Jefferson OT students to present at Virtual Ability’s Mental Health Symposium on 5-2-15

Mental Health Symposium – May 2, 2015 – Losing It: On Disability, Diagnosis, and Depression


See schedule of entire event at:

Looks like a great conference!
OT Students Jenna Hannan and Amanda Gilroy will present on “Everyday Language
and Clinical Diagnosis in Depression and Anxiety.”

Mental Heath Events Attract Diverse/international audience

MH events

Mental Health Events at OT Center at Jefferson in Second Life

On February 17 and 19, 1st year OT students Kaitlin (Rukii Winterwolf) and Veronica (Vironica Loxley) presented about the role of OT in mental health. Their presentation, Beyond Stigma to Participation, started with a video excerpt and discussion question on stigma and mental health and went on to provide a detailed summary of OT’s role in mental health. 2nd year students Andrea and Stephanie also assisted with the events.
Audiences were quite different at the two presentations. On Thursday evening, most who attended were educators or health care practitioners. On Saturday, most participants who came to the presentation had a more personal interest in the topic, with family or themselves experiencing the effects of stigma. Participants included those from Scotland, England, Spain, Dubai, Croatia, and the United States. It was gratifying to see the interest that a simple announcement and event notice generated:

Come and enjoy an interactive presentation on Mental Health Conditions and the role of an Occupational Therapist. Presented by occupational therapy students at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia

National Alzheimer’s Project Act

January meeting
The January meeting of our support group for caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s focused on passage of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA). Our new first year student, Vironica Loxley, did considerable research for the talk which was presented by Zsuzsa Tomsen and Geri Kuhn, group facilitators. Our main sources of information for the talk were the Alzheimer’s association (NAPA information), the report of the Alzheimer’s Study Group, and a discussion of non-pharmacologic treatments written by Drs. Laura Gitlin and Mary Mittelman. Geri also shared interesting commentary by Sandra Day O’Connor and Maria Shriver. The session was well-attended and included lively discussion of the issues that arise for implementing NAPA. Among the issues raised were: use of Second Life vs. a non-commercial virtual world such as Open Sim to present such topics and mobilize for action, the role of Medicare in funding interventions for those with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, and the use of social networks to implement programming for NAPA. We hope this talk will be a starting point for more discussions and action that may help persons with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

SL Virtual Ability Event: The Americans with Disabilities Act and Aging Adults

20th Anniversary of the ADA Event at Virtual Ability

On Saturday, July 24, 2010 I had the unique opportunity to participate in a virtual event in SL.  Just in time for the Americans with Disabilities Act’s 20-year anniversary, Gentle Heron, leader of Virtual Ability, hosted a discussion about seniors and how the ADA applies to them.  The focus of this session was how to educate seniors about the ADA as well as discuss the sections of the ADA to the older adult population.  Zsuzsa Tomsen was invited to present about the ADA and older adults within the context of Occupational Therapy, and I went along to offer a student’s perspective.

In order to prepare for my portion of the virtual lecture, I took some time to reflect on my experience with ADA as an occupational therapy student.  Because I was born in 1985, and the ADA regulations were passed in 1990, I don’t remember a time when public areas were not designed according to ADA standards.  As such, my first true experience with ADA was during the construction of the Adapted Playground in SL.  Our team researched ways in which playground equipment could be made accessible according to ADA standards.  What a great opportunity to gain first-hand experience in creating a public area according to these standards.  Spring 2010 semester at Jefferson we were enrolled in a course about adapting environments to better support occupational performance.  During this semester, ADA standards and Universal Design principles were heavily discussed and constantly referenced.  As a result, I began to assess public spaces with a critical eye.  What could be improved upon here? How could this space be more accessible? Is this space usable for individuals with varying abilities? ADA standards became ingrained in the back of my mind.

During this period of reflection, I hauled out my old textbooks and did some heavy thinking about what ADA standards really meant and how they might apply to an aging adult.  I felt like I had done some major critical thinking…but was nervous about the way it would be received during the lecture.  What do I know? I’m only a student! Zsu assured me that my perspective as a student would be valuable, and I appreciated her kind words of encouragement.  However, I was still nervous…especially when I discovered that we would be using voice for the presentation.

I’d like to say the presentation went off without a hitch, but as luck would have it, my internet connection was not reliable and so I had difficulty teleporting to the location of the presentation.  I was nervous that I wouldn’t make it there at all! Finally, I arrived at the destination (after about twenty to thirty minutes of trying to teleport) only to discover that my voice wouldn’t activate!  As time crept closer to the presentation time I became nervous that I would not be able to deliver.  After 10 months of my virtual life, I can confidently say that nothing stresses me out quite like a Second Life glitch! But I suppose this is all part of the learning process!

