Monday, 14 May 2012

Final reflection on new technology - my blog

I have learned a huge amount on this course about researching and linking not just websites but videos and even a podcast. I have also had my first experience of posting comments on other people's sites.

I tried very hard to ensure the blog entries are correctly spelt and have uniform font. My efforts to have uniform headings and layout were considerable, but unfortunately I would need to attend a course on how to achieve these headings, as I was stumped by my lack of familiarity with anything other than Word.

In future blogs, I will either copy and paste from Word (which seems a time consuming activity) or look for an online tutorial on headings and margins, and how to alter them on!


Tutorial Eight - Assistive Technology

Definition of Assistive Technology

There are many definitions of assistive technology. Here is one from a European Rehabilitation Technology project, which I located in book about choosing assistive devices:

Assistive technology is “ any product, instrument, strategy, service and practice, used by people with disabilities and older people – specially produced or generally available – to prevent, compensate, relieve or neutralise the impairment, disability or handicap, and improve the individual’s autonomy and quality of life” (Jensen cited in Pain, McLellan and Gore,  2003, p.14)

This definition is wider than some business dictionary definitions, and I like it as it includes not just products but practices, not just disabled but older people, and prevention, compensation and neutralisation of problems.


Pain, H., McLellan, L, & Gore, S. (2003). Choosing assistive devices; A guide for users and professionals. London; Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

One example of assistive technology from Star Mobility 


One piece of equipment available from Star Mobility and Disability Services is a talking photo album. The idea is that each page of the album is accompanied by an oral description of the photo and who is in it, and what the person was doing (or similar). These sounds are recorded into the album’s in-built microphone by family members or caregivers (or the owner of the album themselves, where feasible). As each page is turned, the user pushes a play button and a message of up to 10 seconds can be heard. (Star Mobility, 2012).

The album need not be used for photos. It can contain drawings, timetables, stories, messages, or sequences of instructions accompanying pictures (for example how to bake a cake).

The product could be used for a variety of disabilities involving cognition and memory, but the supplier specifically mentions the usefulness for dementia patients (Star Mobility, 2012).

The price is $98.00. The album comes in 3 sizes, A5, A4 and A3.

Relationship with occupation


This assistive technology could help particularly with occupational transition, as an early dementia patient begins to need aids and prompts. It could help slow their transition and decline in function to further stages of dementia, where occupation becomes less and less easily carried out.

It also helps minimise occupational deprivation. It has been said that it is not a person’s disability which deprives them of occupation, but something external in the environment. (Whiteford,  2010, p.320  ). One example of such deprivation might arise because a dementia client’s family is too busy or frustrated by having to repeat things over and over, to help the person cook a cake. The album could counteract this, by enabling the client to carry out the occupation of cooking a cake with help from the talking album.



 Here are links to 3 You Tube clips showing talking albums and examples of their use.

The first shows a child using the album to prompt the sequence of his morning routine:

Even though this clip below is in Spanish, it shows good close ups of the recording and play buttons and how to record for a page. 

This final clip below is with dementia patients in Adelaide. Mention is made of the impact voice can have to stir memories when the patient is looking at a photo. Also, the albums are used to calm patients  who may be getting upset or aggressive due to their condition.


Star Mobility and Disability Centre. 2012. Talking photo albums. Retrieved from

Whiteford, G. (2010). Occupational deprivation: understanding limited participation. In C.H. Christiansen & E.A. Townsend (Eds). Introduction to occupation: the art and science of living (2nd Ed). (pp 303 -328). New Jersey: Pearson

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Tutorial Six - online communities - support groups for parents of special needs children

 Introduction and links to 3 chosen communities

One of my fieldwork settings was a school for students with a variety of special needs, including physical needs, autism needs and others. Having never been part of an online community before, I wondered if groups exist on the internet to support parents and families of children with various disabilities.

I searched  with Google. I found it very easy to find online support communities internationally, particularly based from the UK and the USA. Here are links to two British sites which include the ability to join online support groups.

The first is called Hemi-kids UK, and is for families of children specifically with hemiplegia. (Note it asks parents to join a more general group if their children have a more generalised cerebral palsy). The second link is to a website and several different online forums for families with special needs children generally.

