Jan 06

Alumna wins New Jersey Educator of the Year Award

Congratulations to Patricia (Tisdale) Clark, OTR/L, ’88.  Ms. Clark was recently named as a Governor’s Educator of the Year for the Somerville School District in New Jersey, where she provides occupational therapy services to children in K – 5th grade at the Van Derveer Elementary School.

Patricia Clark with other award winners

Patricia (Tisdale) Clark, fourth from left, with other award winners and school principals from Van Derveer Elementary School.

The award recognizes excellence in teaching and in professional support services such as occupational therapy.  Requirements for this award include:  inspiring children of all abilities to learn, excellence in educational practices, and leadership in educational activities.  Ms. Clark was nominated by her colleagues or children’s parents for her work with students in grades 3-5.  In addition to providing special education services in classrooms, Ms. Clark leads a social skills group after school and provides various district-wide in-services for teachers in order to support successful learning.

Ms. Clark commented that OT is highly respected in her local school district in New Jersey and that she felt honored to be nominated.  She also credited Etown’s OT program for giving her the passion to go above and beyond her job responsibilities and promote/advocate for occupational therapy.  Way to go, Patti!

Jan 01

Making & Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

2016 graphic for Happy new Year

Happy New Year from the E-town Occupational Therapy Department!

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, you are not alone. People make all kinds of resolutions – to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, read more, be more patient, study harder, be more caring or generous to others…and the list goes on. But how often do people keep their resolutions? Are they too lofty, or are the expectations too high? Occupational therapists write RUMBA or SMART goals for our clients – they can be applied to writing New Year’s resolutions, too.

R – Relevant.                                                                    S – Specific

U – Understandable                                                          M – Measurable

M – Measurable                                                                 A – Attainable

B – Behavioral, e.g. observable actions.                           R – Realistic/Relevant

A – Achievable, e.g. reasonable                                       T – Timely

lined notebook paper with word "resolutions" on top and beginning of unwritten list belowRegardless of which acronym you use, both of them basically direct us to set priorities, determine what is feasible to do in our time and abilities, and be specific enough that we can measure or see progress. For example, will you make a broad goal to lose weight…or maybe be more specific, i.e. to lose 5 pounds…? Or maybe your goal is to exercise more. However, if you are not currently exercising, a goal of exercising every day may not be realistic to begin with – maybe that resolution could be to walk/run for 30 minutes three times per week. Is your goal to engage in more leisure activities or take up a new hobby?  Set a goal to do this new hobby or activity at least once by the end of January or mid-February. Achieving “smaller” but realistic goals may be rewarding and motivating so that you will keep at it – whatever your goal – and then you can modify the goal to achieve even more.

What is one of your New Year’s Resolutions?

Dec 15

The Power of a Simple Touch

This blog post is brought to you by Etown alumna, Arlynn Polsky Paris, MS, OTR/L, (’88).

I have been a therapist for almost 30 years.   But I am still learning….  I learn from books, journals, other therapists, teachers and patients/students…..  This is what happened to me earlier in December. It changed my heart.

Two kittens hugging

Steven (not his real name) is a teenager.  He has a developmental level which allows him to interact with his environment at the level of an infant.  His motor control is severely limited with very little head control, slight shoulder movement and contractures in his hands and legs. He typically keeps his arms extended by his sides.  He is fed via a PEG tube and is dependent on a wheelchair and someone to push him for mobility.   Steven is able to communicate via smiling and crying. He loves to listen to Jazz music and likes to be “rough housed.”  The music makes him calm and the rough housing makes him smile.  When he cries, it is heart breaking and frustrating because it is hard to figure out why he is sad/mad/uncomfortable.  So just like a content baby…. if he is happy people don’t “mess” with him.  I was scheduled to do an OT evaluation on this student in his classroom to determine if he was still eligible for therapy services in school and at what level.  Steven was “new” to me because he was evaluated previously by another therapist (I started this job a few months ago) and he did not have direct therapy services – consultation only.

clasped handsWhen I did my evaluation I did not want to startle him and make him cry – so before moving him I began to interact by touching his arms…. he began to visibly relax and then when I stopped, he moved his arms back to me. It seemed very obvious that he wanted it to continue. As I talked to his aide we realized that no one really touches him except to move him or complete his “care”. So…. I spent the next 30 minutes playing with his arms, hands, legs and feet.  During that time he didn’t cry at all (we turned his music off to see what would happen  usually when the music stops, he cries) – but he smiled, made eye contact and held his arms in front of his body instead of hanging at his sides. This made ME smile and want to cry at the same time. How sad it must be to not know touch.  

