Saturday, October 26, 2013

Blog Carnival Celebrating World OT Day 2013

Happy World OT Day*! The theme for this year's blog carnival is the "Transitions", although I don't think I did the best job of advertising the theme. I seemed to get submissions on a variety of topics, so it will be an interesting read.

I am excited to share some fabulous posts with you today. Grab yourself a snack and a beverage, and enjoy!

I will discuss all the different blog posts, and provide links on the title of the blog. I will start with the ones that were on the theme of "Transitions", and then progress to the others.

Stephanie from Hand in Hand discusses how Evernote can be helpful to students. It can help transition between school years. Love the use of video on her blog!

I love reading blog posts by Carolyn at A Thoughtful Look at Life. She consistently hits the nail on the head, and has more than once moved me to tears. No tears this time, but a poignant look at what we experience when we have major life transitions, whether they are bad or good.

Back to school can be a rough transition for many kids (and parents). Cara gives tips to make the transition easier at The Pocket Occupational Therapist.

OT Depression gives us a glimpse into what transitions mean for a person with depression, as well as for an Occupational Therapist, and how these two fit together. I love blogs like this that are able to merge the two different perspectives.

For my own contribution to the carnival on Linda's Daily Living Skills, I chose a post from the past. I was kind of venting when I wrote it, so please take it with a grain of salt. In it, I discuss the ways in which inpatient mental health environments can be very different from real community settings and how this can make the transition from being an inpatient to living in the community so difficult. 

OK, now for the submissions that I am not sure how they fit with the theme, but they are a lot of fun (and have some really useful ideas!).

What's more fun than laughing? Alice will leave you laughing in her role as The Laughter Anorak at Olu Woman. She reminds us that we can feel good about laughing because it is so good for us, and it much more pleasant to do than many of the other "good for us" things we should be doing.

Susan tackles the issue of happiness on her blog at LD Made Easy. She talks about how every parent wants their child to be happy, but what does happiness really mean? OT is part of a process leading to happiness, but some sessions may involve a range of feelings as part of that process.

Barbara, from The Recycling Occupational Therapist, draws on her experiences working in hippotherapy (such and interesting field!) to talk about how movement can be so beneficial for children, as well as how it can be used as a reinforcer.

Barbara also shared a post on using weighted objects to work on body awareness. Barbara has a talent for coming up with games and activities for specific therapeutic purposes, using materials you can find around your house. 

Speaking of fun activities, Nicole describes another fun, homemade fishing game and the many ways it can be used on her blog at Gateway Therapies.

I want to finish up with a post by Anne at Pediatric Occupational Therapy Tips. I think it is the perfect post to finish up with because she talks about how we as OTs can go out into the world and spread the word about Occupational Therapy. I think we sometimes tend to be too modest and quiet about our profession, and she challenges us to speak up!

That's it for this year. Thank you to all the bloggers who participated. 

I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I did!

* World OT Day was created by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT). They are not associated with this Blog Carnival - this is just my way of celebrating World OT Day. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Accepting Submissions for Third Annual Blog Carnival for World OT Day!

Wow. I can't believe October is already here. I think I will blame it on the weather - we have had such lovely weather that it has not really felt like fall.

One of my favourite things about autumn is all the fun OT events celebrating World OT Day. This year is going to be the third annual World OT Day Blog Carnival! World OT Day is celebrated on October 27th every year, which is coming up fast!

This is a great way to get some extra traffic for your blog, and to connect with other OTs around the world. If you do not have a blog, this is a great time to start one.

The topic for this year's OT Blog Carnival is going to be the same as the theme for OT24VX - Transitions. It is about exploring some aspect of transitions.

