My Path to FREE: A Priceless Experience!

By Grad II Varsha Dante

Grad IIs at FREE

Grad IIs at FREE

Born and raised in India, I was exposed to poverty, homelessness, and disability at a very young age. Catching a glimpse of someone in need in Mumbai was as common as driving by a McDonald’s in Central Virginia. In an effort to avoid feeling any sort of pity for these individuals and giving them every rupee I had in my pocket, my culture taught me to pretend I didn’t see them. But all of that changed when I visited an orphanage near my grandma’s house in Kemmannu, India.

A rough translation of the name of this orphanage from Telegu to English is ‘Motivation’. Spandana is a non-profit organization that houses boys and men with various disabilities who have been disregarded by their parents. In many cases, the parents intentionally gave their sons away when they found out about their disability. Sadly, this is a typical case in India as disability is regarded as bringing shame on a family. Luckily, orphanages like Spandana take such individuals in as if they were their own. Some of the members of Spandana have intellectual disabilities, but a significant amount of them also have physical disabilities. On my very first visit to Spandana, I was astonished at the level of creativity it took to create makeshift (albeit somewhat unsafe) mobility aids such as canes and walkers for some of the men. However, most of them used self-identified compensatory strategies to work around their physical conditions. I continue to marvel at the fact that these members are able to make the most of their situation in spite of having so little.

So, when I heard about a non-profit organization called F.R.E.E Foundation in Richmond, VA that provides donated medical equipment to individuals who are unable to afford them, I wanted to learn more. This is a resource that is unheard of in Kemmannu, India, so naturally, I felt inclined to get involved with this organization. By simply cleaning, organizing, tagging, and matching the equipment to their customers, I feel like I am on the path to becoming a caring occupational therapist. The amount of clinical insight and judgment it takes to provide a client with the most optimal piece of equipment for their use at home is commendable and I am incredibly grateful to be a part of this process. Additionally, by simply volunteering a few hours of our time, we can alleviate some of the burden of the F.R.E.E. staff, understanding the mechanics of disability and selecting the most appropriate piece of equipment to accommodate the disability, and recognizing that F.R.E.E. provides an avenue for members to continue being productive members of society.

The lives of the men living in Spandana would be so different if this resource was available to them. It’s only a matter of time before these resources make their way to India, but until then, I plan to do my part of advocating for our profession and the resources available to our clients with the hopes that they may one day spread to all parts of the world. While I plan to continue volunteering at F.R.E.E. after I graduate from this exceptional program, I (and my fellow volunteers) would like to pass the torch to the future graduates of VCU’s OT program.

Whether it’s volunteering from 5-7pm every Tuesdays or simply for an hour a month, I promise you, it’s worth it your time. Catch me in the hallway or email me at and I can help you get involved!

The Occupation of Infant Care

By Associate Professor Stacey Reynolds

Stacey and Maddox

I’ve been a mom for almost 10 years. So when I became pregnant last year I thought I would have an easier time than most “new moms” because I wasn’t a new mom. However, Daniel was six years old when I adopted him- he was potty-trained, dressed and fed himself, could entertain himself, and was able to communicate his needs verbally. Imagine my surprise when my son Maddox was born this fall and required 24 hour assistance from me to do all of these things!

My new role as “mom of an infant” has been both rewarding and challenging; and at times very isolating. In the past 3 months I’ve gone through a variety of stages, such as: (1) Oh my gosh, what did we do?, (2) I can survive the next 60 seconds, and the next, and the next, (3) Oh, you smiled, I will do anything for you, and (4) our current stage of enthusiastically celebrating every new language and motor skill he masters. Clearly I love him more than I ever could have imagined.

Throughout all of these stages I’ve struggled to combat my desire and need to devote most of my physical and cognitive energies to Maddox, while simultaneously wanting and needing to keep up with teaching, mentoring, and research. Despite having flexibility to work-from-home these past few months, it has been hard to “flip the switch” from mom to professor whenever he goes down for a nap (if he goes down for a nap). Apparently, this is not uncommon. Recent research (summarized here: indicates that there is actually a synaptic rewiring of the brain that occurs after giving birth. The authors of this article compare this to the major pruning process that happens during adolescence. In moments of stress, I picture my “research neurons” dying off and being replaced by lyrics to Old MacDonald. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that these changes can last several years…

What, if anything, does this have to do with OT? As a pediatric OT it is important to understand that our clients are not only the children that we see but their parents as well. Not only do parents of infants with disabilities face the same stressors as all parents, they are often dealing with exacerbated challenges in feeding and sleeping as well possible medical concerns. It may take longer for their child to smile, babble, or make eye contact; which can impact early bonding and attachment. It may also take longer for their child to reach motor milestones and be able to play (entertain themselves) independently. Parents of children with disabilities may also be unable to return to work or regular community activities, leading to social isolation. It’s unsurprising then, that parents of children with developmental delays and disabilities are prone to higher rates of stress and mental health conditions such as depression.