The lesson I learned …. touch seems like something that should be easy to give.  But at times it is taken for granted and  when we make the effort – it is a gift that is more valuable than you could ever imagine.
The benefits of touch have been researched and documented.  It seems like we should ALL know about how important it is – maybe we do and have just forgotten…. for all of us who need a reminder –

Touch helps to:

  • Feel connected to others. We are social beings – touch plays an important role in human communication.
  • Reduce anxiety. Simply touching another person can make us/them feel more secure and less anxious.
  • Bond with others.  Touch is one of the ways romantic partners bond with each other and parents bond with their children. Caregivers connect and develop trust with their patients.
  • Lower your blood pressure. Studies have shown that those who get regular touch often have lower blood pressure than those that don’t. Touch can also slow the heart rate and help speed recovery times from illness and surgery. Even having a pet can have beneficial effects!
  • Give us the sensory input  – craved by many, needed by all.
  • Stimulate or soothe, depending on where and how it is provided.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Senior Citizens receive the least touching of any age group.  They are more likely to live alone and have less contact with family members.
  • People with significant care needs may be touched less because so much attention goes into daily personal care that we forget to focus on touch as a personal care need.
  • Infants who are touched gain weight faster and are noted with faster developmental progress.

As the song implies…. a kiss may just be a kiss, a sigh may just be a sigh, but a touch can change a life!


Dec 07

Vive la France! Junior OT Student Studies in France

By Emma B. Johnson, OTS
emma Johnson standing on rocky cliff overlooking water

Emma Johnson, OTS in France

I have been in Aix-en-Provence, France for about three months now for study abroad. I chose to study abroad in France because I decided around the age of 5 that I was going to go to France one day. So, when I finally had the opportunity in college, I was not going to turn it down. With just over a few weeks left abroad, I can say that while it has been exciting and adventurous, it has not always been easy and wonderful.

Living abroad continues to throw new challenges at me. Between navigating foreign cities, a foreign language, and a new culture, there are times I wished I was back in the United States. A task as simple as going to the store to pick up body wash or to buy groceries suddenly requires a real effort. I have to:
  • know the French vocabulary to identify what I am looking for,
  • know which type of store to go to (there is no Target where you can find anything  your heart desires),
  • understand the French spoken to me when I check out,
  • and figure out the differences in culture –  such as in France they do not bag your items for you and they charge you for plastic bags.

There is so much to consider just to be able to buy basic items.  I had to build up the courage to ask an employee when I cannot find an item because I know I will have to stumble through French and I may not be understood. I find myself having to problem solve just to find one item.

various blocks and rounds of cheesesThe most important lesson living in another country has taught me is to believe in myself and know that I can accomplish more than I give myself credit for. I have no other option than to try, so I just try. The results are not always perfect, but I have been able to buy groceries, ask where an item is, even get a recommendation on a good cheese to buy (it wouldn’t be France without cheese!).

I feel that this experience gives me some insight into the frustrations of having to work to complete an everyday task that seems as though it should come easily.  I hope that as a therapist, I will remember this experience abroad in order to be more understanding about the frustrations a person faces when trying to overcome a challenge, like the challenges I will be helping my future clients overcome. I hope I can also help clients see the abilities they have within themselves that they may not realize they have, until they struggle and succeed.
Dec 01

Reflections on Vietnam – Verse Five: A Post-Trip Response

street scene in Hanoi - rickshaw & colorfuk flowers

Street scene in Hanoi

Amazing” and “transformative” were the most common adjectives participants (college students and adults) used to describe the trip. I would describe it as a series of “seize the moment” experiences which led some of us to dance on beaches in intense heat, some to climb hundreds of stone steps up Marble Mountain despite being afraid of heights, some to try wild boar and porcupine at dinner, some to learn the art of bartering, some to learn to relinquish control and go with the flow, and all of us to learn to communicate without speaking more than a dozen Vietnamese words and to open our hearts to people from another culture. Of course we heightened our awareness of “first world” versus “real” problems and gained a deeper appreciation of the privileged lives most of us live in the USA.