Luckily, I was able to present via text while another avatar voiced my words.  Presenting in front of a number of avatars that I had never met was exhilarating…and nerve-racking!  It was exciting to have all eyes on me while I presented my perspective on ADA, its benefits, areas that could use improvement, relationship to occupational therapy and application for aging adults.  My reflection on the material led me to consider not only the benefit of adaptations to the built in environment in supporting persons with a disability, but the need for consideration for the social environment and the discrepancies that it could cause if this is not considered.  The challenge for the occupational therapy student is to strive to ensure that all aspects of the environment, not just the physical, are supportive and accessible to all individuals in order to support performance in daily activities.  Furthermore, I contemplated how aging adults can make ADA work for them by self-advocating, understanding environmental barriers to participation and as well as increasing health risks as they age.  After all, ADA standards are applicable not only to persons with congenital or acquired disabilities, but to those with age-related disabilities, such as vision loss, decreased mobility, and fatigue.  Therefore, it is exceedingly important that all persons, not just those with disabilities, understand the scope of ADA regulations because one can never know when their status as “temporarily able-bodied” might change.

Zunie speaking at Virtual Ability about the ADA

The opportunity to present my perspective on ADA and older adults in SL was a wonderful learning experience.  True, it came with frustrations…but at the heart of the matter was the occasion to integrate material that I had learned in school the past year with my own personal reflection.  The result was a lesson in confidence, preparation, and professionalism in both my Second and real lives

Generous Donation to Expand Adapting Environments Exhibit

The IM came in out of the blue, from Kathee Gibbs, whom I’d never met. She and partners Lucinda Bergbahn and Pecos Kid were finalists in the Second Life and the Public Good: A Community Challenge from USC. Kathee IM’d because she wanted to talk to me about donating the award Lindens to our Center. When we had a chance to talk yesterday, I found out that we shared the same idea for a program development project in Second Life: educate people about adaptations that can be put in place at home, to improve daily life. Specifically, Kathee’s proposal was to “provide a tool that persons with mobility impairment can easily and cost effectively access to explore ways in which they can improve accessibility in their homes and thus the quality of their daily lives. ” We met at the OT Center to talk, and Kathie shared her ideas about how the adaptation exhibit at the Center might be further developed to incorporate more interactivity and consumer choice.

Kathie and Zsu discuss ideas for expansion of the adapted home

Kathie and Zsu discuss ideas for expansion of the adapted home

Today, Kathie told me she discussed the donation with partners Lucinda Bergbahn and Pecos Kid, who gave the green light to provide funding to our Center! I’m amazed at their generosity and so pleased to know that their gift will enable us to expand our work and, we hope, benefit persons with and without disabilities and raise awareness of the possibilities that can be achieved through home adaptation.

It’s all about immersion..

Adaptation stations inside the exhibit at the occupational therapy center at Jefferson

Adaptation stations inside the home modifications exhibit at the occupational therapy center at Jefferson

Ideas about immersive education have gained considerable momentum recently. The new educational grid from Sun Microsystems, Project Wonderland, has stimulated even more discussion than previously. The gist of immersive education (as well as other aspects of Second Life such as identity) is summarized well in a podcast from Cynthia Calongne. I had the pleasure of meeting Cynthia (Lyr Lobo) at the Sledupotential workshop at NECC, where she led the group in a building project. Hearing the podcast, I can easily understand Lyr’s interest and expertise in building as a tool for learning, as well as a learning activity in itself. In the podcast, she discusses how abstract science concepts come alive for her computer science students.
I found similarities in the themes about immersive education from Lyr’s podcast and a number of publications including Seng and Edirisinghe’s article about teaching computer science in SL and Dickey’s frequently cited Teaching in 3D: Pedagogical Affordances and Constraints of 3D Virtual Worlds for Synchronous Distance Learning that directly apply to the OT Center’s most recent exhibit on Adapting Environments for Daily Life. As one visitor put it:

This is great information! I didn’t realize this would apply to us … a house with seniors in it.

She had read about the hazards of things like throw rugs and heard about adaptations, but it was not until she experienced the exhibit that the message really came through.

