Springfield College Occupational Therapy Program Involved in Multiple Community Programs | Springfield College

Springfield College Occupational Therapy Program Involved in Multiple Community Programs


During the four Fridays throughout the month of February, the Springfield College Department of Occupational Therapy hosted the inaugural Adulting Academy on the campus. View Photo Gallery...


By: Damon Markiewicz

During the four Fridays throughout the month of February, Springfield College Occupational Therapy (OT) graduate students took their educational lessons learned inside the classroom, and put them into action when hosting the inaugural Adulting Academy on the campus.

The Adulting Academy workshop was focused on young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, and was designed for the participants to develop life skills in preparation for adulthood.

“This program was so important for the students because of the level one fieldwork experience it provided,” explained Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy Amanda Rodriguez, who was joined by OT professors Elizabeth McAnulty and Latasha Dionne in leading the academy. “This experience allows for the students to put into practice, the importance of building those connections with the individuals they are working with.”

Many of the Adulting Academy programs were hosted in the new Health Sciences Center, with participants using the Activities of Daily Living Lab to work in cooking groups and learning life skills. In addition, friendship groups were established in the state-of-art classrooms, and activities were created in the new Maker Space.

“Having the ability to host the programming in the new Health Sciences Center was a huge advantage to the OT students and faculty,” explained Rodriguez. “Many of the activities we hosted during the Adulting Academy would have been very challenging if we didn’t have the Health Sciences Center.”

During the academy, participants identified their interests and goals. OT students then created workshops to meet the attendees’ expressed needs. Overall, the program aimed to offer opportunities across a variety of interests while growing friendships, navigating the community, developing work/academic specific skills, and enhancing skills to support overall well-being.

“Some of the best moments during the academy occurred when the participants were interacting with the OT students during lunch, or during some down time, because those were moments where the attendees and OT students just built connections that will last a long time,” explained Rodriguez. “It’s so important for OT professionals to build that connection with the individuals they are working with, and develop a trust that establishes how much OT students and professionals care about the work they are doing.”

The academy format of having the attendees meet once a week also proved to be a perfect set-up for both the OT students and participants.

“There was so much excitement on those Fridays, a perfect way to the end week,” added Rodriguez. “The energy level was so high on those days, and there was a genuine happiness by both the attendees and the students. The weekly format also allowed the OT faculty and students an opportunity to debrief each week, and adjust the academy programming to make sure everyone was getting the most out of their experiences.”

And after four weekly sessions of learning new skills, the participants and the OT students and faculty celebrated the academy with a closing ceremony. It was an event that highlighted the goals that were met, and the connections that have been established.

“You could tell at the end of the academy that this was much more than just a chance to fulfill fieldwork requirements, there were some authentic friendships established, and that is really what this opportunity was all about,” concluded Rodriguez. “Another example of service to others.” 

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

The Springfield College Department of Occupational Therapy (OT) once again 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, March 3, 2024, at the MassMutual Center.

During the event, OT students translated content they learned in their classes, knowledge that was focused on sensory processing and sensory integration. The students planned and implemented a variety of activities to help participants with sensory processing differences, and helped them be able to self-regulate for improved ability to engage in a meaningful activity, which in this case was the hockey game. 

“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 of Occupational Therapy 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.”

The activities included a yoga station, touch/tactile stations, movement activities, and fine motor activities. OT students also made and distributed weighted animals to help participants remain calm during the game.  

The game presentation featured decreased stimulation, including:

  • No goal horn and noise meters
  • Decreased microphone and 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

This was the fourth-consecutive year the OT students were an important part of this partnership, and their participation enriches the community and the lives of the families attending the game.

“The Sensory-Friendly Game allows individuals with sensory sensitivities to be present and engaged in Thunderbirds hockey, which might otherwise not be possible,” added Vaughn. “We are proud to support this initiative and provide sensory-friendly activities to enhance the experience for children and families.”