Diving Deep into the Layers of Reflexivity

My daily commute on Montreal’s underground transit system got a whole lot more reflective last Friday, as I read Barbra Gibson’s fresh take on everyone’s dependence on technology, and the tendency to “normalize” people when it comes to universal design and rehabilitation. Her arguments took me through various stages of bargaining, discomfort and ultimately reflection that things need to change in our practice as Occupational Therapists (OT’s), all in the 45 minutes it took me to get to the McGill campus. What follows are my opinions on a few of her points.

Challenging ideas of dependency and disability

A form of person-technology assemblage that resonates with many, author in photo.

The article challenges the idea that dependency on technology is just for rehabilitation clients, and argues that we are all in someway dependent on it. We are all part of assemblages, or a whole that consists of technology, our physical bodies and others in our social circle. These assemblages change depending on the technology we are currently using, with whom we are interacting and in what environment. This notion fits well into an occupational therapist’s mentality; our end goal does not necessarily need to be technology-free, we simply want to enable our clients to function in the best way possible. I spent most of my summer in my second placement trying to find technology that best fit both my client’s and their family members’ needs and ultimately making their assemblages work for them, even if it involved using the technology non-conventionally. I credit my supervisor for pushing me to think outside the box in my solutions, and really listen to what my client needed. As such, I whole heartedly agreed with Gibson’s take on this which made me bargain, or argue that my profession’s focus on function, with or without technology, still embodies this ideal.

Challenging the notion of universal design and normalization

Gibson also demonstrates how universal design, although innocent enough in theory, is essentially trying to design towards a universal human or an average person. Coming from Montreal, I feel like any strides towards accessibility are much needed, (I have seen WAY too many accessibility features that require one to use a staircase to reach them). However, Gibson made me question this ideal; (more…)

Taking action: My journey to Pivot International

Marie-Kim McFetridge, McGill M.Sc.(OT) 2011, in Nicaragua, offering occupational therapy services to disabled children in need.

Veuillez lire la version française ci-dessous

Many of us who choose a career in the health professions do so because we want to make a positive impact on the lives of others.  I most certainly did, and in December 2012, I jumped at the chance to participate in a rehabilitation project that brought me to the little village of Santa Julia in Nicaragua to help Milton, a 5-year-old boy with cerebral palsy.  This project was the brainchild of then-student Simone Cavanaugh, now a McGill law graduate, who met Milton and his family while participating in a humanitarian project the previous year.  Profoundly touched by Milton’s situation, Simone returned home to Canada determined to help him obtain the necessary adaptive equipment to realize his full potential.

This project was for me, the beginning of a life-changing adventure.  In this first trip, we helped young Milton, who was housebound and required full time care provided by his mother.  Milton received a specially adapted wheelchair, as well as training on its use and proper body positioning.  You can imagine the impact we had on Milton’s quality of life, as well as his mother’s.  By allowing him to sit upright in a chair, Milton could better interact with his environment and work towards achieving more developmental milestones, such as improving his motor and communication skills.  Just as compelling, this allowed Milton and his mother to better integrate into the community, with more opportunities to learn, play and socialize with peers.  (more…)

Seizing the Opportunity: A Placement in India

Brittany Myhre (left) with her supervisor, Harsha Babani, and others after a training seminar in Amar Seva Sangam, in Tamil Nadu, India.

As part of the Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy, each student is required to complete 4 clinical placements to gain clinical experience, and put our classroom knowledge into practical application.  When the opportunity to apply for an international placement came up, I seized it and  was fortunate to be granted a chance to participate in an 8-week stage in Tamil Nadu, India.

The host organization, Amar Seva Sangam (ASSA) is located in a very rural portion of Southern India and is a non-profit organization, serving children in its early intervention school, a special school for children with learning, intellectual or physical disabilities, an in-patient spinal cord rehabilitation unit, vocational training, in addition to an integrated school system, where children from the community can also attend. Most of the services are offered free of charge, which allows the families living within the surrounding communities to attend to their children’s needs without concern to their already often precarious financial situations.    (more…)

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