Monday, October 25, 2010

Random pics from the Girls' Home

I found these pics when going through my iPhoto. I forgot to post them from the summer!

A random pic of me before going to work at an occupational therapy information session.

We went to a 'carnival' with the girls. They did face and arm painting and made me a Dora balloon. Hola!

The girls did my nails...and Amy's nails...

We played a game on managing your emotions. We all sat in a circle with a tub of candy in the middle. Each person took a turn rolling a pair of dice. If you scored doubles you got to choose a candy. Once all the candy was gone we each rolled again; if you scored doubles you got to choose someone else's candy. At the end of the game we talked about how it felt to score doubles and choose candy from the tub, to choose from someone else and to have candy taken from you from someone else.

We played another game where we pretended everyone was on a cruise. We had them make and decorate hats. Before the activity we created 'keys.' During the activity each person received a key and went around asking others to exchange their key. The keys with the hearts have 'HIV.' At the end we asked who had the heart keys.

Switches & Circuits

(this is the switch using the mercury filament. See the pencil gripper in my left hand? Inside is the mercury filled chamber--we glued it in the gripper so it won't fall out. I'm holding it upside down, and as a result, the light is off).

(We joked that he was a Chilean miner. He actually is from Chile! And with the flashlight clipped to his hat, well, you know...)

(sometimes it was a little frustrating and the switch wouldn't work)

(an open circuit. When I close the circuit by connecting the two sides of the business card the flashlight will light up.)

(my completed switch! Eureka! It works!)

We made switches last week. In layman's terms, a switch is an electrical circuit that turns something on or off. Occupational therapists use switches to make adaptive equipment/assistive technology. As an example, we made two switches. The first switch was for a flashlight. We taped metal strips to a business card to conduct electricity and complete the circuit (for more info on circuits click here). This type of switch would be useful for someone who doesn't have the ability to push the knob on the flashlight to turn it on. With this switch, they would only have to close the business card, this requires less energy and finger movement.

The second switch we made used mercury to close the circuit. Instead of connecting two ends, with this switch you hold the tip upright or upside down. I don't know all the terminology but basically we had a glass chamber with mercury touching something that was like a metal filament. When held upright, the mercury touched the filament and closed the circuit; when held upside down the mercury did not touch the filament and opened the circuit.

A visit to an Alzheimer's facility

We went to an Alzheimer's facility about a week and a half ago. This facility was awesome! It was just so cute. It was built so that everything is in a circle so that the residents will never get lost. They had a library, a bistro/cafe, an outdoor sitting area, a salon, a recreation room, a complete kitchen (with all stove/burners turned off), and 'neighborhoods'. The neighborhoods had their 'homes,' which were really cute little dorm rooms. The neighborhoods were marked with distinct names, pictures and colors so that the residents will recognize in which area they are in. The outdoor area was completely fenced in with 8-foot fences, but the area was so large that you didn't feel like you were fenced in. The outdoor area was in a circle as well so that the residents would not get lost.

The residents are free to move about the facility as they pleased, including going outside whenever they want. The purpose is to give them the freedom to roam so that they feel like they are not in a 'hotel' or some other foreign place; the facility wants them to feel like they are home. To help them remember their 'home' each resident had their picture outside the door and some had pictures of family and pictures of themselves when they were younger.

I had a conversation with a woman at the Bistro. She was drinking a hot chocolate and the convo went something like this:

Me: Hi, my name is Kim. What's your name?
Her: I'd like something to go with my coffee.
Me: Ok, I'll get you something to go with your coffee in just a moment. Do you have any children.
Her: I'd like something to go with my coffee.
Me: Ok, yes I can see that you need something with your coffee. Can you tell me the names of your children?
Her: Yes, I have three children. I'd like something to go with my coffee.
Me: Three children, that's awesome! Are you married
Her: Yes, I was married. He was very good to me.
Me: That's great. How long were you married?
Her: He was very good to me. I'd like something to go with my coffee.

And you get my drift. The conversation went on and on like this.

As the marketing coordinator was talking about the horrors of Alzheimer's disease I became overwhelmed and had to fight tears. I started thinking of my grandmother and all the pain she must have gone through. I had no idea Alzheimer's was so...debilitating. I knew it was bad, but not as bad as what the marketing coordinator explained. It made me angry and sad and remorseful. I went through a bunch of 'I should've done this and that and the other thing.'

