Support Rehabilitation Therapy Graduate Students
When we think of important research discoveries within academia, we too often imagine only faculty members behind them. Though this is frequently the case, graduate students also bring groundbreaking innovations to their fields. This is especially true when it comes to students improving the livelihoods of vulnerable populations. One such graduate student is Sam Noyek, rehabilitation therapy PhD candidate, whose research led to insights that will dramatically improve how caregivers interact with children experiencing motor and communication impairments.
These children are too often misunderstood and overlooked by guardians, teachers, and peers due to a paucity of resources and information pertaining to their unique needs. Moreover, a lack of patience, understanding, and respect when communicating with these children often contributes to compounding mental health concerns as they become adolescents and adults.
Sam Noyek spent the bulk of the pandemic conducting a study on the emotional well-being of children and youth with severe motor and communication impairment.
Noyek’s study had parents take photos and videos of their children in their daily life and upload them to a mobile storage app along with brief annotations to visually track the elements that contribute to their well-being and indicators of self-expression. Prior to reading parent descriptions, Noyek and an occupational therapist recorded their own interpretations of each visual, and then compared them to the parents’ accounts. Noyek then followed up with the parents, conducting interviews to gain further insight.
One issue that arose frequently during the study was that when the children felt excluded or ignored, they would either grow quiet or upset because they weren’t allowed to respond to an event in their own way. Noyek also identified positive personalities and preferences that are often not highlighted in related literature. Not only was it fun for Noyek to see the children’s personalities and senses of humour shine throughout the study, but she also discovered that recording this alongside their emotional well-being and social development is crucial to understanding who they are and what they need as individuals.
“It's easy to underestimate the potential impact that graduate student research can have. In fact, our graduate students are doing incredible work and the impact of their discoveries can be far-reaching, often directly benefiting the lives of patients and populations,” says Dr. Marcia Finlayson, Vice-Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences and Director, School of Rehabilitation Therapy. “The Rehabilitation Therapy Graduate Student bursary supports students in financial need who might not otherwise bring their passion and expertise to research in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy.”
Support student research like Sam’s when you contribute to the Rehabilitation Therapy Graduate Bursary.