How Student Strengths Can Help Close the Autism Employment Gap

Twelve years ago, Stephen Shore was visiting Urakawa, a small town in Japan, where he met the mother of a teenage boy with autism. The boy had limited verbal skills, and his mother was worried about what kind of work he might find as an adult.

Shore, an adjunct professor in NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Occupational Therapy, asked her the same question he always asks parents of children with autism: What is it your child likes to do?

The mother said her son liked to spend time in the basement sticking his finger under the faucet and spraying water at high pressure. There could be a number of sensory reasons why the boy enjoyed this, Shore said, including the feeling of pressure on his thumb, the joy of watching water arc across the room, or the sound of water splashing against the wall.

“And that is a gift because it tells us, ‘OK, now we know what he’s interested in: spraying water at high pressure,’” he said. “So that means considering jobs that might involve spraying water at high pressure.”

Focusing on a young person’s interests as a clue to career happiness seems like a given. When a girl shows an interest in animals, she might be encouraged to consider a future career in veterinary sciences. When a boy exhibits an interest in drawing, he may be invited to sign up for art classes. And yet, when children with autism show an interest in a subject, there can be a stigma – many times leading to their interest being labeled “restrictive” or “obsessive.”

“It’s important not to pathologize these strengths,” said Kristie Patten Koenig, an associate professor and department chair for NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Occupational Therapy.

As an example, Koenig said her son, who does not have autism, used to talk a lot about baseball statistics and history, “but we don’t ascribe any weakness to that. We don’t say he’s obsessed or has a ‘restricted interest.’ But for kids who are on the autism spectrum, many people view it as more of a pathology or a deficit versus seeing the potential there, because of the depth of the interest.”

She said removing the pathology from these interests not only eliminates a negative stigma but allows members of the autism community to thrive in situations that capitalize on their strengths. They can be helped mentally and socially, but also occupationally.

Read the full article on our online program OT@NYU‘s blog.

OT Students Explore Disability in a Global Context in Shanghai

This summer students and faculty from NYU Steinhardt’s Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy programs traveled to Shanghai for the course China: Disability in a Global Context. The class was led by Wen K. Ling, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy and Sally Poole, Clinical Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy. This interdisciplinary course brought students together from Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Teaching and Learning, and other programs at NYU Steinhardt. The students explored and identified factors, including cultural factors and health beliefs, which may influence a community’s view of disability.

Students spent two weeks in Shanghai, touring around the city with their home base as NYU Shanghai’s campus. During their free time they took part in traditional exercise classes, toured local homes, ate traditional meals together, and took in the culture of the region. They also learned about education, traditional Chinese health beliefs and practices, current health care, access and public transportation, and social welfare for individuals with disabilities in China.

We spoke with Joy Sarraf, a current OT student, about her experiences in the course. Read on to learn more!

Tell us more about yourself and what brought you to NYU Steinhardt.

I’m from Long Island and I am currently in the NYU Occupational Therapy Masters Program. I went to NYU for my undergrad degree as well and had the best most fulfilling four years here. In addition to the unbeatable location and many other factors, the fact that NYU offers global courses definitely added to the appeal of staying at my alma mater. 

Why did you want to participate in this global class?

For one thing, it was a wonderful excuse to travel to China! The Occupational Therapy Framework always stresses the importance of altering treatment plans based on your environment; being in an unfamiliar foreign country gave me a chance to really see how OT transforms with the culture and environment of the patients at hand. It was an engaging learning experience and also so much fun! Eating authentic Chinese cuisine and seeing the famous beautiful light up Bund, when the skyline of Shanghai lights up, excited me as well.

What was your favorite part of the Steinhardt global experience?

Although there were short lectures in the morning, a big bulk of the course consisted of field trips to hospitals, orphanages, living facilities, etc. Every afternoon we had another opportunity to take a peek into the health care system and daily life of China in a very hands-on way.

In some institutions we even got to see treatments as they were being performed. We all really appreciated these immersive field trips, and it was incredible to view OT through the lens of another culture.

Do you think having students from other disciplines in the class made the experience richer or more well-rounded?

