• Service-Learning: Perspectives of Assistive Technology for Participation in Unified Games

      Dishman, Karen; Mason, Jessica
      Topic/Problem Statement: Understanding the significance of occupation is a necessary concept occupational therapy (OT) students must understand while in the didactic years of academic education. There is limited research within the profession investigating teaching occupation to students (Krishnagiri, Hooper, Price, Taff, & Bilics, 2019). The purpose of this research was to explore perceptions of OT students regarding a service-learning project. The project involved creating assistive technology (AT) to increase student participation in occupations at their unified games. Context: Special education staff from the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) contacted OT faculty with the need to increase participation for students with severe physical and/or cognitive disabilities in their unified games. Through collaboration with both parties, a service-learning opportunity was developed for OT students to create assistive technology projects for students with severe physical and/or cognitive disabilities to increase their participation in various activities involved in the occupations of play and leisure. Grounding: Occupational therapy educators need to understand the impact curriculum has on student perception and learning (Gitlow & Flecky, 2005). Gitlow and Flecky (2005) report students agreed that their participation in service learning helped them apply course content to occupational therapy practice (p. 550). It is imperative students in occupational therapy programs not only understand concepts underlying occupational therapy practice but also how to apply these concepts in a practice setting. Participating in service-learning activities increases students knowledge of disabilities and accessibility awareness and helps to define the role of advocacy (Gitlow & Flecky, 2005). Approach: Second year OT students developed assistive technology for EVSC students with severe physical and/or cognitive disabilities to use to increase active participation. The AT prototypes were trialed with the EVSC students during adaptive physical education class with first year OT students present also. After the trial of the AT prototypes, second year OT students made any necessary revisions to the AT equipment. The first year OT students implemented the AT equipment with the EVSC students during the unified games event. First- and second-year OT students then completed an IRB approved questionnaire about the service-learning experience. Reflection/Discussion: Fifty-nine students participated in the IRB approved study. Results indicated that 63.89% (n=46) of participants strongly agree that the community service aspect of the project helped them to see how the subject matter can be used in everyday life. When participants were asked if the service provided through this course benefited the community, 73.61% (n=53) strongly agreed. 63.89% (n=46) strongly agree and 15.28% (n=11) agree the community service aspect of this activity helped to develop problem-solving skills compared to 2.78% (n=2) were not sure. 61.11% (n=44) of participants strongly agree and 20.83% (n=15) agree they can make a difference in their community. Survey results indicate that most students believed this project helped them become more comfortable working with people different from themselves. All participants agreed that service-learning should be incorporated into more OT classes. OT faculty plan to explore incorporating more service-learning activities into the curriculum in the future. References: Gitlow, L., & Flecky, K. (2005). Integrating disability studies concepts into occupational therapy education using service learning. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 59, 546-553. Krishnagiri, S., Hooper, B., Price, P., Taff, S. D., & Bilics, A. (2019). A national survey of learning activities and instructional strategies used to teach occupation: Implications for signature pedagogies. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 73, 7305205080. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2019.032789