I am now accepting submissions. Here's how it works:
  • You must be an OT or OT student. The only exception would be if the post were about an OT or OT student. You must also have a blog (not just a website), or know someone who will let you post on theirs.
  • You write a blog post (or find a suitable one in your archives), post it on your blog, and send me the link. You can send it through email if you have my address, the contact page on my website, or as a direct message through Facebook or Twitter (@dailyskills).
  • I will do a short post to introduce the topic, and then list the links with a short summary of each.
  • You mention the Blog Carnival on your site and through your networks to help get the message out.
  • This is not the time or place for affiliate links or blatant sales pitches.
  • Please ensure your post is at least somewhat associated with the theme. If it might be tough to see how it is connected to the theme, please point out to me how it is connected as this may help me to categorize the posts.
  • I need to have the Carnival posted before World OT Day. With time changes, World OT Day actually starts in other parts of the globe on the 26th of October here in Winnipeg. Please send your submission before October 24th, 2012.

You will be able to see the Blog Carnival on October 27th by visiting here, at

*World OT Day was created by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT). They are also the ones who supplied the very nice logo above. They are not associated with this Blog Carnival - this is just my way of celebrating World OT Day.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

PSR National Conference in Winnipeg

The PSR (Psychosocial Rehabilitation/Readaptation Psychosociale) National Conference is being held in Winnipeg this year in September. The early bird deadline is approaching fast! Fees go up after July 31.

We have lots of great speakers lined up. The theme is Making a Difference: Recovery, Social Inclusion, Collaboration

I will be doing a session on using social media to enhance your practice, as well as a pre-conference institute on teaching daily living skills. The pre-conference institute would be great for any workers who teach daily living skills, and it is a deal for only $50. 

The PSR National Conference is always a great way to network with like-minded people from across the country, and meet some of the people you know from the great articles they write.

Here is the link to the website:

I hope to see you there!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Too Much Time Can Be a Bad Thing

I recently had a period of time where I had booked some time off from my regular activities. I had a huge long list of things that I wanted to do during that time. Do you think I got any of them done?

Nope. I was completely unproductive. I mean really bad. I did not even keep up with the day to day activities.

OK, so I got a lot of rest and relaxation. Do you think I felt refreshed after?

Nope. I felt more lethargic than ever. Hmmm. It is backwards from what you would think. What's going on?

I was beating myself up afterwards, when I came to a realization. This is what Occupational Therapy really is about. Being engaged in meaningful occupations is good for us. It energizes us, and makes us want to do more. Engaging in my everyday activities makes me a more productive and happier person.

The roots of Occupational Therapy were based around this concept. Early OTs realized that soldiers recuperating in military hospitals needed to have meaningful things to do.

When we have too much time to think, our thoughts start to go around and around in our heads, and this can be a really bad thing. I have seen how this works in a negative way for people with serious psychiatric disorders.

Many people I have known who had schizophrenia would have their delusions get worse when they had very little to do. It seemed the thoughts would go around and around and if there were no activities to interrupt them, the delusions would spiral out of control.

I also noticed this with people who had depression and anxiety. If they lacked activities to keep them busy, their thoughts tended to get worse and worse.

If there are no reality checks, I think it is also really easy to become obsessed with thoughts related to yourself, and to stop thinking about others as much. This idea suggests that occupations that involve helping others would be particularly effective. In fact, I have often worked with clients to find volunteer positions.

I did a quick search for articles that studied whether volunteer work promotes well-being, and was really surprised at the lack of information. Some studies do say that people who volunteer have better well-being than those who do not (Thoits & Hewitt, 2001). However, I could not find any randomized control trials, and the studies I found did not convince me about causation. It is possible that people who are more well are more likely to volunteer, not that volunteering makes them more well.

Also, much of the research that is available focuses on older adults. A PubMed search with the words "schizophrenia" and "volunteer" in the title yielded no results.

It seems to me that encouraging people to volunteer might be a powerful tool to help people, yet it does not seem that people are researching it, which is rather disappointing. I guess it would be a lot more difficult to find funding for this kind of research than for a new medication.

As an OT, this is a concern for me. We are promoting engagement in meaningful occupations, but we are not studying whether this is effective. We think it is, and can provide anecdotal examples, but only have sparse, correlational evidence to back it up.

