UCA’s Occupational Therapy Department has hosted numerous community service projects over the summer as part of an occupational therapy class being taken by 48 students.

The occupation therapy course is called Populations and Community Based Programming. It is an OT doctorate course offered each summer. The class offers around nine community service projects for the students to choose from.

For one community service project, the students hosted an art show in collaboration with the Conway Human Development Center on July 26. The show displayed works by 16 CHDC residents who worked alongside the occupational therapy students to practice their socialization skills.

“The purpose of the art show is to increase socialization and provide the opportunity to be a part of an event,” UCA Interim Program Director Dr. Tina Mankey said. “As seen in literature, people with disabilities tend not to be as integrated into activities as other individuals and they have limited opportunities.”

The students gathered Aug. 6-7 at 8:30 a.m to present their projects and findings to their peers.

One of the student groups worked with members of Independent Living Services. ILS works with adults that have learning disabilities to help further their learning and become independent.

The students helped the members of ILS by teaching them how to do crafts. Some of the activities they enjoyed were balloon volleyball, making pipe cleaner bracelets, and bucket drumming.

The group of students found that the community was stuck in a daily routine. According to OT doctorate student, Ashley Vaughan, adding a different element to break the routine, such as playing music in the background while making crafts, could benefit the community members by increasing socialization and engagement.

Dr. Mankey said the collaboration with CHDC caused the art show to be heavily publicized.

“The art show was just one of many community service projects that the students worked on this summer,” Mankey said. “Media Monsters, Compass Academy, and working with the Conway Juvenile Court are some of the other projects”.

With these course programs, specifically the groups assigned to the Faulkner County Juvenile Court, both children and parents are gaining access to mentors. They are learning how to set goals and how to work toward achieving them.

“The students also provided opportunities for the adolescents in the drug court to learn new leisure interests,” occupational therapy professor Lorrie George-Paschal said. “This is important since the adolescents typically spend their time watching Netflix and sleeping.” 

For another project, the OT program partnered with United Way, a local nonprofit organization that focuses on community needs and togetherness. While working with United Way, UCA OT doctorate student, Ciara Sleer, worked with her group to develop a job retention program for homeless and low-income individuals.

“The goal is that they’ll be able to engage in their community, be able to get jobs, and be more financially independent,” Sleer said.

Completing these community projects has changed the way OT students think about occupational therapy. It has put them in real life scenarios they will see in their future.

“Something significant about this course is that the occupational therapy doctoral students have completed their level II fieldwork in medical model settings,” said Paschal. “These opportunities allowed them to experience the benefits of community-based programming, as well as some of the challenges of implementing them.”

In the future, Mankey hopes the students that participated in the course will want to do a community project for their capstone or residency.

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