I found it more difficult to find online support groups in New Zealand - there are several sites offering advice and contact details for local support groups, but these tended to be more offline support once an interested person makes contact. This may be because of the smaller size of New Zealand,  with potentially less need to rely on chat rooms if people can make other connections. However, I did locate this site(link below), which as part of it has a discussion forum for young people with autism. They cannot chat in "real time", but can post thoughts , ideas and messages to each other on the forum online. The website itself is called Cloud 9 Children's Foundation, and here is the link to the forum:

Brief description of each community

  • What do you think is the intended purpose of the site?  Information can be linked here from the specific sites.
  • How interactive is this site? 
  • How can people contribute?
  • What do they contribute?


    This  includes online discussions groups, email discussion groups and information on hemiplegia and details of local support groups.

    The site is specifically aimed at parents of children with hemiplegia, hemiplegic cerebral palsy or hemiparesis. The purpose of the site is to provide information and links for families with shared interests in the condition their child has.

    The site is interactive in that there are online fora. For example, there is Hemihelp Online Forum for UK parents. People need to register and agree to conditions of use of the site. But once registered they can read postings, place postings of their own and interact with other users. There is not a live chat room.

    The forum is split into topics of interest, including types of therapy, equipment, emotional and behavioural issues and funding issues. 

    Special Kids UK
    This is set up in a very similar way to Hemikids. However there is not only a forum but a chat room for those who have registered.

    I was unable to read any postings at all without joining up, whereas on the Hemikids site I could read public postings and get the gist of what topics are covered without actually joining.

    I joined up with Special Kids but found that even after sending an email and verifying it, then being able to log in, I could still only see the broad topic heads rather than individual postings. I am sure I could have eventually found my way online with help from the site administrator, but had already spent quite a bit of time getting to stage 1!

    The Special Kids site has not only a forum but a chat room which makes the community even more potentially "interactive". People must register but can then be involved posting to forums or the chat room. Topics covered include communicating with your special needs child, education, items for sale or swap, and bereavement for those whose children have died or are terminally ill.

    Cloud 9 NZ  (Aspergers children)
    This site provides information and assistance for parents, including details of local support groups. It also has an online discussion forum for "young people" themselves. From viewing the postings I saw that the young people tended to be around the age of 12 or 13.

    The forum is very interactive and young people who have registered make postings which include an avatar icon and their (probably real) first name. The recent postings are in the nature of children introducing themselves and their interests, on the basis that they may make online connections with other Aspergers' young people.

    Material presented in the online package.  

    •  Make comment on why people choose to contribute to each community. 
    • What is it they are seeking?
    • Is information shared one way or reciprocal?
    • How do you think chosen sites address or relate to occupation concepts introduced in tutorial one e.g. occupational justice, occupational disruption, occupational transition, or occupational deprivation.  Choose at least 2 concepts to discuss. 


      I believe that parents contribute to this site to obtain information, support and advice from, and to provide the benefit of their own experience to, others in a similar (and rare) situation. In a geographic community there will be few families with children with the condition.

      The forum definitely involves reciprocity.

      I believe people are participating in this community for most or all of Kollock's (1999) 4 reasons. They anticipate reciprocity and enjoy a sense of community. They may also get a sense of efficacy, at the very least by being parents trying to do their best for their children. Some participants will also be interested in increased recognition of the impairments and issues their children face.

      From the postings I reviewed, I saw links to occupational justice (discussions on funding sources and equity) and occupational deprivation (a parent asking how their child might be able to ride a trike, and what features the trike might need).

      Special Kids UK
      I consider the purpose and reasons for being involved in Special kids UK are very similar to those of Hemikids participants (see above), with the exception that geographic considerations may not be so strong since the site covers all special needs children rather than simply those with a particular type of condition involving one-sidedness (hemi).

      Cloud 9 Aspergers children
      I believe this online forum is NOT so much to provide and seek information and advice, but to make social connections with like-minded people. The forum states it is for young people with Aspergers to connect, discuss ideas and maybe strike up friendship with like-minded others in different parts of New Zealand.

      Children posting a comment are looking for reciprocity, which may or may not meet a response. In my view, because of the age of the children involved, the postings are fairly superficial and generally involve only a comment and a response for each child. However, the potential exists for an ongoing online friendship if that develops.