Definitely! In the field, Occupational Therapists work so closely with other health care professionals, especially Physical Therapists, that it feels only natural to learn with them as well and to practice the inter-professional skills that we will utilize throughout our careers. Also, it was nice to get to know some new NYU faces and broaden my network. We all made some awesome friends during this trip and still keep in touch– we’re even planning a dumpling dinner reunion soon! 

What parts of the class did you find most interesting and/or surprising from an OT perspective?

To our surprise, in China there isn’t much of distinction between Occupational, Physical and Speech Therapists; they are all referred to as Rehab therapists and receive no specialized training. 

How do you think seeing how OT’s and other medical professionals from other cultures interact with their patients /clients will help you in your future practice?

I think this experience pushed me to think outside the box and use critical thinking to alter treatment plans appropriately. More and more occupational therapists are traveling abroad to live or to aid in natural disasters. I feel more prepared to be flexible with my treatment in the event that I end up working outside of NYC. I also believe I may be better able to understand the values and relate to my future international patients because of this experience. 

How has Steinhardt helped you to achieve your personal and professional goals? 

Because Steinhardt and NYU in general value the importance of inter-professionalism I have had multiple opportunities to learn from students with different backgrounds and gain a deeper understanding of the health care system that I will eventually be a part of. In addition to my interpersonal experience in China’s global class, I have been working with future health care professionals in my role as Inter-Professional Education Group leader for my OT class. IPEG brings students from all health care departments together, the board consists of NYU leaders from 11 different health care programs. Our goal is it to create events where all NYU health care graduate students can engage with each-other. Some of our events are social mixers to help students network, while others are more academic like our Grand Rounds where mixed teams work together and race to figure out the diagnoses of a case study – all of them help us better understand and appreciate one another and therefore better work together. Working with IPEG has truly been one of my most enriching experiences at NYU.

Faculty Spotlight: Judy Grossman

Judy Grossman, DrPH, OTR, FAOTA, has worked in the Department of Occupational Therapy in a number of different roles, including special projects, grant writing, program development, and teaching. Her interest in interdisciplinary research and practice culminated in a multidepartment university grant that included graduate student internships and course work. In the following Q&A, Professor Grossman discusses her research specialties, the field of occupational therapy, and the OT@NYU program.

You’ve done a lot of research in the areas of early intervention and special education policy. How do you think these areas affect the clients whom clinicians serve?

I worked for a decade doing policy research for the New York State Education Department and the New York City Department of Education. This experience included principal investigator responsibilities for research proposals, advisory groups, and data collection that helped me understand the needs of families who have children in special education programs throughout the state. I understand both the macro-systems perspective and the micro-individual concerns of families.

You’ve worked extensively with at-risk populations. How do you think that has contributed to your personal and professional growth as a clinician and as a professor? What are the unique challenges or needs that these populations face?

I have always been interested in community-based prevention work, but I have expanded my activities outside the profession. Throughout my career, I have brought my OT knowledge and perspective to many positions in mental health, early intervention, and special education. At the same time, I remain committed to teaching OT students about emerging practice areas. My doctoral degree in public health and post-professional training as a family therapist have supported my professional interests, which I share as a professor.

Through your work with the Ackerman Institute for the Family External link , you support the growth and development of children and families and provide services for children with special needs. How has that shaped your outlook on that specific population, and what do you think it enables you to bring to the classroom to prepare OTs for advanced roles?

At Ackerman, I developed a team of professionals to provide services to families that have children with special needs. The services include clinical work, family therapy, group work, and interdisciplinary staff development workshops. This combination provides clinical evidence to share with students as well as issues of concern to all professionals working in the field. My team is interested in best practices in early intervention, special education, medical practice, and family support programs.

What do you think are the most prevalent challenges in the occupational therapy field today? How can clinicians address these?

The most prevalent challenges are developing evidence-based practices that are family-centered as well as an appreciation for our contribution to population health and community-based prevention services. I have long been a preventionist; thus, I have been able to track changes in the field and the emerging opportunities in health, education, and social systems. I think it’s important for OTs to widen their lens so they can think outside of the box about the unique and meaningful work we can do with at-risk populations.