My classmates could see that I was fighting back tears. It took everything in me to keep from getting up and running to the bathroom sobbing.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Assistive technology creations

(sequencing flashcards. for more fun you can play a game with these)

(the pic above and below are of a universal cuff for scissors. Also, that nail polish is pretty darn cool! I gotta buy some!)

(This project allows someone to practice matching and placing utensils, a vocational skill).

(This project allows someone to practice signing their name on their checks. It gives visual cues that they have signed in the correct place.)

(sequencing flashcards--how to put on a shirt)

(sequencing flashcards-how to wash hands)

(this pic above and the one below are a sensory cube--notice the various textures on all sides)

(a communication/reading slant board for those with low tone/motor skills. This board holds communication books high and at a slant for communication)

(Since I'm such a high sensory seeker I loved these proprioception bags! The one on my lap was filled with rice and was nice and heavy! The one on my neck felt good too! Sorry I know I look crazy. My friend Amy had me cracking up laughing and I was trying to stifle it and my hair was all over the place!)

(a picture communication book)

(The Dynavox bag! I love this project! The cereal represents the Dynavox. Dynavox is an augmentative/alternative communication device)

(Door lever. Note that this is soooo much easier to open than the regular knob).

(Our project! You can't see it too well here but the blue cup has a wide-spaced handle so that Boy X can pick it up. We then glued it to the yellow plastic plate. The other cup is a heavy duty plastic cup with a 10-inch straw and placed into a plastic storage container with the bottom cut out)

Two weeks ago we went to an organization that provides special education for those with special needs in their school district. The students were all severely disabled with a range of disabilities, including those that are blind, have cerebral palsy, mental impairments and autism.

As part of our Assistive Technology class we had to talk with the teacher, and, if possible, some of the students and determine what low-tech (aka low cost) assistive technology they may need. Assistive technology is basically any device or tool that is adapted for use for people with disabilities. As an example, many of the things we use today were originally invented for people with disabilities. The 'lever' door handle that is so ubiquitous now used to be very expensive because it was for people with disabilities. But now we realize that senior and children find this type of door handle easier than the round knob handle. The rubber grip pads that you use to provide friction to open doors were designed for people with disabilities to make that task easier. It used to be expensive but now you can find that at any Walgreens or CVS.

So, anyway, my group chose a 21 year old male with cerebral palsy. We saw his instructor holding a cup with a straw so he could have a drink of water. We found out that every time he wants to drink she has to hold the cup for him. With further inquiry we discovered that he has the capability to grasp a cup (he's very spastic/high tone) if the handle is wide enough. We asked if he would like a cup and she emphatically said he would love a cup!

So, we glued a plastic water bottle to a plastic plate (for a wider base of support in case his motor planning is poor and he drops it instead of placing it on a table/desk). We also cut a hole in a plastic container, glued a thick plastic strip around the cut out (for grip) and place rubber on the bottom of the container (for grip). We placed a loooong straw in it. Now he has two cups that are his from which he can drink on his own.

Some of the other class projects include:
  • picture sequencing books, for those who have trouble with the sequence of washing hands or brushing teeth
  • picture books for activities, for those who are non-verbal but can point to activities in which they want to participate
  • sensory cubes, for those who are learning to modulate tactile sensory input or who desire more tactile sensory input
  • proprioception bags (filled with rice or beans) for those who need proprioceptive input
  • a reading board, for those who are unable to hold a book but need a slanted board that will maintain the book's position
  • a Dynavox bag holder (I thought this was VERY creative). My classmates bought a regular bag from Wal-mart, dyed it purple (the girl's favorite color), put a purple pressure strap on it, then lined it with that plastic material that school folders are made from (for structure and stiffness) and then lined that with foam (for softness). So, now the girl can carry her verbal assistive tech devices with her in a cute little bag!
So, I thought this was a very interesting and creative project and I learned that it doesn't take lot of money to provide someone with the tools they need to be successful or comfortable. That's what occupational therapy is about!

(I have pics of everything, I'll post them when I get home).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Living Sensationally!

Turns out I'm a Sensory Seeker! No surprise there, given the events of my life.

Last week we completed the Adult Sensory Profile assessment questionnaire by Winnie Dunn. This assessment asks questions on visual, auditory, touch, taste, activity level, and that's all I can think of off the top of my head. The test measures strong patterns of over- or under-responsiveness to stimuli in comparison to the population. Turns out I have a high affinity for taste and activity.

