ILOTA Communique December 2017 Communique | Page 14

Student Voice

Page 14
Allison Sweeney , OTS

Exposing a Need for Occupational Therapy in a Postsecondary Education Setting

As a part of our Fieldwork I experience at Elmhurst College , we had the opportunity to collaborate with organizations on campus to address potential areas of need for occupational therapy intervention . Two of the organizations — the Access and Disability Services Center ( ADS ) and the Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy ( ELSA )— work with students with physical and / or intellectual disabilities to facilitate access to the campus environment and the overall curriculum . In working with students involved in ADS and ELSA , we identified a need within this population for occupational therapy services . A thorough review of existing literature revealed that there has been a 24 % increase in students with learning disabilities entering postsecondary education ( HEATH Resource Center , 2001 ). According to the US Department of Education ( 2000 ), there is a significant discrepancy amongst graduation rates between students who have an intellectual disability and those that do not . Only 21.6 % of students with a learning disability graduate with a bachelor ’ s degree , whereas individuals without a reported disability have a 37 % graduation rate . The difference in theses outcomes supports the demand for postsecondary education institutions to reevaluate how institutions of higher learning address the needs of this population . The difference in outcomes necessitates that college personnel better understand the learning needs of individuals with learning disabilities attending college , in an effort to support students with learning disabilities academic success in postsecondary education ( Raskind , 1994 ).
Considering the existing literature on this topic , we believe that occupational therapy could intervene on this platform in a number of ways . Specifically , through implementation of assistive technology , staff education and training , and advocacy for the students , as methods of achieving optimal access to the curriculum in a college setting . Assistive technology that can be introduced by occupational therapy practitioners to aid in access to classroom material while complying to the Americans with Disabilities Act , include voice synthesizers , assistive listening devices , open and closed captioning decoders , talking calculators and videotext displays ( US Department of Education , 1998 ). Additional resources that can be utilized are spell check , speech to text applications , speech control tape recorders , data managers and listening aides . Providing these supports facilitates participation in academics and future employment with increased independence and self-empowerment . The partnership and collaboration of occupational therapists and education professionals with students with intellectual disabilities in a postsecondary setting would promote a more holistic and client-centered approach that aims to enhance overall life satisfaction .
The literature review exposed a gap in occupational therapy services for the postsecondary education population . At this year ’ s annual AOTA Conference in Philadelphia , I had the incredible opportunity to attend a lecture by AOTA President , Amy Lamb . Dr . Lamb spoke a great deal about the relevance of emerging practice areas with the coming of the occupational therapy centennial . Specifically , she discussed the new vision for 2025 : “ Occupational therapy maximizes health , well-being , and quality of life for all people , populations , and communities through effective solutions that facilitate participation in everyday living .” ( AOTA , 2017 ). She discussed the need to expand our reach as a profession and advocate for ourselves in order to display our distinct value in emerging practice areas .
Our research at Elmhurst College has revealed a potential emerging practice area for occupational therapy practitioners for the postsecondary education population . As members of the campus community , we feel a strong sense of passion and commitment to ensuring that the needs of this population are met , by emphasizing the role occupational therapy could play in assisting this population in achieving full access to
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