As for myself, I have now learned that I need to work on finding the right level of being busy to allow myself to be my most productive.

Thoits, P.A. & Hewitt, L.N. (2001). Volunteer Work and Well-Being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, vol. 42(2), p. 115-131.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Appointment Fatigue

As a healthcare professional, when we meet with someone and it looks like the person could benefit from our services, we schedule them in for future appointments (often weekly). It seems fairly simple.

It never occurred to me to ask if the person actually had time in their lives to fit me in. I never asked what activities they would have to miss out on in order to meet with me. I had the arrogance to believe that meeting with me would automatically be more beneficial to the person than whatever else the person would be doing.

I am starting to question this. I am not questioning the effectiveness of therapy, but rather the lack of consideration of what it means for a person to have to attend regular appointments.

I had one client who was involved with several different services. Some were voluntary, and other were not, due to her history. She often had six or more appointments per week. Between dropping off and picking up her son from daycare, and all her appointments, she had very little time for anything else. Often, she was assigned tasks to complete between appointments as well, and frequently wondered when she was supposed to be following through with them.

Let's think about how much time one appointment really takes. If it is at an office, there is transportation involved. If you are driving, probably at least a half hour each way. If you are busing, probably an hour each way. Then there is time needed to find and walk from parking, and allowing a little extra time so that you are not late. Even if the appointment is in a person's home, there is time needed to tidy up the house.

Let's hope you do not have to wait to be seen. Then there is the time of the actual appointment. I always booked 1-1.5 hours for each client.

Wow - now one appointment has cost the client between 2.5 and almost 4 hours! That is a whole part of a day gone. Either the morning, afternoon, or evening is basically completely gone. If the client is part of a family, you have just disrupted the whole family's plans and routines for a whole part of a day.

Now, if the person was just going to be sitting around watching TV and feeling lonely, this is not a bad thing.

With the client I mentioned earlier, even though I thought OT would be beneficial for her, I ended up decreasing the frequency of my visits because I believed the stress of having so many appointments was negating the benefits.

I also see many stressed families who have little ones that have a lot of appointments. Parents are stressed because they have to take so much time off work. Evening appointments mean that the family does not get to sit and eat together, the child does not get exercise or outdoor time, and societal socialization is not happening. The therapy that is happening during the appointment better be worth it.

When one of my family members has an appointment, it is a big deal for us to try to fit it in. I guess we just need to keep it in mind when working with others.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Our Changing Society May be Affecting Childrens' Resilience to Bullying

My little guy has been into the Hardy Boys books lately, so we have been spending a lot of time reading them. There are the classic old books, and there are also new books. There are some dramatic differences between the two that I think reflect some significant changes in our society. This post may be a little off-topic from my regular posts about skills teaching, but I really feel like I need to say something.

In the classic Hardy Boys, Frank and Joe are closely connected to their parents. They constantly call their dad for advice, they let their mom know where they are going, and their mom even packs them lunches for their sleuthing activities. Even their Aunt Trudy is a significant part of the story as she often gives them advice, and in one book she physically beats off a man who attacked the boys.

In the new Hardy Boys, Frank and Joe (still the same age) have nothing to do with their parents, other than the fact that their dad set up the program they are part of. They actually lie to their mom and Aunt Trudy about where they are going - they have no idea the boys are detectives. Frank and Joe never call home. In one book, Frank was kidnapped for several days, and Joe did not even call his parents to let them know.

When I thought about it, this pattern is reflected in other children's books that are popular. I grew up reading books like Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables where the parental figures are an integral part of the story. Our kids are reading books like the Magic Treehouse and Harry Potter, where the parents are not present.

This is a huge change, and I think it reflects some huge changes in our society. Peer groups are becoming more important than parental attachments.

Our kids go to school all day with same age peers, with a teacher who sometimes has 30 plus students, and whom the parents barely know. When they are not in school, they are in daycare, also sorted into similar age peer groups. Then they get shuffled to sports and activities where they hang out with more same age peers and adults whom their parents barely know. Then, they have arranged playdates with same age peers.

