For more than 30 years, Community Living, Inc. (CLI) in St. Charles County has developed programs to help adults with disabilities live, work and play in their community. Now, with the help of some of Maryville University’s third-year occupational therapy students, CLI has received some help of its own.
In the fall semester of 2009, Lisa Jaegers, OTR/L, CMAT coordinator, adjunct faculty, together with Ashlyn Cunningham, MA, OTR/L, assistant professor of occupational therapy, and Bev Moore, MSW/LCSW, CLI social worker, developed a learning program in which 29 Maryville OT students provided evaluations for CLI and their clients.
“Each semester that I assist Ashlyn with teaching the OT Evaluations course, we create a few real world experiences for the students,” Jaegers said. “I thought that performing evaluations for clients at CLI would be a great opportunity for the students. They could provide evaluations in a community-based setting for clients who may not receive the service otherwise since they do not have funding for occupational therapy.”
Students who performed individual evaluations had the opportunity to work directly with CLI clients under the close supervision of Jaegers and Cunningham. After reviewing the client’s profile, these students evaluated each client, scoring and summarizing the results of their client recommendations.
“Many of the individuals who attend our Day Habilitation Centers are in need of some type of occupational therapy in order to live more independent and functional lives,” said Joann Sanford, director support services for adults at CLI. “This program that Lisa set up with our social worker, Bev Moore, to come do some assessments was very helpful in meeting this need.”
The clients were not the only ones in need, however. At the time of the student’s visit, CLI was in the process of applying for a grant from the Developmental Disabilities Resource Board (DDRB) to help fund a sensory room and equipment for a new location.
“CLI expressed the need for sensory integration since many of their clients have difficulty processing tactile, auditory, vestibular, and visual information,” Jaegers said. “In preparation for a new facility that is being built to replace their St. Charles location, they expressed the need for recommendations for the new space.”
Since the grant application required an OT sensory needs assessment, CLI asked Maryville students to perform an evaluation and present a recommendation for improvement based on their findings.
Third-year OT students Lacey Gebke, Cassandra Wilke and Nikki Sitton, examined the facility’s existing sensory room equipment and usage and interviewed CLI staff. Based on their evaluation, they created a resource manual of techniques and tools to improve the facility.
“Our project provided the employees with a guide to fully utilize the sensory room that will further provide clients with sensory issues with proper and effective treatment,” Wilke said. “As students, this experience provided us with confidence and knowledge of sensory integration. In the world of occupational therapy, this is a great addition to our resumes.”
The report was instrumental in the DDRB’s approval of the facility’s grant request; CLI was recently awarded $6,000 to build and equip a new sensory room.
“The students did a very thorough job and we received a very detailed assessment which included an analysis of various types of sensory activities, as well as suggestions for equipment,” Sanford said. “I am very happy to report that the DDRB did approve our request for the money to build the sensory room and I feel the assessment was key to that.”