Baltimore--At the Baltimore convention center this morning, occupational therapists and occupational therapy students presented on a variety of research topics spanning the gamut of patient ages and conditions.
Long the purview of speech-language pathologists, augmentative and alternative communication devices have begun to infiltrate OT's practice. Maura Regan, BS, OTS of the University of Scranton looked at whether High-Tech or Low-Tech AAC does a better job at improving communication among non-verbal children with autism or PDD-NOS. Regan's poster presentation consisted of literature reviews of existing studies on the topic. She found, when applied to the overall population, there is no discernible benefit to using a low-tech option, like a picture board, versus a high-tech, computerized model. Regan concluded that child preference is the best way to select the appropriate device, adding sometimes the child will use one kind at home and another kind at school. For her part, she would like to work with children with autism after graduation, so this research project played into that goal nicely.
In another presentation, Maneshka Perera, MS, OTR/L and Nandita A. Singh, MPH, OTR/L discussed a collaborative rehab program they have with physical therapy at Rusk Rehabilitation at NYU Langone Medical Center. An OT and a PT co-treated spinal cord injury patients that were not as functional as they could be. Using low-tech methods of gait belts and exercise balls, Perera, Singh, and their colleagues where able to re-engage muscles with manual techniques. In just 8 visits, some patients saw extreme functional outcomes. One patient cited being able to transfer from his bed to his wheelchair without assistance--an improvement both physically and for his self-esteem. As occupational therapists, they are able to translate this research into setting new, functional goals to help these and other SCI patients with their ADL's.
Deirdre R. Dawson, PhD, OT Reg and her colleagues at the University of Toronto researched an elemental aspect of all our lives--music. In a currently ongoing study, they are observing unilateral, first-time stroke victims to see if making music can improve their recovery. Over the course of 15 visits, the patients play the drums for gross-motor skills, play the keyboards for fine-motor skills, play the bongos for a more complex mental and physical coordination task, and listen to popular songs to engage their memories. So far, the researchers have seen an improvement in executive functioning, motor skills, and mood. One patient observed that his stroke had less of a negative effect on his life since his participation in the music group.
Thus were just a sampling of the innovative research being done by OTs. Be sure to stop by CC Ballrooms I and II if you're at the AOTA annual meeting and learn more about the cutting edge of the profession,