      I believe that children participate in the forum  for 2 out of Kollock's(1999) 4 reasons, namely sense of efficacy and sense of community. The children posting seem to be aware of their own diagnoses of having Aspergers, and are seeking a sense of normality and community by becoming involved.

      I saw links with occupational transition here, namely the transition from being children to young people able to make connections in their own right towards full participation in society. I also saw links to occupational disruption in the parents' information section, with information about behavioural meltdowns and other relatively extreme disruptions to occupational participation on a daily basis.


      Kollock, P. (1999). The economics of online cooperation. In M. smith & P. Kollock (Eds). Communities in Cyberspace . London: Routledge

      Potential ethical issues eg lack of identity and accountability

      In each of the 3 communities I reviewed, there would be potential to post dishonest or inaccurate information onto the forum. Each site requires a user to accept certain terms and conditions on joining, but in reality the main consequence for improper or unethical behaviour would be removal of the ability to use the site, and perhaps removal of any improper posting, potentially AFTER it had been seen.

      Another ethical concern would be people trying to make a profit from posting on a site, for example recommending their business products (or even pretending to be parents who can recommend the product. Note this warning  copied and pasted below from the Hemikids site:

      "Please do not join Hemi-Kids in order to promote a product, harvest email addresses or with the intention of using the Hemi-Kids list to promote a newly launched website or organization."
      I was interested in the following warning placed on the Hemikids site as well:

      "Courts of law can subpoena records, including messages in the Hemi-Kids archives and your response to the Hemi-Kids survey. If you are involved in any sort of lawsuit or expect to be involved in the future, please consult your attorney before joining the group."


      Benefits and limitations of these communities compared with traditional geographical communities (considered in terms of Otago Polytechnic's online learning package).

      Of the 10 benefits specified in the online package(slides 10 and 11) I consider the Hemikids and Special Kids UK provide all of these, with the exception that potential members of Special Kids cannot actually be silent observers before they participate (since one cannot see threads till one has applied to join). Both online communities compliment the other communities the families live in, for example communities involving their health professionals and teachers and human (not virtual) support network.

      The Cloud 9 forum also provides many benefits, for example the ability to make connections beyond the geographical area the young people live in, and to share exchanges with like minded people. However, to date the forum is being used more to "say hi" than to share factual information. This ability to make social connections is still, of course, a benefit to those who may not form connections so easily in person.

      In terms of the downsides of the communities (slide 12), I consider all 3 communities could easily be examples of those which are organic and could change in their focus to something not necessarily intended in the beginning (this might be good or bad), For example, people might focus their postings on selling old items of equipment rather than exchanging information, say, on funding sources. The Cloud 9 site may never develop beyond one-off hellos into cyberspace.

      As well, the larger 2 UK sites (Hemikids and Special Kids) must involve enormous input from administrators (one topic had 334,000 posts), yet people can join and participate for free.
      Other negatives such as potential misuse and people placing too much reliance on virtual as opposed to real communities would also be risks for all 3 sites.

      However, the negatives were likely outweighed by the positives - I did see real benefits in global information sharing between people with shared interests.


      Sunderland, J. (2012). Online Learning Package. Week 3: Online communities.[Slides].Dundedin: Otago Polytechnic. Retrieved from

        Tuesday, 27 March 2012

        Tutorial Five - videos related to Fieldwork

        Introduce a chosen topic of interest drawn from your fieldwork experience or an OT practice area. 
        • Find five different sources of online video content that help explain, demonstrate, or provide personal experiences of your topic. 


        Use of switching devices to enable occupation

        One of my fieldwork experiences was at a school for children and teenagers with multiple special needs. I was particularly interested in the use of switches by the staff to involve students in a group activity or play that they mightn't have otherwise had the capacity to do. I was also very interested in observing the most able of the 5 students in my classroom use head switches to drive her wheelchair. Finally, I noticed on placement how meaningful and useful it would be if a student could communicate simply by yes and no  answers to closed questions, using switches if necessary.

        I have embedded (for ease of reference) 5 You Tube videos in this blog entry. 

