By Damon Markiewicz

The Springfield College Department of Occupational Therapy was involved in a pair of community events during the month of February that allowed students an opportunity to engage in experiential learning, while also serving our local community, true to our Humanics philosophy.

During the week of Feb. 20-24, the OT program hosted its annual camp-lab on the campus, a Winter C.A.M.P. (Celebrating Abilities–Making Possibilities) designed to assist transition-age young adults with mild disabilities an opportunity to experience college life. Each participant was paired with a small group of occupational therapy graduate students who serve as mentors.

During the five-day camp, participants make friends as they check out the Springfield College dining hall, events, activities, and fitness complex. They also explore different hobbies and interests. Faculty members from the Department of Occupational Therapy supervise the graduate students in the planning and execution of activities.

“Springfield College is a perfect place for our Winter C.A.M.P. participants to experience these life-changing activities, and make decisions about what they want to do next in their own lives,” said Springfield College Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy Elizabeth McAnulty, who has been a part of multiple camps similar to this year’s program in her professional career. “It is an intensive learning experience for all the participants and their student-mentor teams.”

Attendees and graduate occupational therapy students in their final semester of academic studies, experience this week together. The college students help set goals for the participants, and at the end of the week, the groups collaborate together to recap all of the accomplishments achieved during the week.

 “This program is a unique opportunity that brings together professors, occupational therapy students, community professionals, and a wonderful group of participants,” added McAnulty, who along with graduate assistants Sarah Bannon and Kay Laughlin led and organized this year’s program. “In a week, all of the participants lives are transformed in some way by the magical memories made during Winter C.A.M.P.”

This experience for occupational therapy students is an important teaching tool as they prepare to get ready for their fieldwork studies moving forward. The trials learned during the week for OT majors is an example of experiential learning that allows students to work with participants, build a rapport, and discover what services they can provide.

The feedback that McAnulty and her students receive from participant’s families is overwhelmingly positive, both during the week and in the days following the camp.

“We do hear from families right away that express what a positive difference they see in their participant’s behavior,” added McAnulty. “Individuals attending are very excited to get back on campus the next day, and continue to have new experiences in their lives.”

The annual Winter C.A.M.P. program continues to grow, with members of the campus community collaborating together to make this camp a huge success.

“As a community engaged learning project that includes young adults with disabilities from the surrounding community, as well as our Springfield College community, it is always a big undertaking,” said McAnulty. “College is a community where young adults engage in more than academic learning, they also make friends, learn new things about themselves, and learn about being on their own as adults. This experience couldn’t happen without the greater Springfield College community, and we are very grateful to the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, Harvest Table, Wellness and Recreation, the Learning Commons, East Campus, Residential Life, Facilities, Transportation, our administrative assistant and faculty in occupational therapy, and all the others who helped make this a great week.”

Occupational Therapy Faculty and Students Help at Sensory-Friendly Springfield Thunderbirds Game

The Springfield College Department of Occupational Therapy also partnered with the Center for Human Development (CHD) to provide “cool down stations” during the Sensory-Friendly game with the Springfield Thunderbirds hockey team on Sunday, Feb. 26 at the MassMutual Center.

The game presentation featured decreased stimulation, including:

  • No goal horn and noise meters
  • Decreased microphone & music volume
  • No strobing lights
  • Consistent lighting throughout the game and pregame
  • Two “Cool Down Stations” – a quiet area on the concourse and main entry level of the MassMutual Center, away from the seating bowl
  • A ‘sensory story’ booklet and other supportive items for guests

In addition, Springfield College Occupational Therapy faculty and students were presented with the CHD “Game Changer” award, presented to a community member or organization that has bettered their community in ways both large and small.

“This initiative by the Thunderbirds and CHD allows individuals with sensory sensitivities to experience a hockey game, which would typically be a challenge without modification,” said Professor and Co-Chair of the Springfield College Occupational Therapy Program Lori Vaughn. “The occupational therapy student volunteers work hard to help create a sensory-friendly environment at the cool down stations, where they had a variety of sensory-based calming activities to support children and families.”