In 2013, the School of Health and Medical Sciences (SHMS) awarded Clinical Education and Research Partnership Grants totaling more than $45,000 to four institutions that educate developmentally disabled students, assist children who have brain injuries and protect young athletes at risk of concussion. SHMS already has enjoyed successful partnerships with all four recipients.
"Our School's mission to educate the healthcare leaders of tomorrow goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to building strong community partnerships and improving healthcare for the benefit of all," says SHMS Dean Brian B. Shulman, PhD. "These invaluable relationships are the foundation of our School's hands-on clinical education programs, which health sciences students want and need in order to be successful in their fields."
A CLEARER PICTURE
At the P.G. Chambers School in Cedar Knolls, SHMS graduate students in physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT) and speech-language pathology (SLP) will take active roles in determining how best to teach developmentally disabled children whose brains "are not [effectively] interpreting what the eye is seeing," says Andrea C. Quigley, MS, the Director of Development at P.G. Chambers. The private school serves 700 children in northern New Jersey.
Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) has been recognized, in recent years, as a distinct disability, one that presents particular challenges for students and clinicians alike. "It is different from an ocular impairment. [Often] there's nothing wrong with the eye itself," says Dawn Hearne, MHA, OTR, Director of Occupational Therapy at the school. "CVI has a huge impact on learning, and it's important to us to assess what students are seeing and how they're seeing it, and what is the best way to present things to them in the classroom," adds Quigley.
With the help of the SHMS grant, P.G. Chambers's "Changing Learning Outcomes for Children with CVI" project will develop educational strategies tailored to individual students with the condition. Accomplishing this will involve "quite a bit of assessment, observation and interpretation," says Quigley, noting that SHMS students will assist in that effort. These clinical experiences will provide "increased awareness of the characteristics a child with CVI may present," as well as an opportunity to build observation and assessment skills.
Another plus: collaboration between OT and PT clinicians. The children at P.G. Chambers should benefit as well, because the SHMS students are another pair of eyes in the classroom. Says Quigley, "They bring in great ideas. And they're enthusiastic."
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
An SHMS grant to Children's Specialized Hospital in Mountainside (CSH-M) will help determine whether a commercial "neuromuscular activation system," already used in physical rehabilitation programs for adults, can be effective with disabled children as well. The "Innovative Applications of Redcord Using Collaborative Learning" project at CSH-M will offer clinical rotation opportunities for SHMS PT and OT students.
"We saw the benefit of using Redcord in one facility, and decided to apply for this grant because we wanted to put [a Redcord unit] in another facility," explains Susan Winning, BA, PT, the Clinical Quality Manager at CSH-M, a private institution serving 20,000 children and families at 10 sites in New Jersey. "Right now, Redcord is used primarily for PT," says Winning, who hopes the system will also prove effective in pediatric OT programs. "We want to identify whom would benefit, and how we can use this equipment in a safe and efficient manner with our patients," she says. "We have to train the staff, and this grant is helping pay for those trainings."
Redcord is essentially a physical therapy system using varied arrangements of slings to increase or reduce the weight borne by certain muscles during exercise. It enables a patient to move "efficiently," Winning says, noting that challenges for clinicians include "translating" therapeutic movements into everyday activities. During their rotations, the SHMS students will observe patients, learn the principles of the equipment and work with the clinicians to develop plans of care for the patients.
CREATING A NEW ENVIRONMENT
The installation of a "controlled multisensory environment" at the Phoenix Center in Nutley will be possible thanks to a third SHMS grant. Based on the Snoezelen room concept (invented in the Netherlands in the 1970s and pronounced "snooze-len", from the Dutch words for "seeking" and "relaxing"), the Phoenix Center space should be ready this spring.
The private school, which serves nearly 150 students who exhibit autism or other developmental disabilities, hopes to help its students self-regulate behavior that otherwise would interfere with learning, says Geraldine A. Gibbia, PhD, CCC-SLP, the Co-founder and Executive Director at the Phoenix Center.
SHMS students in OT, PT and SLP will work directly with youngsters in the multisensory environment, says Project Director Gail Stocks, MA, OTR. The room will offer SHMS students a chance to engage with and evaluate a state-of-the-art treatment tool. "The graduate students, who are well versed in research, can help us show more of a rationale for the use of this tool within our setting," Stocks says.
Essentially a quiet room where children with autism and similar conditions can engage with gentle sensory stimulation (such as aromatherapy), the area "will be more of a relaxation room, where we can control the level of sensory stimulation," Stocks says. After spending time there, the student should "be able to return to the classroom in a more functional manner."
SHMS students will observe whether difficult and stereotypical behaviors decrease in the students using the room, Gibbia notes. While on clinical rotation, they will work one-on-one in the room with the children.
Raritan Bay Medical Center's (RBMC) Maria Luisa "Malou" Paderon, PT, DPT, intends to utilize the SHMS grant to launch a much-needed conversation about head injuries in the youth sports community.
"According to a research study1, concussion among high school athletic injuries represented higher occurrence compared to collegiate injuries," notes Paderon, who directs the physical therapy and rehabilitation departments at RBMC, based in Perth Amboy and Old Bridge. The study's data shows "the weighted national estimate for the number of concussions sustained in all sports was 135,901 in high school." Paderon says, "Promoting safety among the athletes means we will avoid injuries to begin with, and that's really our role."
At the heart of the "Sports Medicine Concussion Management and Injury Prevention Program," funded in part by the SHMS grant, is community outreach. Information about the potentially disabling nature of head injuries common in contact sports "should be available at all levels, and we want to get involved in reaching out to those people who are underprivileged," Paderon says.
SHMS students doing rotations at RBMC "will be learning to collaborate," she declares. "Not just with other members of the staff, but with the athletes, the families and the community."
Adds Paderon: "I hope that, after completion of this program, the students have instilled in their minds that the best intervention for sports injuries among young athletes is prevention."TO LEARN MORE about the SHMS Clinical Education and Research Partnership Grants program, contact Christopher W. O'Brien, PhD, LAT, ATC, Assistant Dean for Special Academic Programs and Projects, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 275-2220.
1L.M. Gessel, S.K. Fields, C.L. Collins, R.W. Dick, &
R.D. Comstock. Concussions among United States high school and
collegiate athletes. J Athl Train. 2007 Oct-Dec; 42(4): 495–503.
This story originally appeared in the 2013 issue of Insights magazine, published annually by the School of Health and Medical Sciences. Read the rest of the magazine here.
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