        The first two clips show different forms of switching devices that can be connected to toys or other equipment. in my fieldwork one student had a noisy colourful plastic toy that he started up by pushing down on the big durable button connected to it. As well, each week my class did "cooking", which was mainly undertaken by the staff due to the high levels of impairment of the students. However, the recipe always involved using a food mixer which each student could start whizzing by pressing or making contact with a large plastic yellow switch connected to it. As one of the video clips says, switching can help teach cause and effect.

        More complex switching is shown on the clip in which a group of students make music. 


        I have also included a clip of a switch which has sensory integration components such as rubber surface and lights and sound that come on when the button is pushed. There were autistic children at my fieldwork setting who may have benefited from this.

        Finally, I have included a clip showing a person operating their own wheelchair using head switches.

        Tutorial Four - Film creation and posting - Occupational Transition

        As part of our OT course our group made a 1 minute film with a digital video camera. We needed to choose and make a story involving a person transitioning from one occupation to another. And its impacts! We chose to depict an adult  person fully embedded in the corporate workforce who chooses to become a full time student.

        We needed to create small scenes, then add them together to make the story. This involved getting suitable environments and props to film with, and obtaining and charging a camera. A tripod was required to help positioning and smoothness of camera shots. Once we had finished various shots, we uploaded them to Windows Movie Maker, and edited and ordered the shots. Our main editing involved trimming each shot and transitioning it to the next in the sequence. One of our group members added music as a final touch - I did not see how this was done, but I did learn a lot by participating in the editing process of the images.

        Here is our film:

        Tuesday, 6 March 2012

        Tutorial Three -Blog creation and exploration

        I created my first ever blog and profile, selected a simple template and got going!

        Tutorial Two - Occupational Engagement-do, be, become, belong.

          My fieldwork - Powerpoint about Anxiety Management.

        My fieldwork was in a maternal mental health setting.There my supervising occupational therapist worked with clients on improving their function at daily living by (in some cases) helping them develop techniques to manage their anxiety.

        Accordingly, I chose activities related to reducing and managing anxiety, as the basis for this powerpoint. I chose anxiety because most of us could do with help in managing stress or anxiety, even at a low level. I believe anxiety management occupations enhance other meaningful occupation.

        Occupational therapists assist people by enabling their occupation in meaningful activities, namely activities which are important to the client, no matter what they are. Occupation is about what people DO, what they can then BE and BECOME, and by which they can then BELONG.

        My slideshow (or powerpoint presentation) is at the bottom of this post.
          Themes in my PowerpointAlthough occupation is seen by some as doing, as "goal-directed, purposeful activities, occupation is about more than doing. It is a synthesis of 'doing, being and becoming' "(Wilcock, 1998, cited in  Hammel, 2004, p 301 ). Being is a state of existence."'To 'be' in this sense requires that people have time to discover themselves, to reflect and , to simply exist" (Wilcock, 1998b, p 255). Occupational therapists help people become the people they can be. They help them develop talents and competencies to enable them to become. (Wilcock,1998b , p 251). Finally, occupation helps people gain a sense of belonging. good health outcomes and occupations help people's capacities to do things, and to experience not only meaning and satisfaction, but "belonging and sharing" Wilcock, 1998a, p 343) .  I now explain these principles in terms of the slides in my powerpoint. My slideshow about anxiety management occupations contains individual captions relating many of the slides to the do, be, become and belong theme. The power point shows first, the general feelings and impaired functioning that stress and anxiety can have (images 1,5,6 and 7). The slideshow also shows specific examples of stress impacting on the act of feeding a toddler (doing) (image 2), and using the kitchen (image 3).  There are also slides of people doing things to combat their anxiety, like being in an anxiety group or watching DVDs for education on anxiety (eg image 17).There are slides showing how people with reduced anxiety are able to just "be", that is, exist ( images 18 and 19 are intended to show people being with nature).  In terms of becoming, anxiety management can help people become calmer and do their activities better (images 10 and 11). The can become better functioning (image 13) and become more of the person they wish to be (image 16, belonging to a baseball team). As well, participation in an anxiety support group may bring a sense of belonging, both to the group and to the wider world (images 14 and 15).  Ethical considerations This was the first time I had ever sought images online, and used them in my own work. I used Google Images for some photographs, but made sure I linked through to see those images published on the particular website on which they had been published. I also made sure I referenced those websites as sources.For my own photographs, I made sure my photos did not identify individual people, by not showing their faces. It would be possible to obtain proper consent from people to use their images online, but that consent would need to be full especially in terms of the world wide web.  As well, in my case I photographed 13 year olds, and would not consider they were competent to give appropriate consent - their parents would have needed to give that consent as they are minors.  
        References Hammell, K.W. (2004). Dimensions of meaning in the occupations of daily life.  Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71 (5).  