Slipping and falling on a throw rug

Slipping and falling on a throw rug

So, we’ll keep racking our collective brains to come up with more ideas on how to engage visitors and provide educational messages they’ll remember. Stay tuned…

New Perspectives from the Tech Museum of Innovation

It was June 16, and the new OT Center exhibit on adapting environments for daily life was scheduled to open in less than 2 days. Having trashed my powerpoint ideas, I found myself surrounded with cool 3D objects, a holodeck, and…CHAOS. i felt completely at a loss as to how the exhibit would come together. So, I returned to a rumination I’ve been having lately, about how SL exhibits are a bit like interactive museums. In semi-desperation, I did a search on museums within Second Life and came across the Tech Museum of Innovation.
Tech Museum of Innovation

Well…good move, Zsu. They have a thought-provoking and very practical tutorial about how to design exhibits in Second Life. #1 on the list was What’s the Big Idea? the big ideaThis alone was worth the trip. Among the comments about #1 was:

Every museum exhibit has a big idea behind it. If you can’t articulate what the exhibit is about in one sentence—one big idea—then it probably needs to be pared down.

I pondered for a bit, and it suddenly came to me: Well of course, the big idea is, Living Life to Its Fullest. This is the new tagline for occupational therapy from the American Occupational Therapy Association. It became clear that LLTTF could be the overall theme of the Center, and that each exhibit could tie into this theme. So, for example in the picture below, there is the sign, LLTTF, with the link to adapting environments below it. It says, [LLTTF] “May be hard to do because of physical,
mental, or emotional issues and/or barriers in the environment.
Adapting Environments
The other points included in the tutorial also were very good. It think it will probably take some time for these messages to sink in. But…at least it gives a leg up to begin doing that 3-dimensional kind of thinking Gia and I spoke about. It’s a process…

Zero to Holodeck in 30 Minutes (well sort of)

On my day off today, I continued to work on and finally was successful at creating a holodeck for the new Adapting Enviroments exhibit. When I say, “continued to work on,” let me explain what I mean…

Last night I pulled my holodeck materials together after taking a class several months ago. DeadheadDMT Infinity, who taught the class, really made it easy, and we went from knowing very little and knowing how to do even less to a completed holodeck in about 1 hour. However…last night was starting from scratch, which of course is an entirely different story. It included:

  1. Figuring out what objects to include
  2. experimenting with where to place the objects
  3. looking for the essential “object a script” that for some reason was missing
  4. going through all the steps to create the holodeck
  5. redoing the holodeck after realizing the script I thought I found was not the actual object a script 😦
  6. coming to the realization that maybe just rezzing 3-D objects that illustrate assistive technology and self-help aids isn’t enough
  7. figuring out what else I wanted those 3D objects in the holodeck to do
  8. experimenting with scripts for the objects

    Okay, are you exhausted just hearing these steps?? I sure was after working on the project for 2-3 hours (I never keep accurate tabs on how long I spend to do stuff in SL, it would probably discourage me from doing it!).

Anyway, I took up the challenge again this morning and creating my first holodeck for the exhibit. I was able to put it together, using the entire holodeck process (no pre-created scenes) in about 30 minutes. Mind you, this replaces only 2 of the 17 powerpoint slides originally planned…but no one said this would be easy or quick!

The dilemma of “structure” in Second Life(R) program development

One of the challenges of working with a group of 7 to create a Second Life project is: how much structure should the team leader provide? One of our aims is to provide a venue for graduate students to actively create content related to healthcare education. Graduate students are expected to think critically, problem solve, and innovate. However, the context of Second Life program development is complex because of the steep learning curve (even for digital natives) and the limited availability of information about the process. And yet…
An idea I’ve been thinking about quite a bit is that innovation requires us to pull from our experience and knowledge, our reference materials, and so forth to do something new, put a different spin on an existing idea or program or approach it in an entirely different way. Even though we start from such tools, in a sense it is like “creating something out of nothing” because we cannot rely on tried and true approaches because there aren’t any (yet). In my view, this is a requirement for graduate education given the way the world is, with the dizzying pace of technology, the complexity of diverse societies, and the expectations of health and human service providers. I don’t have to tell the educators among us that there are many other areas that are equally ill-defined where grad students need to have and further refine these abilities.
But then again….I want this exhibit to open on time and be worth residents’ time to visit. The focus on adapting environments is much broader than stroke awareness and will require even more thought and more work. So, I decided to create a chart of tasks, dates, and personnel and distribute to the grad students, to make our process more efficient. I’ll provide updates about how this more directive approach works. I’m also very interested in any comments about the issue.

Collaborating on the new exhibit

We’ve been hard at work planning the new exhibit on Adapting Environments to Improve Daily Life. The new exhibit will include a home with adapted equipment, animations, and a quiz. See Zsu below, working on “Granny,” a mannequin for the exhibit.

We’re excited to be working with Melvie Pawpaw and Erin Weigler from the School of Speech Pathology & Audiology at Kent State University. Last night we had a very productive meeting to discuss Erin and Melvie’s contributions to the exhibit. It was great to brainstorm and meet Erin. Stay tuned for more info and reports!