New River OTA Program reaches out to special needs community

[BECKLEY, W. VA.] New River Community and Technical College is moving forward with plans to offer an Occupational Therapy Assistant program beginning in August of this year. In December, New River was notified that the program has been granted Candidacy Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).

Program Director Brenda Hambric says that as part of the preparation for students to complete required field work experiences, the OTA faculty is reaching out to several groups in the region that provide support and services for special needs individuals. They include a monthly game night for BIG (Brain Injury Group), the Yes I Can program, the Mountaineer State Centers for Independent Living and the Down Syndrome Family Support Group of Southern West Virginia.

Their first project was a partnership with BIG. A game night is held the first Tuesday of the month from 6-8 pm at the St. Luke Lutheran Church on Maxwell Hill. Games are utilized to increase appropriate social skills, sequencing and executive mental functioning skills. Game night is open to anyone in the region that has been affected by a brain injury.

The Yes I Can program is a pediatric group that utilizes dance to increase appropriate interaction and social skills in a group, as well as improving balance, coordination and sequencing of tasks.

The dance group will be meeting twice a month on Tuesday evenings from 6-7 pm in New River's OTA classroom located on the second floor at 109 East Main Street (elevator accessible). Class dates are Jan. 14 and 21, Feb. 11 and 25 and March 11 and 25, with a recital being planned for April. Assistance also will be provided with planning and implementing a Valentine Party, date to be determined. Instructor Nicki Shackleford, of the West Virginia Dance Company, will instruct the children in dance. Parents and siblings are encouraged to participate.

Hambric and Dr. Amy Wix of the OTA faculty attend committee meetings for the Disability Advocacy Council held at the Mountaineer State Centers for Independent Living. The goal is to provide support and suggestions to the group and assist with their upcoming Anti-Bullying Campaign.

The Down Syndrome Family Support Group of Southern West Virginia is currently being approached to establish a partnership with the New River program. The group provides a Sensory Showing once a month at Galleria 14 in Beckley. A sensory showing is a sensory friendly film program where advertisements and previews have been eliminated and the lights are brought up and the sound turned down to accommodate sensory disorders. Families are able to bring in their own gluten-free, casein-free snacks.

"Our goal is to educate the community on occupational therapy and how it can be utilized to benefit each group. Future students will be able to participate in these groups to meet the Level I Fieldwork 1 and 2 requirements to complete the OTA program. We expect this to be an excellent opportunity for our students to transition smoothly into the clinical setting" said Hambric.

"We are excited with these new opportunities and encourage anyone that is involved or has information about special interest groups that may benefit from occupational therapy services to contact us" added Wix.

Anyone that has a family member that would like attend one of the groups or discuss other opportunities for outreach activities with the New River OTA program should contact Brenda Hambric at (304) 929-3320 or Dr. Amy Wix at (304) 929-1040.

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