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Students Get Hands-On Experience in New Pediatric Occupational Therapy Lab

By Colby Gallagher

Published on January 13, 2020

This fall, USciences’ Department of Occupational Therapy opened the first pediatric occupational therapy laboratory on campus.  

Forty percent of occupational therapy students at USciences express a desire to work with pediatric patients, according to associate professor of occupational therapy, Judy Parker Kent OTD, EdS, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA. When Dr. Kent saw a chance to bring a pediatrics lab to campus through grant funding, she knew it was something students needed.

“It’s the number one area that OTs work in, secondary to older adults,” said Dr. Kent. “The challenge is when your students go out, they need the experience with the equipment, they need to understand it, they need to just even know how to move their body around certain pieces of equipment.”

Made possible by more than $30,000 in grant funding from, among other resources, the Christian R. & Mary F. Lindback Foundation and the McLean Contributionship, Dr. Kent unveiled the Sensational Kids lab earlier this year. Anna Kleinschmidt DOT’21 was among the first group of students to see the lab and gain hands on experience in it.

“I remember the first time we came in, all the students were so excited,” said Kleinschmidt. “You see all the colors, the objects, you see the rock climbing wall, the ball pit, the sensory swings. You see it in a textbook and on the pages, but when it actually comes to life it’s a really different experience.”

Dr. Kent said the ball pit helps with sensory feedback and gross motor activities, the various swings aid in body control and balance, and the rock wall helps children learn about three-dimensional space and weight-bearing.

Anna Kleinschmidt DOT'21 works with a child at the rock climbing wallAside from the equipment, the lab has an observation room in the back that allows faculty, fellow students, and parents of children to watch what’s happening without being a distraction or adding pressure.

“We can now teach the students what they’re really going to need when they go out on their fieldwork and when they start their first job,” said Dr. Kent. “They’re going to be really prepared for what they want to do.”

The lab will be an integral part of an occupational therapy student’s education each semester. First-year students will be introduced to the space in their Interventions I class; from there, it will be used to learn about treatment plans, evaluating patients, case-based reasoning and developing a treatment plan as students approach their clinical rotations in their final year.

As Kleinschmidt finishes her last semester before rotations, she feels ready to enter pediatric facilities outside of campus after having time working with children directly in the lab.

“We can come in and pull apart one particular activity and look at it in a different lens,” said Kleinschmidt. “When you’re able to come in here with a child, you can see what they’re doing, what they’re doing well, what they need help with.”

Currently, children being brought in the lab are relatives of faculty or have connections to someone in the occupational therapy department, but Dr. Kent’s goal is to expand their patient reach to the West Philadelphia community.

“Our focus is really to create an environment for our students to learn and also to outreach to children in the area who may need services,” said Dr. Kent. “That’s our long-range goal, while also doing research.”

Categories: News, Samson College of Health Sciences, Department of Occupational Therapy, Occupational Therapy, students, community, USciences, faculty, research.