Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Assistive Technology

Assistive technology was first termed in 1988 (Mendelsohn & Fox, 2002), but various forms of assistive technologies have have existed long before this date. The computer revolution has speed up this field greatly in the past decade, especially in the field of rehabilitation. Assistive technology can be defined as "the applications of science, engineering, and other disciplines that result in processes, methods, or inventions that support people with disabilities" (Bryant & Bryant, 2003, p.2). Commonly this technology is further categorised into high and low technology devices, for example a modified eating utensil may be considered low tech whereas a speech generating device may be considered high tech.
Since the 1980's there has been a proliferation in the types of medical, assistive and learning technologies developed to help people with cognitive and physical limitations related to disability and illness. Accompanying the availability of these technologies has been a growing concern about their appropriate use by consumers (Tate, 2002). As an Occupational Therapist one of the goals of intervention when working with clients who require an AT device is to ensure that the we are enhancing the independent functioning of that person. An AT device, as defined by the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals With Disabilities Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-497), refers to any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customised, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

For the remainder of this blog I want to look at one of these AT devices in action, in particular Wii-Fit and its use in TBI rehabilitation. Wii Fit Plus has been out for a couple of years now and requires a console and balance board to participate in. Googling Wii Fit and TBI rehabilitation brings up many stories about current successes with this tool in intervention. Here is one I found.

Wii Fi Plus Bundle can currently be purchased for around $128, this includes the software required and the balance board shown on the above video. A Wii consule is required to operate the software and the cheapest option I found for this included Wii sports for $278. To make the experience beneficial the TV display has to be considered, a screen of around 40 inches would be ideal and plasma televisions of this size currently retail for around $650. The following video highlights some of the 15 training games available on Wii Fit.

For those people who have experienced a TBI, occupational transition can mean the transition from one occupational form to the realising of another, as disability or impairment prevents previous occupations from occurring. The presence or absence of an engaging occupation is considered a key determinant for experiencing satisfying occupational patterns in daily life (Christiansen & Townsend, 2010). So while the Wii Fit may have many cognitive and physical benefits for its users, there may be underlying psychological benefits as well. Occupational justice ensures that all members of society have a right to equally participate in their occupations, so that clients have a right to chose whether they participate in this form of rehabilitation.


Bryant, D.P., & Bryant, B.R. (2003). Assistive technology for people with disabilities. Boston MA: Pearson.

Christiansen, C.H., & Townsend, E.A. (2010). Introduction to occupation: the art and science of living. London: Pearson Education Ltd.

Tate, D. G., Riley, B., & Forchheimer, M. (2002). Enhancing the appropriate use of assistive technology among consumers and caretakers. In M. J. Scherer (Ed.), Assistive technology: matching device and consumer for successful rehabilitation. Washington: American Psychological Association.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Blogs of Interest

For this tutorial we were required to source 5 blogs that related to OT practice in a chosen field. I decided to carry on with my TBI theme and used Google reader and to locate the blogs that are posted to the right of my main postings.
I chose the technology blog because I feel that it is important for OT's in any field to keep up to date with what is available on the market to help in the intervention or rehabilitation process. The rehabilitation and physical therapy news runs along the same lines, with up to date information on what is developing in these fields. I included two blogs from people who are sharing their stories about life with a TBI, I feel as an OT it will be important to try and understand as much as is possible what it is like for our clients and this is one way that we can gain insight into that experience. And finally there is a link to a fellow students blog, in case you waned  to gain another perspective or view from an OT student. An example of comments exchanged between myself and fellow bloggers is as follows:

  1. Hi Amanda,
    This is a really intriguing concept! Are there anymore Hippotherapy centers in New Zealand? If there are not, do you think that this is a valuable form of therapy that should be extended on in NZ?

    Thanks Hannah
  2. I mean expanded on :)
  3. Hi Hannah, I know there are quite a few Riding for the Disabled Centres around NZ but hippotherapy requires specialised therapists so am not sure as to any others apart from Auckland. Definately something that could work well in other parts of NZ though.

