational therapy majors from Gannon University are learning from-and helping-a diverse community of persons with intellectual and physical disabilities.

This past year students from Karen Probst's junior Neurorehabilitation Techniques course learned treatment strategies for working with a population with different neurological challenges, including diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, stroke, traumatic brain injury and others.

Probst and Debra Niland, director of EHCA's Making Opportunities for Volunteerism and Exploration (MOVE) program arranged three events at which students and individuals served by EHCA could interact. Through the use of board games, karaoke, music and other kinds of activities, the students got direct experience working with persons who have different kinds of muscle tones and sensory preferences.

"The students are able to see and interact with real people with these diagnoses," Probst said. Niland was pleased with the outcome, as well. "Our individuals enjoy any kind of inclusion or interaction, so these events were a win-win," she said. "The OT students got experience seeing individuals with varying kinds of muscle-tone, and our individuals got to spend time with college students who could benefit from the interaction and have some fun."

Niland said the goal is eventually to establish programs to assist the staff at EHCA with some of the daily challenges they have while creating richer opportunities for OT students to learn. "We are still learning what these challenges are and how to best individualize the programs to each person's specific needs," Probst said. "I am excited to see where this partnership is going to lead!"