When working with families of children with disabilities, particularly young children, it is important to understand how parents are feeling and to consider what is most important to the family when setting and prioritizing treatment goals. For some families feeding is going to be a priority, while others may be more focused on bonding with their child. I know for me a major milestone was when I could put Maddox down long enough to wash my face and brush my teeth every morning. Part of our role as OT’s may also be helping families understand the importance of their own mental health, and providing them with resources to connect with other families or community resources. Finally, as OT’s we can help families understand that while their child may not hit all of their developmental milestones on time (and it is important not to compare their child to other children), that is no reason not to celebrate every time a new skill is acquired. Most important, raising Daniel and Maddox has reminded me never to judge other parents.

Our Newest Professor!

By Assistant Professor Virginia Chu

Hi VCU OT family, I am excited to join the faculty of the department of Occupational Therapy at VCU. I recently moved to Richmond from Chicago, where I was an occupational therapist in Early Intervention and pediatric outpatient therapy practice. I am a biomedical engineer and researcher by training. I have a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Stanford University, where I studied motor learning and perception of motor variability in children with dystonia. I finished a postdoctoral fellowship at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) in the Sensory Motor Performance Program studying reflexes and sensorimotor control in people after stroke and spinal cord injury.
Since coming to VCU, I have been busy setting up the Sensorimotor Performance and Rehabilitation Engineering lab. My primary research interest is understanding the role of multi-sensory integration in motor control. During my studies in occupational therapy and my clinical experience in pediatrics, I have seen the need for better understanding of sensory deficits in children who are seen by occupational therapists. There is limited scientific evidence supporting effective sensory interventions, particularly, limited understanding of why some interventions work. My research goal is to understand the effects of sensory deficits on motor learning and motor control, especially during the formative years of early development. As part of my research plan, I will design and test assessment techniques for measuring sensory deficits in children that will eventually be made available and appropriate for clinical use. I hope that by improving assessment techniques for sensorimotor deficits in children, we can better target therapy interventions.
Outside of work, I love cooking, making crafts and building things. I cannot say I am an expert in any particular crafting or cooking technique, but I love to explore new ideas. I also am passionate about social justice issues and enjoy spending time with community organizations and volunteering. In the past, I had volunteered and engaged with the homeless community, youth in crisis and immigrant families. I am still exploring the Richmond area and looking for ways to engage with the RVA community.

I look forward to forming collaborative research and scholarship partnerships with students, faculty, clinicians, and scientists in the VCU community. If you are interested in pediatric sensorimotor research or just want to chat, feel free to contact me at I’d love to hear from you.

(Re)working Rest

By Grad I Paul Kehrer

During the holiday break I became intrigued by a subject that is appropriate to consider during a few weeks off: rest. I mean healthy rhythms of work and rest in particular. Overworking for a time is a requirement for completing any major project. If people did not agree and even commit to overworking, at least for a set period of time, there would be no health profession graduates, no professional musicians, and no entrepreneurs, just to name a few. Altogether, being overworked is unavoidable, but the retreat between semesters is a good time to plan a sustainable rhythm of work and rest. But what really is restful, and how is it done well?

A common side effect of over work is over-rest, often being one of a pool of activities with the word ‘binge’ added on the end. I’m thinking of past-times like Netflix, food, alcohol, sleep, video games, all of which are fine in and of themselves, but done in high concentration result in a vegetative state that leaves the participant more tired than when (s)he started.

People often ask one another, “Who is the best at something?”. Such as, who is the best singer, cook, etc., but no one ever asks, “Who is the best rester? Who gets the most rejuvenation from their rest?” Are there role models or examples for resting well? (I can think of plenty of examples of burn out, but chill out?). Until now, I never thought of rest as a skilled discipline that can be learned and intentionally applied with useful outcomes until I needed it in my life and then I was too busy to figure out how to get the most out of rest.