Internet and On-line Communities

For this blog I will be posting about three different online communities that offer support and networking for people with Traumatic Brain Injuries. I chose this topic in particular as it was the setting for my first placement and so holds particular meaning for me. The availability of online healthcare information and support has seen many individuals and healthcare providers start communities where individuals can go to learn more about their impairments and connect with others whom share their disabilities. Social isolation is often a common side effect of TBI and can lead to depression and other negative side effects. These internet applications can be useful for occupational therapists during therapy sessions, or as a means for furthering functional independence (Griffiths et. al, 2003).
The first online community is a Brain injury support group: On this site people can chose to post anonymously on issues they may be having relating to TBI, and receive feedback or support from other posters. This site allows members to make contact over great distances, as it is a worldwide posting and can generate understanding and unity between its posters. It gives observers the opportunity to participate or not as they chose and does not require money to join. There does not appear to be any professional advisor's however, in the way of health professionals and I was unable to detect any moderators for the site. This means that the posts are open to abuse, which could be detrimental to its users.
The Second online community is the Brain Song Community: , which is an online community for female survivors of TBI. This is a non-profit organisation, with a board of directors complete with a mission statement. It offers resources and information for members, and requires its posters to sign up with a username and password. Again this site is a worldwide posting, but I imagine many of its members are from the USA as it has its origin there. As this site has built in security features you are unable to browse through postings without first joining the community. This has advantages in that you know the site is being moderated and is unlikely to be abused.
The third online community is the TBI survivors worldwide community: This site has information on the causes of TBI and a Facebook link where they promote brrain injury survivor advocacy, information, networking, peer support and resource exchange. Although they are not specifically an online community themselves they do give guidelines for rating other brain injury websites and online social communities. This includes criteria on who operates the site, your privacy, information accessibility, activities of the site you should be told about up front and honesty and candor. These are all relevant and important things that one should consider when posting personal information onto a worldwide site and I think that this site is important for people to read and understand before doing so, which is why I have included it on my list.
The anonymity that these sites provide allow posters to contribute and ask questions online that they may be reluctant to do face to face with a health provider or family member. Knowing that there are other people out there sharing similar experiences can give a great sense of relief to some, and the advice and comments shared can break down the isolation barriers that can lead to secondary illnesses such as depression.
Information on these sites is shared usually via two ways. The first is one-way information where information is presented in a way where it can not be commented on or interacted with, this is usually based on medical information where there is no expected reciprocation. The second way information is shared is via discussion and chat rooms, where information is reciprocal and the poster can share their thoughts, feelings, opinions and experiences on a topic and expect feedback from moderators and other posters.

Griffiths, M., Davies, M.N.O., & Chappekk, D. (2003). Breaking the stereotype: the case of online gaming. Cyber Pschyology and Behaviour, 6(1), 81-91.

(1992) KWN "TAILS OF LOVE - The Pet Therapy Program".mp4

Get the tissues ready for this one. Although made a few years ago by a group of young New York primary school kids I like how they have approached this topic. While on placement I got to visit a couple of nursing homes with a therapy dog and got to see first hand the joy he brought them for that 10-15 minutes he spent in their company. Most had had dogs in their lives at some stage and were eager to share stories about that pet, and it opened up conversation for many other topics. I know that other animals are used on visits, the nursing home had two resident cats and a rabbit that visited regularly. We have to remember that not everyone is a dog person!


Finally a something a little different from the animal world. Hippotherapy is a form of occupational, physical and speech therapy that utilizes the characteristic movements of a horse to provide carefully graded motor and sensory input. Apparently a horses pelvis has a similar 3-dimensional movement to the humans pelvis at a walk. As explained in this video, it is this movement which is tailored to each clients individual needs to set a course of treatment designed around what sensory or motor deficits are requiring work. Pretty cool huh! New Zealand has its own hippotherapy centre in Auckland, hopefully I will get a placement with them!

Occupational Deprivation

Occupational Deprivation through environmental inequality
There are many factors that can produce occupational deprivation, including social, economic, environmental, geographic, historic, cultural and political (Christiansen & Townsend, 2010). The challenge for our group was to produce a short (1 minute) video film highlighting the issues of occupational deprivation. We chose to focus on environmental aspects, and put one of our actors in a wheelchair to show the challenges faced when accessing everyday utilities. Whiteford (2000) describes occupational deprivation as a "state in which a person or group of people are unable to do what is necessary and meaningful in their lives due to external restrictions" p.200. 
As a team we planned and organised a rough storyboard before filming. We had an idea of what and where we wanted to shoot, and had decided that it would be black and white beforehand. We were fortunate to have an experienced photographer and editor in our group which made these processes much easier. The film was to highlight difficulties wheelchair users face in everyday tasks and some not so everyday (emergency situations). Most challenges were environmentally based, such as the dimensions of the toilet doors and the reachable heights of the book shelves. Fire escape procedures I would assume would come under political.

Christiansen, C.H. & Townsend, E.A. (2010). Introduction to occupation: the art and science of living (2 ed.). London: Pearson Education Ltd.
Whiteford, G. (2000, May). Occupational deprivation: global challenge in the new millennium. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63(5),  200-204.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Amy and Bonnie

Amy and Bonnie are New Zealand based. Amy has cerebral palsy, and having Bonnie means she is able to maintain her independence and grow in confidence. Mobility and assistance dogs have the same rights as guide dogs in New Zealand, meaning they are able to use public transport and access supermarkets, restaurants and cafes etc. Her family and friends have a greater sense of confidence for Amy's safety now that she has Bonnie, knowing that she is trained to help Amy should she get into difficulty. Bonnie is also trained for unusual tasks like helping Amy transfer from her wheelchair to bed, by stiffening her back Bonnie is able to take Amy's full body weight!