What are we teaching our kids? It seems to me that the message is that their peers are more important than their families. Yikes.

Yes, the ability to make friends with and relate to same age kids is important, but I wonder if we have gone too far.

I have been thinking about how this might relate to bullying. Bullying has always been around. It was definitely around when I was kid. Yet there seems to be so much more publicity about it. It seems more kids are responding to being bullied by bring a gun into school and shooting everyone, or by killing themselves.

Here's my thought:
If our childrens' primary attachment is to their peers, and their peers reject them, the results are likely to be horrible for our children. However, if our children are primarily attached to their families and their peers reject them, it still will be hurtful, but not nearly as catastrophic.

There has been some research on resilience of children in the face of bullying that seems to support this. Bowes et al. (2010) found that, "Warm family relationships and positive home environments help to buffer
children from the negative outcomes associated with bullying victimisation."

It also can be looked at from a point of view of basic resilience. Resilience is better when you have strong social supports. We know that lack of social supports is a risk factor for suicide. If the social supports cannot come from peers, they need to come from family or others.

Masten and Reed (2002) say, "The best documented asset of resilience is a strong bond to a competent and caring adult, which need not be a parent.  For children who do not have such an adult involved in their life, it is the first order of business."

Just to be clear, bullying is wrong. People should treat others respectfully, and I fully support any programs that are trying to reduce bullying. It should not be the victim's responsibility to become resilient enough to overcome abusive behaviour. Also, I am no expert on bullying.

However, I believe there will always be some level of bullying out there. Whatever we can do to minimize tragedies is important.

I am now trying to stick to reading the older Hardy Boys to my son, but of course he wants the new ones :)

Bowes, L., Maughan, B., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T., Arseneault, L.  (2010). Families promote emotional and behavioural resilience to bullying: evidence of an environmental effect. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51(7), p. 809-817.

Masten, A. S., & Reed, M. G. (2002).  Resilience in development.  In S. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.),
The handbook of positive psychology.  Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Is Gamification the Future of Teaching Life Skills?

Last night I heard a CBC radio program describing gamification, and my mind is buzzing with all the implications and applications of this idea. Gamification is the process of applying gaming principles and design to non-game situations.

People have always been drawn to games. There is evidence of game-playing from ancient cultures. However, video games have brought gaming to a whole new level.

Gamification involves using strategies from gaming such as:

  • Awards/points/virtual currency/badges
  • progress bars
  • user challenges
  • leader boards and recognition
  • levels
  • trading of awards/points/currency
  • bragging rights on social media
  • using curiosity to help maintain engagement

Games are incredibly motivating. Isn't motivation what we need when trying to help people learn life skills? I have found this is especially important in mental health.

In a way, games use a lot of principles from OT. Activities in the games are graded to provide just right challenges. When this is optimized, the person experiences a state of flow, and can play for hours in "the zone".

If you follow my blog, you will know that I am a big fan of just right challenges when it comes to skills-teaching. Check out this post if you want to learn more: The "Just-Right Challenge".

Millions of people play video games such as World of Warcraft and Call of Duty. Just imagine if we could find a way to use gamification to harness that people-power for something good for society. The difficult part is finding a way to make it equally engaging.

My little guy automatically gamifies so many situations. Monkey bars have three different levels of how you can do them. He assigns points for doing each level. As his generation gets older, I think gamification is going to become a lot more common.

In some ways, this is not a new idea. We all know that the way to get kids excited about learning is to turn it into a game. I think what is relatively new is the idea of mimicking the format of video games.

What about the token economies that used to be at psychiatric institutions? Not that different really, yet token economies have been abandoned. How is gamification different from token economies? Perhaps it has to do with the personal control of participation, or perhaps with the spirit of fun.

What does this mean for teaching life skills? Maybe we need to think about how we can gamify them. I would think this would be especially effective for the younger generation who already think in terms of levels and points.

Maybe the the future of teaching daily living skills will involve "chore wars".


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