        Wilcock, A.A. (1998a).  Occupation for health.  British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61, 340-345. 

        Wilcock, A.A. (1998b).  Reflections on doing, being becoming.  Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65, 248-256.    

        View more PowerPoint from PIOluddite

        Tutorial One: Information Technology - use, benefits and ethical issues

        Introduction and definition

        In this section the focus is on the wider picture of IT – its benefits, its downsides – and recognising how much we depend on and need IT in today’s world. We also draw our mental attention to ethical issues such as social exclusion, and privacy and intellectual property.

        There are various definitions of this broad term. Let us take a dictionary definition. Information technology is :

         "the technology involved in the recording, storage, and dissemination of information, esp. using computers, telecommunications etc"
        (Pearsall, J. & Trumble, B. (eds) (1996), Oxford English Reference Dictionary OxfordOxford University Press)

        To me this definition suggests that IT is particularly about information in an electronic setting, such as with computers and other digital devices. I understand that information can be recorded, saved and stored, and retrieved and given out again, as suggested in the dictionary definition. But I admit my own thinking about IT is that it is about also the manipulation of information, and the various software and hardware which applies for using a computer in the modern world. For example, if I try to install programme X and that action has a consequence for Programme Y which is already installed on my computer, I would hope my workplace’s “IT” department could help me, even though I am not just trying to retrieve “information”. (On the other hand, I guess the programme itself is some sort of information – though it could be entertainment like a game).

        Prevalence and widespread use in today's society

        Computer technology and digital devices are in widespread use in our developed society. These include cellphones, tablets, game consoles and computer databases in libraries.

        A Google search on the use of IT in today’s society leads us to many many sources of information on this topic. Here is just one example of a site called Slideshare.

        As a non-technical person (more like a digital alien than a digital migrant) I could hardly understand what Slideshare was about. I then watched 2 videos on the site, from which I learned that people join up to the site, and then can upload power point, documents and videos, see other users’ presentations, download them and remix and edit them to use for their own purposes. People can also sync MP3 audio with their slides to make lectures and webinars (this must mean attach sound in the places you want). Then, a big focus is the fact that you can get your presentations “out there” in many places, through links with Facebook, Linked In , Twitter and other social media. This apparently helps improve your business as people watch your presentations and know you.

        The use of IT is increasingly prevalent, at least in developed countries.The following You Tube video discusses an initiative in a district of America to have children as young as 5 have access to hand held devices like ipod touch and Ipad in their classroom for everyday educational use.

        Even as a digital alien I use IT in my daily life. I use a cellphone to text rather than email or use my land line phone . I do internet banking. I email people, and I use a digital camera, and store photos. I upload photos to the Harvey Norman website where I make hard copy books of my photos instead of the old fashioned albums.

        I conclude that IT is widespread and prevalent in today's western society.

        IT devices I am comfortable using  -  examples for my  purposeful occupation

        I feel comfortable with cellphones and ATM banking machines. I use credit cards and etfpos cards. I use Google search and databases.
        I feel very uncomfortable with new technology because it keeps changing. Sometimes it becomes more user friendly, but the simplest tasks (like downloading a You tube video) seem extremely difficult to me. I am uncomfortable with Facebook and social media – this is due to not spending enough time on it, and having a lack of interest in using computers as a leisure activity. In my mind the computer is what I “work” with, and so I spend as little of my leisure time on it as possible.

        Obviously IT is crucial in many forms of purposeful occupation. For example, study, and retrieving simple information such as searching for a recipe to make a cake. I do use it to find out what movies are on at my local cinema, but as a component of the overall occupation. I do not use it as a form of occupation in itself.