In October the students shared their experiences with the campus community. Three OT students are now sponsoring children through Brittany’s Hope. They each spoke eloquently of their desire to do more. As I watched the Elizabethtown College students, all 20 of them, interact with children, youth, and each other on this trip, I was both proud and thankful. More than once I thought, they will make a positive difference in a world sadly in need of much hope.  Go Blue Jays!

dr. ericksen and 8 students

The O.T. Crew

The next trip to Vietnam is planned for May/June 2017.

Nov 24

Reflections on Vietnam – Verse Four: Occupational Therapy in Vietnam

multi-colord balls in a ball pit at the Huynh De Nhu Center for the Blind

A ball pit at the Huynh De Nhu Center for the Blind

There are no occupational therapy schools in Vietnam so OT practitioners who are in the country are generally working with non-government organization (NGOs) and non-profit organizations on a short-term basis.

therapy room at an orphanage, showing colorful mats and a suspended swing

The therapy rooms at the Thi Nghe Orphanage

I was asked to provide some training to a group of physical therapists and nursing students who provide services at the Thi Nghe Orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City. This orphanage has about 400 children and adolescents with a wide range of disabilities. The physical therapists also provide services to children who live in the community. Planning for the training was far more stressful than delivering it as I had very little idea of the skill level of the therapists and what information might be most useful to them. Through the use of an interpreter we agreed that feeding was a good fit for them – and for me. We determined I would provide a short description of occupational therapy and then together we would look at three children they had identified with feeding issues. I did my best to prepare for anything, not knowing what we would encounter.


Dr. Ericksen giving a feeding inservice

Practicing Jaw Control at the Feeding inservice

When we arrived at the center, we were warmly greeted and led into a room that was packed with staff and children. After a welcoming ceremony, the children and half of our group left. Nursing students, the physical therapists, and administrators remained and together we worked with three children. Hong, (in-country Brittany’s Hope staff member) and Mai-Lynn (executive director of Brittany’s Hope) translated for us. But not everything was easily translated so we supplemented with visuals, hand gestures, and pantomime. And in the process we frequently laughed. The time flew by. Providing an in-service on feeding to physical therapists in Vietnam had never been on my “bucket” list but it was an incredible experience. I was thankful for the opportunity to share our knowledge in a place where it is needed with people who will use it well. The needs are great in Vietnam, as they are in many places locally and internationally.  As occupational therapists finding a way to meet these needs, even on a very small scale, is a gift we give ourselves.

[Verse 5…to be continued]

Nov 17

Reflections on Vietnam – Verse Three: An Overview of the Trip

Map of Vietnam with red stars to pinpoint places we visited

Red stars show the places we visited

Over the course of 17 days we traveled the length of Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh City to Saigon and Ha Long Bay. We had four in-country flights and spent hours on buses. We:

  • Interacted with social work students at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Ming City
  • Delivered donated supplies and played games with children at the De Nhu Nghia Center for the Blind
  • Delivered toys, supplies (milk, vitamins), and therapy equipment (feeding utensils, splinting materials, exercise equipment) to the Thi Nghe Orphanage
  • Made dream catchers and danced with the girls at the Warm House School for Ethnic Females
  • Delivered supplies, helped to till a new garden, move charcoal and brush from a kitchen renovation (disturbing a very large rat in the process), and played with children at the House of Love Orphanage
  • Traveled to a rural area to deliver bicycles, rice and cooking oil
  • 2 Vietnamese workers welcoming the group at a vocational training center

    Welcome ceremony at the Danang Vocational Training Center

    Delivered supplies and spent time with children and youth at the Danang Red Cross Orphanage and the Danang Vocational Training Center for Children and Young Adults with Disabilities

  • Visited a nursing home in Hoi An, delivering lucky money and six packs of a tonic made from birds’ spit
  • Sponsored field trips on the beach for children and young adults from the House of Love, Warm House, and Danang Vocational Training Center for Children and Young Adults with Disabilities
  • Painting trees at Ha Tinh Orphanage