From your viewpoint, how does OT@NYU prepare its students for advanced practice and leadership roles?

OT@NYU is in the unique position to promote student scholarship and refine the clinical and administrative skills that are necessary for leadership roles. Students can tailor the program to their area of interest and learn from some of the most qualified faculty in the field. My course – Promoting Family Resilience and Family-Centered Services – is offered as an elective, which speaks to the Department of Occupational Therapy’s intention to educate progressive thinkers who are well-grounded in theory, research, and practice.

 

Learn more about our new online program OT@NYU!

OT Alum Katie Tietz Writes Book for Healthcare Professionals

This fall Katie Tietz debuted her book Self-Care for the Healthcare Professional: How to gain confidence, take control, and have a balanced and successful careerKatie, who is currently an occupational therapist at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, California is also a certified mindset coach, a skill she uses both in her practice and to inspire her writing, which is a combination of personal stories, educational content, and activities at the end of each chapter. Read on to learn more about what motivated Katie to write her book.

What sparked your interest in becoming an OT?

Honestly, I just kind of followed what felt right.  Before becoming an OT, or even knowing what an OT was, I worked with children and adults with learning and developmental disabilities.  I worked in a variety of settings… as a respite worker in the home and community, in an adult learning center, and a pre-school as a 1:1 aide.  The child I worked with in pre-school had major food aversions.  At the adult learning center we worked on building daily life skills.  As a respite provider I worked on community integration and encouraged appropriate leisure pursuits.  I was drawn to these jobs because they promoted independence and quality of life.  I thought there could be no better career than to bring this to others.  That’s when I found out what occupational therapy was, and it was a no brainer.  It wasn’t really an interest that was sparked… it was more like a realization of a true calling.

Why did you want to write a book focusing on self-care for healthcare professionals?

I wanted to write this book because I think self-care is incredibly important.  It’s important for all people, but in a career where you give so much of yourself to others, I would argue that it’s even more important.  I would even go as far to say that if you’re not practicing self-care as a healthcare professional, it could become a patient safety issue.  If you are burned out and frustrated with your career, that leaves a lot of room for error… not to mention the negative energy that you drag around with you, from patient to patient.  I wanted to write this book so that healthcare professionals can learn how to serve others from their overflow, instead of scraping the bottom for any last drops in an already empty cup.  As the saying goes, we have to fill our cups first before we can give to others.

Do you find that self-care for health professionals is a “taboo” topic when the focus is supposed to be care for patients/clients?

I think that it certainly can be.  We’re all givers.  We all have strong empathy for others.  We wouldn’t be in this profession if we weren’t.  So naturally, as givers, when the topic arises of ‘taking’ (taking time for your own self-care), it might make us feel uncomfortable, selfish, or even guilty – and those aren’t nice feelings!  Unless you have someone telling you that you don’t have to feel guilty and that self-care is not selfish, then you’ll likely continue down that spiral of burnout and compassion fatigue.  Then what does that look like for your patient?  What does that look like for your loved ones?  What does that look like for you?  My goal is really to modify that thinking pattern that self-care in healthcare is somehow forbidden.  I think that by practicing daily self-care we actually do better by our patients and loved ones.  We are able to give more, provide more, and practice more patience and understanding.  With that in mind, self-care should be a part of our job descriptions, not the taboo topic that it can sometimes be.

How did your own experiences shape the writing of the book, and how did your time at NYU Steinhardt influence your professional life?

My own experience is what made this book!  Both of my experiences as a new graduate OT and the daughter of a mother who was in and out of hospitals and sub-acute nursing facilities for years, is what prompted me to write this book.  I saw the signs of early burnout in myself as a provider and I saw many nurses, doctors and therapists who clearly struggled with compassion fatigue and burnout when my mom was in the hospital.  My experiences acted like this informal needs assessment – and this book, I guess you could say, is the treatment plan!

