University of Southern California
Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

OS/OT Student Blog


Elderly Drivers and Community Mobility →

Apr 23, 2014, by Jen · Leave a comment

In my leadership capstone course, we had an interesting discussion on elderly drivers and community mobility. I found it interesting that although senior drivers are safest compared to other drivers on the road, they are more likely to be injured or killed in an accident. I am not sure of the exact reason for this, but I believe it could be because their health may already be compromised due to their old age. I also think a reason they may be more likely to be injured or killed when involved in an accident (even if they are not the reason for the accident) is that their reflexes may be slower so they are not able to protect themselves as quickly. There are a number of barriers that elderly drivers face. One of them mentioned in the forum was how unmet transportation needs are linked to reduced well-being. This reminded me of a client I had who used a ride share program to get to their therapy appointments. Although they valued therapy sometimes their ride would be very early or very late in picking them up and dropping them off. This became quite a problem because it greatly interfered with how they spent their time. Instead of coming to therapy for an hour session, they frequently would get dropped off up to 45 minutes before therapy and not get picked up until an hour after therapy ended. This caused the time they dedicated to therapy each week to become almost 3 hours (with most of the time being waiting for their ride) instead of spending their time doing things they would like to do. I hope in the near future these types of issues will become less common for older adults. 


Aging →

Apr 18, 2014, by Jen · Leave a comment

With my birthday rapidly approaching, I have been thinking a lot more about the concept of aging. Aging is something we have discussed a lot in the OT program at USC. My class recently discussed older adults and the transition they make to retirement. I think this is such an interesting topic because with people living longer lives, they now need to retire at an older age in order to have sufficient funds for the remainder of their lives. I know people who retired in their early to mid-fifties, but have since returned to work. They have faced not only transitioning to retirement but also transitioning back into the workforce. My class also discused the concept of aging in place. Aging in place is where a person continues to live in their household as they get older as opposed to an assisted living center or nursing home. I was somewhat surprised only 1/6 of adults can do this. I had a client recently who lived in his own home until he passed away. As he got older he started to need assistance for a couple hours a day to help with cooking and cleaning. After a couple years of minimal assistance he began to need more and more assistance until he eventually had 24 hour caregivers at his house. Although it was quite a large expense, it was very important and comforting for him to be able to stay in his home up until he passed away. Another topic we discussed was older adults with dementia or cognitive limitations. I hope there is further research conducted on this topic as the number of people affected by dementia is growing. Occupational therapy can have a tremendously positive impact on the lives of people with cognitive limitations and can help reduce the barriers they face on a daily basis. 


Adventures in Ireland →

Apr 18, 2014, by Rob · Leave a comment

One of the unique experiences of our program is the Leadership Externship that all second-year students complete in their final semester as part of the Leadership Capstone course. The externship is a two-week experience that students have the responsibility for finding and coordinating. The diversity in places people go is astounding – from Ghana to Vietnam and from adult day health centers to medical mission trips.

I did my externship in Cork, Ireland at the University College Cork’s occupational therapy program. One of my interests is education and I wanted to see how occupational therapy was taught in other countries. I was challenged more than I expected – visiting an unfamiliar country alone without knowing anyone living there was tough. It helped me realize how much of a home I have built here in Los Angeles in the two years since I moved here from Chicago.

Despite the challenges I faced, I found even more amazing opportunities. While looking at a brochure, I came across a community art group that was building floats for the St. Patrick’s Day parade and they invited me to not only help with construction, but to be in the parade too. How many chances do you have to be in a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland? I couldn’t say no.

The community art group also attracted other young adults from the surrounding countries like Italy, France, and England who came to volunteer their time, sometimes for up to eight months. My last day, a few of my Italian friends cooked me a mouth-wateringly authentic Italian dinner.

Because the externship happens right before Spring Break, there is an opportunity to spend additional time traveling. Those days were the best. I stayed at a bed and breakfast owned by an older gentleman and on my first night he invited me to hang out and have tea while watching a recap of the day’s sports results. He had some amazing stories of growing up in Ireland and living in Australia – I could have listened to his stories all night.

I also went on several day trips, where I took the picture below. I visited Ballycotton, a small, seaside fishing village, and took a long walk along the cliffs. It had been raining lightly, but I wanted to get a picture that captured the green of the land and the blue of the sea and the island with a lighthouse in the distance. In one small moment of sunshine, I set my camera up with a 10-second timer and started running down the hill. You can see how far I made it. It was the perfect moment: birds taking flight as sunshine streamed through the clouds and me running wild down the road. The rain started again as I walked back up the hill, out of breath but content.

Coastal view of road, sea, and island in Ballycotton.


Reflections of my OT Journey →

Apr 16, 2014, by Kate · Leave a comment

There are 4 weeks and 2 days until our graduation ceremony. I can’t believe my last 2 years at USC is coming to an end. This is the culmination of a 3 year journey for me. I took a year off to take my pre-requisite courses and the GRE, to volunteer and apply to OT programs. And in May, I will walk the stage to receive my diploma. I know I have one more year here to work towards my OT doctorate degree, but it is still mind-boggling that I will have successfully completed the program soon and achieved one of my life’s biggest goals.

It’s times like this when I am able to reflect on what lead me to this position. I remember feeling out of balance and unhappy. I was stuck in a rut where I dreaded waking up in the morning, much less looking at my Blackberry and fearing the red light flashing indicating a new email. I knew I had to change, and I am so glad I took the giant leap into a new career. Navigating my way through pre-requisite courses at local community colleges was intense, not to mention actually taking classes like chemistry and anatomy, subjects that I had not covered since high school. Despite taking the easy route of going back to my old job and what felt familiar, I trudged on. And then I was accepted to USC and my hard work paid off!

As I begin to tie up loose ends here and there, gather my studying materials for our last tests and projects, and gear up for the giant comprehensive exam, I feel nothing but warmth for my 2 years that I’ve spent at USC as a graduate student. I could not have been happier for making the decision to quit my job and dive into something completely new. I have new friends, new skills and new confidence. I am ready to tackle whatever comes my way, and being here at USC has been such a huge part of that.


Boston Strong →

Apr 15, 2014, by Jen · Leave a comment

Today marks one year since the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon. This morning when I was reading the news, I came across this article: “Boston Bombing Victim’s Defiance One Year On”. This article and video was especially meaningful to me because a victim of the bombing discussed her experience with occupational therapy. In the video, both the victim of the bombing and the occupational therapist discuss their experience working together. This reminded me of why occupational therapy is so important and why I am so happy to be going into this field.

Here is another great article I found: “With A Dream On Hold, Bombing Victim Remains Optimistic”. The occupational therapist in this article provides a great definition of occupational therapy: “Occupation therapy means the little occupations that make up your day — getting to the toilet safely, getting in the bathtub safely, adaptive strategies to get dressed when you can’t quite reach your feet because of pain or other limitations,” Buttiglieri explained. “We teach people how to do their daily living tasks. Get back to their daily routine”.


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USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
1540 Alcazar Street, CHP 133
Los Angeles, CA 90089-9003
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Phone: (323) 442-2850 · Toll free: (866) 385-4250
Fax: (323) 442-1540
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The USC entry-level master's degree program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education® (ACOTE). ACOTE c/o Accreditation Department, American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.®, 4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD 20814-3449, (301) 652-6611 x2914,

Professional program graduates are eligible to apply for certification by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, Inc.®



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