        Use of IT in fieldwork, Occupational Therapy practice and enabling occupation

        I have seen IT use in OT practice while on my fieldwork.Obviously clinical notes are all electronic these days, and different members of the MDT can access the file on computers from different physical locations. In one setting, a maternal mental health service, clients could be lent DVDs on topics such as anxiety and baby’s communication signals. In a special needs school, a student was trialling Dynavox as a method of communicating to other people.

        There are multiple ways an OT can use IT as a tool. Verdonck and Ryan (2008) give examples including:
        ·        Entertainment, educational, business  and social contacts for people who are socially or physically isolated
        ·        Memory aids on cellphones such as photos of people and auditory alarms as reminders
        ·       Computer games for grip strength, exercise, cognition and more.
        (Verdonck M.C., & Ryan, S. (2008) Mainstream technology as an occupational therapy tool: technophobe or technogeek?  British Journal of Occupational Therapy 71(6),253-256)

        OTs will need to use judgment as to the suitability and extent of appropriate IT use with each client. For example, a client with disabilities who requires training in social skills may need their programme focused onto real-world society rather than virtual internet worlds. Verdonck and Ryan (2008) cite research showing that computer game use is linked with negative effects such as aggression and addiction. (Griffiths et al, 2003, referred to in Verdonck and Ryan,2008).

        I envisage IT use as very important in some areas of OT practice. This is especially true as young people in our society grow older, and have grown up with visual or kinaesthetic learning methods such as videos and interactive games. OTs have considerable involvement in educating clients, and the learning will need to be relevant to the clients.

        Note too that the use of occupation as therapy will also have to take into account the cultural changes in our society . A Chard says, our “arts” today include digital photography and manipulating images and sounds on computers, and crafts can be something like playing a computer game (Chard, J. (2007). Computer games and karate: the arts and crafts of today. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 70(8), 329)

        Here is an example of a video using the Wii for stroke therapy

        In this video, a rehabilitation centre uses an adapted, large joystick instead of a mouse, as a client with very little upper extremity strength gets physical function back. He practises playing patience and moving the joystick.

        Blogging is another use of IT which OTs need to understand.Here is a link to a blog OT4OT .(I think it means online technology for OTs.) The writer puts forward the benefits of blogging, including sharing ideas with other professionals and also recording one's professional activity.

        IT is crucial in the occupational therapy field in terms of assistive devices for clients. Here is a link to a podcast explaining the use of augmentative technology for communication. OTs need to know about the options for their clients, from simple tools and techniques without using technology (eg eyes left for yes, eyes right for no, to technological tools such as eye gazing technology to type on a screen.

        I can see, therefore, that it will be vital for me as an OT to make technology my friend rather than my enemy. It will help me keep updated as a professional (by accessing information on conditions, ideas and adaptations). It may  help clients to achieve therapy goals in different ways –for example using a console game joystick to motivate a burned little girl to move her skin and prevent contractures on her upper extremity and shoulder. Technology is also part of meaningful occupations themselves in today’s world, for example being part of an online social group, or playing a game (yesterday’s Monopoly board game could be today’s computer game!).

        Ethical implications

        There are many ethical issues. One is intellectual property and copying and sharing. The rules around this are unclear to me, let alone the accepted moral code.  For example, I believe there is something called jailbreak by which kids can access Apple paying games for free, yet this must be illegal.

        There are issues around privacy – many websites or on-line accessible companies make users sign terms and conditions whereby personal information can be given to associates or used as (even unidentified) market research. It is simplest to click Yes to terms and conditions whenever we see them, due to time pressures in life. Person A can be filmed without their consent, and a video uploaded to You Tube for world wide consumption within seconds.

        There are issues about freedom of expression versus a right to a reputation. Opinions about people can be easily published on the web, and even if there are “legal” protections in place, in practical terms it is costly and time-consuming to try and take legal action because one’s reputation has been sullied.

        A big issue is exclusivity. First, there is exclusivity due to lack of capability. For example older people or people with certain cognitive disabilities are excluded from a huge part of society today. Significantly, there is social exclusion, due to the costs of digital devices and computers. There is also a digital divide between those countries with cheap access to high speed internet highways, and those without.

        Introduction to this blog

        I am a second year Occupational Therapy student who is very ignorant about technology. This is my first ever blog.