    Painting trees at the Ha Tinh Orphanage

    Delivered supplies, dedicated a soccer field, packed Sunflower Bags, and painted trees at the Ha Tinh Orphanage

  • Along with adolescents from the Ha Tinh Orphanage delivered bicycles and Sunflower Bags to disadvantaged youth in a rural area outside of Ha Tinh
  • Learned to safely manage crossing very busy streets without cross works or other directional signals
  • Experimented with different foods: learned to love pho
  • Visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, Marble Mountain, and The American War Museum
  • Sojourned in Hoi An, a Unesco World Heritage Site, where we learned about silk-making
  • Toured Hanoi, visiting night markets and watching the water puppets
  • Took an overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay

    water view with pink flowers - Hoi An

    Hoi An

[Verses 4-5…to be continued]

Nov 10

Reflections on Vietnam – Verse Two: The Preparation

Children & adults with a multi-colored parachute

Enjoying the parachute

Planning for the trip began early in the fall semester of 2014. During the spring semester of 2015, students enrolled in a 2-credit class where they learned about the history and culture of Vietnam, practiced conversational Vietnamese, and planned activities for the children and youth at the orphanages and centers. The students also raised money to buy supplies, including bicycles, food, vitamins, clothing, and to make to renovations at some of the centers. Altogether they, along with Brittany’s Hope trip participants, raised over $40,000 to support service projects.

Adults and children playing outside with a parachute

Enjoying the parachute

Donations were also solicited from Flaghouse and North Coast. North Coast donated adaptive equipment, feeding equipment, and splinting materials and tools. Flaghouse donated feeding equipment, sensory toys, and a large parachute that provided hours of fun for all. We were grateful for the outpouring of donations from family, friends, vendors, and even strangers as their gifts enabled us to provide tangible and needed support to the centers we visited.

[Verses 3-5…to be continued]

Nov 05

2015 POTA Conference featured many Etown blue jays

Graduate student, Robin Kreiser presents a poster

Alums, Monica Loranger (’15) & Jessie Krueger (’15) connected with current grad students, Becki Lane & Erin Horting. 



The 2015 Annual Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association’s annual conference in Scranton, PA, featured various Etown students, faculty, and recent alumni as attendees as well as presenters.  A full list of Etown presentations can be found here.


POTA COC 2015 (1024x616)

POTA’s Commission on Conference, including members Monica Loranger (third from the left) and Christine Achenbach (fourth from the left).



Etown was also represented in service at the conference. Our academic fieldwork coordinator, Christine Achenbach, along with alumnus Monica Loranger (’15), served on the POTA commission on conference.  Meanwhile, several students volunteered with people power at the conference.  

 Save the date – next year’s POTA conference is Oct. 14-16, 2016 in our own “back yard” – LANCASTER!  

Current graduate student, Robin Kreiser, presents her poster.

Current graduate student, Robin Kreiser, discusses her undergraduate honors project.

Three alumni give a presentation from their master's project.

Bethany Panchak (’15), Jessie Krueger (’15), and Lauren Neiswender (’15) give a presentation based on their master’s project.

Nov 03

OT alums gather at the spOT for 2015 Homecoming

by Terri Dennehy, M.Ed., OTR/L, Lecturer

the SpOT front (768x1024)The Occupational Therapy Homecoming reception for alumni was hosted in The spOT, the department’s newest space for graduate occupational therapy students.  Our house at 855 College Avenue, situated diagonally from Esbenshade, offers a “home-away-from-home” where students can work, rest and meet for the promotion of research and education.  Chris and Laura, our Fieldwork Team, have offices there as well.

029 (709x1024)Angela, Linda, Chris and Terri were delighted to show the space, as we enjoyed visiting with many returning graduates from the 1980 through the 2015 cohorts. Networking for potential fieldwork sites, for advertising upcoming conference offerings and for job searches occurred amidst the fun, food and family time.  Thanks to all returning Blue Jays and our current students who took part in the day’s festivities.

AS & 2014, 2015 grads (1024x768)

L Kleindienst-V Snyder-J Miller (1024x768)