School Based Clinical Fieldwork in Ayukudi, India: Applying the Theory!

Sitara Khan seated with students of ASSA

As Occupational Therapy Masters students, we are required to complete 4 placements in a clinical setting, so when the opportunity to do one internationally arose, I couldn’t say no! Rural South India was a land as foreign to us as we imagined OT might be to it. To our amazement, in the little village with its limited resources and proportionally large population, an inspiring rehabilitation facility, spanning acres of land, had made its place. Amar Seva Sangam (ASSA), a non-profit organization catering to a lifespan of people with disabilities, with its early intervention center, special school, vocational training workshop and extensive spinal cord injury rehabilitation program, offered free services to its population.

Naturally, I worried about our interventions being culturally sensitive and our abilities matching the needs of the population, but I soon realized that the resemblances in the problems we faced, far exceeded the differences. Yes, the setting had fewer material resources than an equivalent center in Canada, but the lack of human resources was an issue that sounded all too familiar!

In our OCC1-617 class, we learned that very few OTs in Quebec practice in school-based settings. Often, a single OT is assigned to an entire school board, resulting in an area of great needs and no service providers. The same challenge presented itself at ASSA: the entire center relied on the services of a single part-time OT. Working at ASSA’s Special School, and quickly became aware that the needs exceeded what I could provide in my 2 month stage, but I wanted to make meaningful change.

In the same course, we were also taught the Partnering for Change model. Though it was developed in Ontario, it was created to tackle the same issue I now faced across the world. Clearly, the model’s relevance was not limited to Canada!

Sitara Khan with some of the teachers at ASSA

The model’s key concepts of collaboration, coaching and partnership, allowed me to provide OT interventions that reached beyond specific students and addressed the larger school context. I saw my clients, the students and the teachers, on a daily basis. I asked to invite the parents at the school multiple times to get their expert input and get them involved. I had “mini-meetings” with groups of teachers to exchange ideas extending beyond my clients to all the students in the school. We discussed classroom adaptations, adjusting teaching materials, managing schedules to ensure all students are alert during activities, and shared ways to ensure positive interaction and learning.

By working with parents and teachers collectively, I know I accomplished more than I would have on my own. The relationship established between all of us was the key to enabling effective change in the students’ lives. This experience allowed me to appreciate the applicability of the Partnering for Change model in all school settings, and its ability to address a problem faced by school-based OTs, not only in Canada or Quebec, but rather, by OTs internationally. In India, despite the language barrier and the cultural differences, this model provided a platform for knowledge translation and effective exchange between professionals, and I am excited to see what changes it brings to school-based OT in Canada when I begin my clinical practice!

By Sitara Khan
OT Masters Student 

4 responses to “School Based Clinical Fieldwork in Ayukudi, India: Applying the Theory!”

  1. Susanne Mak says:

    Wonderful post Sitara!

  2. Caroline Storr says:

    Excellent posting and your personal success with this community based intervention model is so helpful to other students working in the community.

  3. Nancy Pollock says:

    Thanks to Dana for sending your wonderful blog post along to us on the Partnering for Change team. Congratulations on your creativity and resourcefulness. As one of the two OTs who first piloted P4C I know first hand how challenging this tiered model of service can be as we change our typical practices, but also how effective and therefore how rewarding it is as well. We are hearing from many Canadian OTs and those in other countries who are trying out the P4C model, so we are delighted to read about your exoerience. I will share this with our students to inspre them!

  4. Sandra Sahagian Whalen says:

    Buiding on Nancy’a comment above, as the other OT who piloted the P4C model, and who served as the peer mentor for the demonstration and research projects, I applaud this student OT who recognized the need for a different service delivery approach in this setting. Through applying what she learned in school about the Partnering for Change model, she was able to build the capacity and knowledge of staff and families. As a result, not just current clients of this facility will benefit, but many future clients and families as well. Building collaborative relationships and supportive, universally designed environments is key. Well done!

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