As a sensory seeker my neurological threshold for stimuli is high so I actively seek pleasurable stimuli in taste and activity. So true. I will eat any weird food (while living in Japan I ate the toxic Puffer fish and fish eyes and while in China I ate all kinds of strange things. I loved it!), I love going out to ethnic restaurants and trying to cook different foods. I also DO a lot. I love new experiences that take me out of my comfort zone and I love just trying something new, period. I just love it.

If you have the opportunity I encourage you to read Winnie Dunn's book, Living Sensationally. I'm reading it now (only a few pages a night, it's leisure reading. I'm a student for goodness sake! I have no time to read more :-). In a nutshell the book discusses that we each 'have a sensory profile that drives the way we structure our routine, choose our wardrobes, design our menus, and interact with co-workers, friends, and family members' (this description from from The four profiles examined are Sensory Avoider, Sensory Seeker (me!), Sensority Bystander and Sensory Sensor (or sensitive).

You can read the book to find out more. I think it is an EXCELLENT introduction to sensory topics.

We administered a standardized Pediatric test!

As part of my occupational therapy assessment class we've been visiting a nearby school/development center. Today we had to perform a play assessment, a standardized assessment and an interview with the teacher on the child. Yikes! We worked in groups of 5 and we did very well, actually! And it was a LOT of fun! A lot! Does this mean I'm sold on peds???? I'm not sure yet. Everything is fun when you first try it! haha.

I was terrified at first, but then I realized, I'm great with kids and all kids love me because I'm fun! It's true, I'm not being facetious, I'm lots of fun!

Anyway, we administered the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency on a 4-year old boy (who was adorable, btw, seriously, just too cute!). We started off by playing Duck, Duck Goose, then we played catch with a large, soft nerf ball, then catch with a tennis ball, then we constructed an obstacle course (I had to model it for him, imagine my big self crawling through tunnels and laying on a scooter! haha), then we rolled him on a scooter, then rolled him on a scooter while he held a hula hoop and I pulled him (we made train noises), then we played Simon Says (you can learn a lot about cognition, proprioception, and motor skills from this game, wow!), then we sat down and drew lines, circles, X's and crosses (as I drew I made sure to make noises, like rolling my tongue, to make it more animated for him) and then we finally started the test.

The test is a lot longer than we anticipated, and because we were all new at it and had no time to prepare, it took ALL five of us to do it! LOL. We took turns with each module and we all helped set up to keep it moving so he wouldn't get bored. By the end he was definitely antsy and we tried to speed it up again. The BOT is very long and I don't know how any kid sits through it. We didn't do all the modules because our kid was technically too young (but we needed the practice) and we were short on time--we were, after all, interrupting his class time.

Afterward, we interviewed the teacher. This normally happens first but she had a class and we had to wait for her to finish. The interview went very well and we learned a lot about our kid, how he interacts and how to conduct an informative interview.

By the end, I was sweaty, dirty, and tired. But, I learned that I need this type of constant stimulation because, just like a kid, I get bored very easily. I am a Sensory Seeker (more about that at the next post) so I need constant stimulation. Working with kids may be for me. We'll see.

I think I was on MTV's Punk'd...

(Just a random pic of me. Just thought I'd share :-)

So, we went back to the community center to speak with the seniors again. My original group of ladies was not there (yes, I was very sad) so I sat with a new group. This group of three was interesting because of two people: one gentlemen, who completely dominated the conversation, even at inappropriate times, and a woman who suffered from terrible episodic memories.

The gentlemen, Mr. Doe, talked about himself incessantly. He talked about his travels to one European country while he was in the army and he talked about the jobs he held after that. He talked, and talked and talked. When I tried to incorporate Ms. Doe (they are not married, just friends from the community center) into the conversation with openers like, 'Mrs. Doe, how are you?' 'Do you have any children?' and 'Tell me more about your children' Mr. Doe would interrupt with something totally unrelated but about himself. He had an amazing narcissistic quality.

When I asked Ms. Doe if she had any children she told me that she had a certain number of children living and one that died when he was very young. She then immediately began to describe how the child died! And she went through the entire day, from how she woke up and got dressed (all the details of that), to how the child didn't want to go to school that day (all those details including how she gave him a tap on the romp), to going to work to how, when and in what manner how child died. I was stunned because I asked a simple question and she gave me a lot! It was very sad. It was also very interesting that that is what she decided to tell me (an excellent example of episodic memory). When I asked about her living children she gave me another very sad story about the problems of her children.

