$1 million grant to increase occupational therapists in schools

Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012

(Left to right) Kimberly Vogel, Ed.D; Karin Barnes, Ph.D., principal investigator and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy; Autumn Clegg, M.O.T.; and Alison Beck, Ph.D., all registered occupational therapists, will implement the new program funded by the grant.

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(Left to right) Kimberly Vogel, Ed.D; Karin Barnes, Ph.D., principal investigator and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy; Autumn Clegg, M.O.T.; and Alison Beck, Ph.D., all registered occupational therapists, will implement the new program funded by the grant.  

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Contact: Catherine Duncan, 210-567-2570

SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 11, 2012) — The Department of Occupational Therapy in the School of Health Professions at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio received a $1,077,765 grant from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services in the U.S. Department of Education.

The five-year grant is titled “Project Reaching More: Increasing Highly Qualified Occupational Therapists to Serve Children, Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities.” The grant addresses the documented shortage of qualified occupational therapists (OT) needed to provide services for children with disabilities in school and early intervention settings, particularly in underserved and high-poverty Texas school districts.

Improving educational experiences
Karin Barnes, Ph.D., OTR, associate professor, chair of occupational therapy and the project’s principal investigator, said occupational therapy services help children with disabilities so they can benefit from their education and participate in meaningful activities.

“Occupational therapists evaluate and treat children’s fine motor skills needed for desktop activities, posture and movement needed for sitting at desks and playing at recess, sensory processing skills needed for self-regulation, and social and emotional skills needed for full participation at school and home,” she explained.

Dr. Barnes and her faculty team, Alison Beck, Ph.D., OTR, associate professor; Kimberly Vogel, Ed.D., OTR, associate professor; and Autumn Clegg, M.O.T., OTR, assistant professor, are addressing the shortage of qualified OTs using a two-fold approach.

Enhanced OT curriculum
First, curriculum content and clinical practicum experiences will be enhanced for UT Health Science Center OT students who participate in the grant.

“This will include case-based modules, community service learning experiences, a research evidence-based online journal club, an outcome-based study research project and fieldwork practicums in the targeted settings,” Dr. Barnes said.

Workshops for supervisors
Secondly, the project will provide student supervision workshops for regional OTs in school and early intervention settings who supervise the OT students during their fieldwork practicums.

“The goal of ‘Project Reaching More’ is to increase the number of qualified OTs to serve children with disabilities including those in high poverty and underserved school districts and communities and to increase the number of school and early intervention OTs to provide superior supervision to our current and future OT students,” she said.

Recruiting students for the program
Dr. Barnes said the recruiting of students for the program is under way this fall. Eight OT students will be selected for the project each year for a total of 32 students. The 32 OT students, who will be in their final year of school, will have their tuition and books paid for and will receive a monthly stipend.

“Of the $1,077,765 grant, 69 percent of the funds go to the students,” she said. “The participating OT students will be required to work for two years in early childhood intervention or school settings after they graduate. This will increase the number of OTs in these settings. This truly benefits all involved.”

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $231 million in fiscal year 2011. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced more than 28,000 graduates. The $739.6 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.



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