Productive rest does not come naturally to me, and the more responsibilities compound the harder it is to learn the skill of doing restorative, managed, rejuvenating rest. However, I admire the priority of restful self-care that I see in many of my classmates and it has been inspiring to me. I did my undergraduate degree in fine arts, and I loved it, but one thing I can say for sure is that OT students are much healthier than art school students, and having a clue how to rest well is part of the reason. Hopefully this is a skill I can acquire and apply and I encourage you to do so as well, before you really need it.


By Jayne Shepherd, retired Professor Emeritus, VCU, Department of Occupational Therapy


How many times have you had to change gears to do something different? As many of you know, I am passionate about the topic of transition…and here I am in the midst of transition after 30 years + 4 months of teaching occupational therapy at Virginia Commonwealth University. Where has the time gone? It seems like yesterday when Jane Case-Smith and I joined VCU as newbie faculty members and mothers. The faculty welcomed me, many who were my professors when in OT school: Craig Nelson, Patti Maurer, and Tina Brollier. Sandy Cash and Tina mentored me in teaching, organization, and fieldwork and were great collaborators. Judy Hanshaw and her VCUHS staff gave me opportunities to work in pediatrics one day a week to enhance my knowledge and “stories” for class.
As I began teaching 3 classes my first semester I occasionally used the ONE LARGE computer that was in the department conference room. Although I had a degree in education, the learning curve was steep and continued to ebb and flow throughout my tenure.

So to keep these 30+ years short…What is VCU OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY to me?

V – A variety of valuable and versatile learning opportunities and experiences from faculty, staff, students, and colleagues that I will hold close to my heart;
C – Curious, compassionate, comical, client-centered, and collaborative
U – Unique individuals, classes, community partners, and fieldwork placements.

O – Open to new ideas, opportunities, and occupations,
C – Clever, capable, and caring,
C – Crafty, courageous, occasionally contrary, and now computer strong!
U – Unstoppable VCU graduates and faculty who are making a difference in their client’s and family’s lives, in research and the profession;
P – Person-centered, passionate, pediatric strong, and party people (with a little prodding).
A – Amazing, accountable, articulate, and activity and assistive technology driven.
T – Tenacious thinkers and top notch transformers of lives with
I – Interdisciplinary learning, innovative, imaginative, inquisitive, and an infectious quest for knowledge.
O – Outstanding observations, original ideas, often in overdrive yet orchestrating optimists with
N – Noteworthy suggestions, new ideas, and nimble fingers to splint, sew and woodwork.
A – Adaptive, aspiring, approachable, and appreciative of all and the Dollar Store!
L – Lecturing and launching students with laughable moments; loving OT and leaping into laudable colleagues and careers.

T – Thoughtful teamwork and tech savvy for terrific therapy while using
H – Humor and humility with honored fieldwork educators, faculty, students, and staff.
E – Energetic, engaging, enthusiastic, evidence-based practitioners who are
R – Realistic, respectful, responsive individuals providing rewarding returns.
A – Avid advocates for persons with disabilities, affirming meaning and joy.
P – Playful pals, powerful costumes, productive professors and progressive, professional students and colleagues…
Y – Yielding a wonderful career in academia….YAHOO! Yeesh, 30+ YEARS+!

I am honored to have taught over 1450 occupational therapy students who are now or will soon be my valued colleagues. Many are now adjunct faculty or faculty members at VCU or elsewhere or serve as essential fieldwork coordinators or directors of occupational therapy departments. It has been a privilege and I thank you all for your patience, forgiveness, and collaboration.

We are selling our house in Richmond and moving to Warsaw, Virginia on Cat Point Creek where we will build the second floor to our house. Then I plan to work part-time in OT while enjoying nature, kayaking, painting, and volunteering. So I hope to see many of you around the world of OT. Thank you to the faculty, students, and the VCU and OT community who have given me a great send off. I know this quote by Kristin Armstrong will be true….and I’m ready!

“Times of transition are strenuous…they are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits…to make our new normal any way we want.”
Onto the next phase! Much admiration for YOU.

OT Collaboration with SwimRVA Autism Swims Program

By Assistant Professor Carole Ivey, PhD OTR/L

Accidental drowning accounted for 91% of US deaths in children with autism spectrum disorders from 2009-2011 (National Autism Association, 2016). Because of this, SwimRVA began planning in 2015 to expand their swim lessons to include lessons for children with autism, a decision that is compatible with their mission to “elevate swimming in the Richmond region making water safety and aquatic fitness more accessible to all.”