My time at NYU Steinhardt undoubtedly helped to shape this book as well.  Every single day I think of Kristie Koenig’s words to us during our pediatrics course.  She said, “It’s really easy to be a bad OT.”  When I began my career I started to realize just how true that statement had been.  It was disheartening at first, but that statement continues to motivate me to this day!  My time at NYU, all of the professors, all my classmates… they mean so much to me.  They set the bar high for professional standards, and personally they all hold a very special place in my heart.

Do you have plans for more writing? What’s next for you?

I would love to do more writing in the future!  I really enjoy the writing process and the creation aspect.  Although I don’t have anything specific to write about at the moment, I’m sure that life will unfold and opportunities will arise.  And as Anita Perr used to tell us, “Always say yes to an opportunity!”

In terms of what’s next, my goal is to get this book in the hands of as many healthcare professionals as possible.  I truly believe that it will change lives when utilized to it’s full potential.  I’m currently bringing this information to the staff at my own hospital, co-creating our “Lighthouse Initiative” with a couple of my brilliant co-workers, and hope to spread the message to other hospitals, clinics, and universities as well.  I also plan to continue my coaching with Health Pro Mindset and help healthcare professionals to maximize their personal and professional potentials!

Faculty Spotlight: Patricia Gentile

We recently chatted with new faculty member Patricia Gentile (OTD, ’10), who is joining NYU full-time this year after being a longtime adjunct professor. Professor Gentile shares her background, class agenda, and hopes for the upcoming year at NYU Steinhardt.

Welcome to NYU! Can you tell us a little about your background and what brought you the university?

I was born and raised on the West Side of Manhattan and continue to live there. I obtained my degree in Occupational Therapy at SUNY Downstate. Shortly after starting my first job, I went back to school while working full time to complete my Master’s in Health Administration. I then completed the OT Clinical Doctorate Program at NYU Steinhardt in 2010.

My clinical background is in the area of acute adult physical disabilities and home health care. I have always worked in inner city hospitals serving diverse populations and held various managerial positions in these settings. For the last 10+ years I worked in administrative positions outside of OT, most recently as the Administrator of Surgery at a Level I Trauma Center. My OT background has helped me tremendously in these administrative positions and I would like to see more OT’s assume these types of roles.

I have always been committed to teaching and always made time in my schedule to do this. For as long as I can remember, I have taught as an adjunct OT faculty member, most notably at NYU. I especially enjoy sharing my practical experiences to help students understand the bigger health care system they will be working in, including how to navigate it and advocate for their clients and profession. It is this interest that now brings me to NYU full-time. I am excited to be here.

What classes have you taught in the past, and what are you teaching for the coming semesters? Do you have any particular research interests?

I have taught a variety of classes in my clinical practice area as well as administration and management courses. For a number of years I taught the OT Health Advocacy and Administration Course at NYU. This is my favorite class to teach because it allows me to share my administrative experience, which I believe is important to bring this content to life.  I will continue to teach this course now that I am full time. I will also be teaching in the online Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy Program. This will be an interesting experience for me since I completed this program before it went to an online platform.

This upcoming fall I will be co-teaching New Student Seminar with Professor Poole and Theoretical Foundations with Professor Hinojosa. There are also plans for me to develop an OT Leadership Course.

Regarding research, two areas of interests I have are performance improvement related to management/supervision, and how social determinants impact health. While working in Trauma, I also became interested of the role of occupational therapy in traumatic injury prevention.

What do you find is the most rewarding aspect of teaching future OT’s?

For me, one of the biggest rewards is their enthusiasm for the profession and the fact that as new therapists they will be starting with a clean slate, and are open to new ideas about what practice can be like. 

Department and Steinhardt Graduation Award Winners

The Department is proud to announce our departmental and Steinhardt award winners:

Marisa Davison, winner of the Letha Hurd Morgan Award, presented to one undergraduate and one graduate student in recognition of outstanding scholastic attainment and service to their department and School

Michael Maisch, the 2017 OT Department Banner Bearer at Valedictory Ceremony at Radio City Music Hall, chosen for demonstrating spirit through leadership and academic excellence

Elisabeth Bahr, winner of the Samuel Eshborn Service Award, presented to graduating graduate students in recognition of superlative and extraordinary service, exhibiting the value of strong leadership in school activities in NYU Steinhardt

Many congratulations go out to our student award winners and all of our 2017 graduates!

