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Training our OT students to solve problems through an innovative classroom space

For many of us, it’s easy to take for granted the daily activities that can be performed without difficulty. Most of us never think twice about our ability to cook dinner, wash the dishes, have a shower, or write an email.

But for those who experience difficulties performing daily tasks, the impact can be significant.

The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists defines occupational therapy as “a type of health care that helps to solve the problems that interfere with a person’s ability to do the things that are important to them.”

In the School of Rehabilitation Therapy we are educating our Occupational Therapy students to be problem solvers who can help their clients get back to their daily responsibilities and livelihoods faster and with less interruption. They do this by developing individuals’ abilities and skills, recommending assistive devices, or making changes to the environment to make these tasks achievable. 

But when your goal is to prepare health professionals to serve people in performing ‘everyday’ tasks, a regular classroom won’t do.

This year, the School of Rehabilitation Therapy opened a new space, located in Botterell Hall. This innovative classroom is an integrated educational space which allows for collaborative theoretical work and hands-on learning.

Since OTs often provide care in a person’s home, assisting them in navigating their daily occupations, the hands-on space has a mock bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom with fixtures in a few different configurations. There is a large collection of assistive devices like walkers and wheelchairs, which the students use to practice important skills for their future careers. Students can also learn how to apply a variety of strategies to overcome cognitive, emotional and sensory challenges that might be barriers to successful navigation of the home or workplace.

“This space enables students to take their theoretical knowledge and situate this in a context they can understand as future occupational therapists,” says Dr. Catherine Donnelly, Associate professor in the Occupational Therapy Program.

The faculty are thrilled with the new space and the cohesiveness it brings to the program. “Our students finally have a ‘home’ rather than having to travel to various learning spaces on campus,” reports Dr. Rosemary Lysaght, Associate Director of the Occupational Therapy program.

With reuse and cost-savings in mind, program leadership helped to repurpose the entire kitchen and some assistive fixtures from the now closed St. Mary’s of the Lake, which has conveyed some historical significance into this new space.

Now instead of just telling you about this fantastic new space, I thought I would show you around. Watch the video below to see our new training space for the OT program and how we’re using it to equip our students with the skills they need to become excellent Occupational Therapists.

Please share your thoughts by commenting on the blog, or better yet, drop by the new OT space in Botterell Hall and see it for yourself!

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