Gannon University Occupational Therapy Class Travels to Ecuador
Posted: July 9, 2013
Erie, Pa. - Necessity, it is said, is the mother of invention,
but for a group of 12 occupational therapists who traveled to
Ecuador on an Alternative Break Service Trip this spring, Lynne
Oberle, was certainly the godmother.
Oberle, an instructor in Gannon University's occupational
therapy (OT) program, took a group of nine students and
professional occupational therapist from Erie's Shriner's Hospital
to the South American nation for an educational experience that was
"New federal guidelines and privacy rules built into the Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) meant that my
fourth-year senior students could no longer directly work with
pediatric patients," Oberle says. "They were limited to observing,
an that wasn't meeting their needs."
Service learning is one of the foundations of a Gannon
education, but so is global citizenship. Undaunted, Oberle explored
opportunities for her students to do some good where they were most
needed, a quest that started two years ago and took her group 3000
miles from Erie to a place called Camp Hope.
"It's an orphanage where children go for the day, and many of
them had disabilities," Oberle said. Under her guidance, the
students did wheelchair evaluations and fittings, feeding
evaluations and even taught the staff new methods to feed the
"We revised their program and taught new techniques," She added.
One of those techniques transformed the camp's sensory depravation
room into a sensory integration room.
It was a project that was tailor-made for Allison Blakely, who
transferred to Gannon from the Kent State University after first
attending the Cleveland Institute of Art.
"This is a space to help children cope with things they easily
get overwhelmed by - the sun, noise, anything," she said of the
room. "I was sort of the art director of the project, so I painted
a mural. I wanted cool colors, navy blue, with constellations on
one wall. On the other wall, there were waves and dolphins, and we
put in a blue light that calmed it more. We used found objects from
around the orphanage, and we did this within 36 hours, start to
At the end of the day, Oberle would review with her students the
methods and practices that they had used. "Every night from 8 p.m.
until ten, we'd sit on the verandah and have classroom time,
discussing different evals that we used-- muscle tone, feeding
protocols-anything pertinent to the students in what they saw and
did that day. That was amazing to see how my students could process
all this information and the hands-on techniques they'd been
taught. It was taking book knowledge and putting it into