 

Tracy Chippendale Receives Stroll Safe Grant

Dr. Tracy Chippendale

Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy Tracy Chippendale recently received a grant from NY Community Trust to conduct a feasibility study for “Stroll Safe”, an outdoor fall prevention program that she developed. The 7-week program, designed for active community dwelling seniors, focuses on safe strategy use to prevent stumbles, trips, slips, and falls outdoors. The purpose of the study is to examine the feasibility of the program and data collection protocol to plan a multisite clinical trial.

The topics addressed in the once a week, 7-week outdoor falls prevention program, for which a treatment manual has been developed, are based on the results of a survey conducted of community dwelling older adults that identified gaps in knowledge and use of prevention strategies, and the related literature. The program includes pre-set modules, however, participants will be able to voice individual concerns and problem-solve solutions during group discussions, and will discuss topics such as self-advocacy regarding reporting problems to the city.

Participants will be asked to keep daily diaries of stumbles, trips, slips, and falls from the time they enroll in the study until two months following the completion of the program. Dr. Chippendale is currently conducting the study.

Class Notes: Spring 2017

Lindsey Biel (MA, 1999) Recently published “Students with Sensory Processing Challenges: Classroom Strategies” plus an extensive appendix in Optimizing Learning Outcomes: Proven Brain-Centric, Trauma-Sensitive Practices, W. Steele, ed., Routledge, 2017, pp. 75-94 and 201-215. Her upcoming workshop schedule is available at www.sensorysmarts.com.

Maria Cecilia Figueroa Cupello (MA, 2013) Maria is currently an Adjunct Professor at Mental Health Department, University of Chile. Clinical OT at Child Psychiatric Unit, Clinica Las Condes, Santiago, Chile.

Mary V. Donohue, PhD, OTL, FAOTA (MA, 1973; PhD 1985) Mary presented a poster at the 2017 AOTA conference 2017 devoted to art of OT rehab for army veterans in 1944 at England General Hospital in Atlantic City, NJ by Marion Greenwood, her second cousin.

Rita P. Fleming-Castaldy, PhD, OTL, FAOTA (BS, 1980; MA,1988; PhD, 2008)
Dr. Fleming-Castaldy is currently Professor of Occupational Therapy at the University of Scranton, and received the 2017 AOTA Award for Excellence in the Advancement of Occupational Therapy for “advancing disability rights, empowerment, and historical literacy”. She has authored over 175 works including peer-reviewed national and international journal articles, international and national peer-reviewed conference presentations, textbooks, and book chapters. Most recently, she presented a poster and workshop at the Council of Occupational Therapists for the European Countries and European Network of Occupational Therapy in Higher Education Joint Congress held in Galway, Ireland.

Robbie Levy, (MA, OTR/L , 1982) Is not only a regular presenter for PESI Educational Conferences providing full day seminars on Self Regulation and Sensory Processing, but also presents at many local and state conferences and community events. In March 2017 she presented at the JCC of Harrison in Harrison, NY on Balancing Play and Technology.

Jessica Ng (MS, 2014) Jessica will be graduating this May of 2017 with a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree from Thomas Jefferson University with an advanced certificate in Teaching.

Lorraine Williams Pedretti (BS, 1959)
Lorraine was recently named to the AOTA centennial celebration list of 100 people who influenced Occupational Therapy’s 100 year history.

Jessica Sibley (MS, 2011) Has been keeping busy consulting with 2 schools and starting her own private Clinic, Minds in Motion OT! She is specializing in working with non speaking students working to support learning to use alternative forms of communication and developing more of a brain body connection. Supporting fitness and ADL’s for those with autism has become her newest interest!

Franklin Stein, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA (OT Certificate 1959, MA, 1963; PhD 1968)
Is the founding editor of a new journal: Annals of International Occupational Therapy, published by Slack.