Intermittently Mr. Doe interrupted every single one of Ms. Doe's sad stories to tell me a story of something totally unrelated--like a war, his war travels, his jobs, etc. This was narcissism at its best. A woman is telling me how her child died and he interrupts her to tell me about country X and the women there and how they loved Americans.

At one point Ms. Doe was so tired of Mr. Doe interrupting that I saw her physically take a HUGE breath, roll her eyes and sigh. She was clearly very frustrated. When Mr. Doe was distracted with another classmate I said, 'Wow, Mr. Doe has a lot to say, huh?' And she went on and on about him (I laughed inside at this). After I listened to her stories for a little while and Mr. Doe couldn't stop interrupting, Ms. Doe just got up and left. It was being on the Twilight Zone or a bad episode of MTV's Punk'd.

Monday, October 4, 2010

What sucks about growing old...

Today we went to a senior community site to visit and talk with seniors as part of the late adulthood portion of our Human Dev course. We were supposed to observe their social, emotional, cognitive and physical abilities/disabilities and see if what we observed complemented or confirmed what we learned from our readings. IT WAS SO INTERESTING!

I happened to choose a table with the liveliest seniors EVER. The moment I sat down one of the women said to me, 'You know, Ms. Doe over here is telling us about her online dating.' Ms. Doe is 81 years old! Haha!

There were four women at my table, ranging from 58 to 81 and they had the best stories. I can't repeat what was said but some of the topics were:
  • abusive husbands
  • decent husbands
  • raising children
  • how breastfeeding makes your breasts sag
  • how old breasts are like eggplants and torpedoes (no kidding, they said this)
  • how breast minimizers push your breasts under your armpits
  • the cup size of each woman at the table (these were some large women!)
  • how one woman heard a joke about a 69 and went home to ask her sons what that meant (haha)
  • the secret to a happy, long marriage
  • what sucks about growing old
  • my personal dating life
  • how growing old can be lonely...and boring
  • how growing old can be physically painful
  • how when you're young everything is tight and compact
  • how I don't look my age
  • how online dating sucks
  • why you shouldn't marry for looks unless you want a deadbeat, an abuser or a womanizer for a husband
  • why a prenup is good...for a short time, and when you really trust one another it should be destroyed
and a host of other things that I can't remember right now. I had a lovely time and these women were so open, they just talked about EVERYTHING.

Systems Theory and Energy

(the instructor didn't know our names so we had to create nametags)

Last week for my Interdisciplinary class we had a guest instructor. If you remember this is the class I told you about that uses the quantum physics textbook. Anyway, this instructor basically taught us about energy and how everyone and everything, including the earth, emits a certain energy wave that other living things pick up on.

She explained how, for example, if scientists all over the world are working to crack open some super hard code in health science, and finally somone in Japan figures it out then immediately someone in America will find a similar solution. The proposal is that the Japanese scientists emitted that energy out into the universe and the American scientists were open to it and picked up on it.

I suggested that this sounds something like the premise of Malcolm Gladwell's (one of my favorite authors! You have to read his books. all non-fiction) book, Blink. In this book, Gladwell discusses how mental processes work rapidly and automatically from relatively little information. It considers both the strengths of the adaptive unconscious, for example in expert judgement and its pitfalls such as stereotypes. (source: Wikipedia) In a nutshell, why is that when we meet someone we just don't like them. We can't explain what it is about them but we know that something is not right and they are not a good person. Or, how we just know a certain situation is just not right, we can't explain it but we know something about it is not right.

Our guest instructor proposed that what Gladwell is actually talking about is the energy that people emit. Of course, Gladwell didn't use those words or even suggest such a thing but that was her interpretation.

Finally, we performed an 'energy exercise' where we wrote down something we want in the next 6 months. We then had to write down 5 things we would experience from that want; she was careful to explain that it had to be experiences not emotions. For example, I chose that I wanted to go to Chile. My experiences were something like see occupational therapy there from my classmate's old job, relax and read on the beach, see the natural sights, and some other stuff I don't remember. But I could not say because it will make me feel good because that is an emotion.

We were then instructed to sit quietly with feet flat on the floor and close our eyes. We performed some deep breathing exercises. We then had to imagine a large pink bubble coming closer to us. The bubble had a door, in which we opened and placed our want. Then we shut the door and sent the bubble off. The instructor's instructions were 'don't think about it, just let it go. It will happen. '

The class was incredibly interesting, even though I disagreed with a lot of what she said. Even still, I'm interested in hearing more about it.