By: Toni Tardibone
The Masters of Occupational Therapy (OT) program at Le Moyne College is one of the newest occupational therapy programs in New York State. The program first began in June of 2015 when it welcomed 30 students through its doors. The first cohort is up of a diverse population of students from various places in the United States, all of which shared similar experiences both of the enthusiasm and the struggles that come along with being the first cohort. How do I know this? Because I am proud to announce that I am part of that first cohort of master of occupational therapy students at Le Moyne College.
The Le Moyne College Occupational Therapy program envisions that their students will be recognized nationally and internationally for scholarship, leadership, teaching, learning, and professional excellence, providing evidence-based occupational therapy care and services to those in the community. The occupational therapy program integrates both a community or service component as well as a mandatory mental health component, which is unlike any other program in New York State. As part of this program, I have had invaluable experiences, such as: presenting at the national AOTA conference, participating in research with Tina Champagne, creator of the Sensory Modulation Program, and integrating occupational therapy in non-traditional locations in the community. Some non-traditional setting I was able to integrate occupational therapy into were local Salvation Army sites and Christopher Community Sites; through collaborative discussions with my classmates, our program has brought knowledge and the insight of occupational therapy to these non-traditional settings with character, creativity, and confidence.
My fieldwork placement at Lifespan Therapies could not have been a more perfect match. Lifespan Therapies instills very similar principles into its employees as Le Moyne does with its students. Similar to Le Moyne, Lifespan values community, continuing education, and care for the whole person, providing superior service and commitment to clients. During my recent fieldwork experience at Lifespan Therapies, I was placed in a traditional school-based occupational therapy setting. However, I was consistently challenged to think outside of the box in order to meet client’s needs. For students who have exploratory and creative play, it was up to me to quickly enter their world in order to adapt and modify activities to meet their needs. For example, one of my students enjoyed manipulating puzzles with gears, and in order to meet his writing goal of copying grade level sight words legibly, I integrated a variety of age-appropriate words into the puzzle that he would have to write. As an occupational therapist it is important to build relationships with students or patients and learn their needs and interests in order to think outside the box and better serve them.
I would like to thank my fieldwork educator, Lisa Lichak at Lifespan Therapies, for continuously challenging me throughout my experience. She requested that I contribute to planning treatment sessions and evaluations, attend and present at annual review meetings, and take part in documentation until I was competent enough to complete these tasks independently. These challenges have helped me to become comfortable and confident as an entry-level occupational therapist. The values that both Le Moyne College and Lifespan Therapies instill in its students and employees prepare individuals for future endeavors in this field of work.