Joan Engel Sullivan, MA, OTR, CHT (BSOT, 1970; MAOT, 1975) and Sally E. Poole, OTD, MA, OT, CHT (MA, 1975 and NYU Professional Program Director) are pleased to announce the sale of their hand therapy practice, HANDS-ON REHAB, Valhalla, NY to Megan Gotlieb Horowitz, MA, OTR, CHT (MA, 2007). Joan and Sally are delighted to “pass the baton” of practice ownership to another NYU grad and “hand nerd”.  Best wishes, Megan!

Joan Engel Sullivan, MA, OTR, CHT (BA,1970; MA, 1975) Joan is pleased to announce her retirement from patient care after a career in Occupational Therapy spanning 50 years. Joan is a Founding Charter Member of the American Society of Hand Therapists and served as the president of that organization in 2000. Joan was co-owner of Hands-On Rehab in Valhalla, New York for 21 years and is now looking forward to personal and medical missionary travel and continued involvement in professional educational events.

 

Faculty Achievements: Grants and Publications 2016-2017

A complete list of achievements by the faculty of the NYU Steinhardt Department of Occupational Therapy.

Grants and Awards:

Tracy Chippendale

“Stroll Safe”: An outdoor fall prevention program. Funder: NY Community Trust. Dates of project:February 2017-February 2018. Role: PI Total budget: $20,000

Janet Njelesani

2017: The landscape of child disability in Rwanda funded by UNICEF. $320,000.

Kristie Patten Koenig

Co-Principal Investigator: “A Comprehensive Program Evaluation of the ASD Nest Program: Student and School Community Impact” (Co-Principal Investigator Cheri Fanscelli, Ph.D.) FAR Fund. Funded for 1/1/17 to 12/31/17. $50,000.

Publications:

Tracy Chippendale

Chippendale, T. & Lee, C-D. (accepted).Characteristics and fall experiences of older adults with and without fear of falling outdoors. Aging & Mental Health.

Chippendale, T., Gentile, P. A. & James, M. K. (accepted). Characteristics and outcomes of falls among older adult trauma patients: Considerations for injury prevention programs. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal.

Yael Goverover

Engel, L., Chui, A., Goverover, Y., &  Dawson, D. (Accepted: 2/3/17). Optimizing activity and participation outcomes for people with self-awareness impairments related to acquired brain injury: An interventions systematic review. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation.

Jim Hinojosa

Hinojosa, J. (In Press). How society’s philosophy has shaped occupational therapy practice for the past 100 years. The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy

Tsu-Hsin Howe

Howe, T.-H., Sheu, C.-F., & Hinojosa, J. Teaching Theory in occupational therapy using a cooperative learning: A mixed method study (Accepted). Journal of Allied Health.

Lee, T.-I., Howe, T.-H., Chen, H.-L., & Wang, T.-N. (2016). Predicting handwriting legibility in Taiwanese elementary school children. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 70, 7006220020. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.016865

Kristie Patten Koenig

Patten Koenig, K. & Hough, L. (published online first January, 2017). Characterization and utilization of preferred interests: A survey of adults on the autism spectrum. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health.

 

OT Speaker Series: Cognitive-Functional Lecture

This semester, we were pleased to welcome Professor Adina Maeir and Dr. Ruthie Traub Bar Ilan of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Professor Maeir and Dr. Traub Bar Ilan presented their 10 year summary of research and clinical activity of their project Cognitive-Functional (Cog-Fun) Intervention in Occupational Therapy for Individuals with ADHD.

Cog-Fun is an integrated cognitive functional treatment approach designed to address the multifaceted implications of ADHD on the individuals participation in daily occupations.This approach is based on the understanding that the core neurocognitive executive deficits in ADHD interact with psychosocial factors that impact daily functioning and quality of life. The Cog-Fun change mechanisms for improving functioning and quality of life include occupation-based meta-cognitive learning, behavioral learning and environmental adaptation, as well as a positive and empowering therapeutic relationship with clients and their families.

Professor Maeir and Dr. Traub Bar Ilan presented their data as well as showed video interviews with their clients as well as sessions with them to show the impact this treatment approach can have.