Penn State DuBois OTA Students Help Children Learn Focus
Students in the honors section of the Penn State DuBois Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Program are helping elementary school students learn concentration and focus that will help them complete their school work and other tasks. The six OTA honors students meet weekly with students in grades three, four and five, at Wasson Elementary School in DuBois, and lead the youngsters in a program called, How Does Your Engine Run?
"Using an analogy of a car engine, it helps children to identify how to get their engines just right in order to be able to concentrate on tasks," said senior instructor and fieldwork coordinator for the Penn State DuBois OTA Program Marge Pendzick. "With different hands-on activities and discussions, the children learn to recognize when their engine is running too slow or too fast, and learn different strategies to change their engine speed."
Exercises in the program include arts and crafts, and object manipulation, and various other activities that require concentration and focus. One activity involved students filling balloons with dried beans to make a "stress ball". This not only provided practice in concentration to make the stress ball, but the finished product can also be rolled through the hands to quell stress and anxiety later when students need some relief.
Other activities in the program teach techniques for controlled breathing, and for using sensory stimulation to regulate the body's energy.
"It helps students self-regulate and moderate their behavior using a sensory-cognitive approach," Pendzick said.
For the Penn State DuBois students, it provides hands-on learning opportunities that will help prepare them for their career.
"I want to work in pediatrics and work in a school," said OTA major Kylie McGarry of Curwensville. "This is a really good learning experience for me, because I could end up using programs just like this when I start a career."
Pendzick said the variety of therapy options used with real patients in this program provides invaluable lessons for her OTA majors. She said, "It's nice for our students to work with these kids closely, learning how to change therapy if it doesn't work, or to stay with therapy that does work."