The SwimRVA group embarked on eight months of research and assembled a team of experts, from the Central Virginia Autism Society, Chesterfield County Public Schools, Chesterfield County Support Services, and Carole Ivey, from our OT Department. Additionally, they traveled to Kansas and Georgia to train and observe current best practices in swimming instruction with children with autism (some who happened to be OTs). From this, the SwimRVA Autism Swims program was developed. The goal of the program is to teach children with autism to swim. Unlike other swim programs for children with disabilities, this program is provided in the community by the community, run by SwimRVA swim instructors. In order to do this, the SwimRVA instructors would need assistance on how to work with children with autism and adapt their instruction to the needs of this population.

Swim instructors completed the online course for paraprofessionals through VCU’s Autism Center for Excellence ( This was followed by a lot of training, including an overview of autism by Tammy Burns from the Autism Society of Central Virginia, and sensory processing in children with autism, by Carole. Based on this instruction, we worked with the swim instructors to determine supports that might be needed for the lessons. We determined that visual schedules, video modeling of skills, and video social stories should be developed, as well as considerations for adapting the sensory environment. But how would these be developed?

As part of the Occupational Therapy Practice Activities III course in our VCU OT curriculum, students design and fabricate low technology devices for clients or facilities. The SwimRVA Autism Swims request was submitted by Carole to develop the adaptations for the swim program. Grad II’s at the time (now Grad III’s soon to graduate) Corinne McLees and Liat Damari signed up for this project. Their background as swim instructors, their pediatric interest, and Liat’s expertise in technology was a huge asset for this big project. They worked with SwimRVA to develop 3 adapted materials, a video social story “Entry Video,” video modeling skills videos, and visual schedules. Collaboration was key to this project. The goal of this program was not to have the children “hang out” in the water for 30 minutes, but to actually learn to swim by going through the same SwimRVA swim “stations” that any other child would. This required them to immerse themselves in the SwimRVA culture – how do families enter the building? Where do children wait for the lesson? What are the words instructors use in a lesson? What are the skills required in each station? These were all incorporated into the adapted materials.

Video Social Story “Entry Video” – The purpose of this video is to prepare swimmers on how to enter the building, check in, change, use the bathrooms, enter the pool area, and wait for the instructor. This video is posted on the SwimRVA YouTube channel to allow children to watch the video prior to their swim lessons. (

Video Modeling Skills Videos – The purpose of these 19 videos are to provide a visual model of the swimming skills in the first three stations. Thirty-eight skill videos were developed – 2 for each skill with one having audio directions and the other having no audio. These videos are also posted on the SwimRVA YouTube channel and can be watched by children during lessons or before and/or after swim lessons.

Visual Schedules – The purpose of the schedules are to help swimmers follow the structure of the swim lesson. Ten sets of schedules were made, with each set containing cards for each of the 19 skills along with “break” activities and blank cards.

The week before the Autism Swims program began, Corinne, Liat, and Carole went to the facility to train swim instructors in the use of the adaptive materials. This allowed swim instructors to ask specific questions regarding interactions with children with autism, and to collaborate on how to best envision these materials working.

The SwimRVA Autism Swims Program officially started on April 5, 2016. Lessons are offered two days a week and to date have been provided to 42 children. There is currently a wait list of 19 children. At this time, all nine swim instructors have remained with the program. Swimmers range in age from 3-17 years. To date, 31% of the swimmers have advanced 1 or more stations, and the SwimRVA goal of water safety in the Richmond region is getting closer one lesson at a time.

Capitol Hill Day 2016

By Associate Professor Jodi Teitelman, PhD

Over 600 OT students trekked to Washington DC recently to support AOTA’s annual day of Federal advocacy, this year for the first time in collaboration with the American Society of Hand Therapists. I was pleased to be part of a delegation of enthusiastic OT graduate students who refused to let the day’s soggy weather put a damper on their readiness to push for policy change in support of people receiving OT services. For those of us who are Virginia residents, it was especially fun to sit in on the briefing session with Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine’s aides, knowing that Senator Kaine is running for Vice-President of the United States this year!

While debriefing on the drive home, Dianne Simons and I agreed that, while the day had certainly been successful, it seems we fight some of the same legislative battles year after year. Of the four issues on AOTA’s 2016 agenda, only one – requesting Medicare funding for lymphedema compression treatment supplies – was brand new. Requests that OT be able to open home health rehabilitation cases and that the National Institutes of Health be allowed to develop a plan for coordinated, collaborative rehabilitation research have been “on the plate” for several years now. And the never-ending quest to permanently repeal the Medicare outpatient therapy cap has been with us for almost 20 years!

And yet, cause for optimism remains. Of necessity, politicians — regardless of partisan affiliation — need to focus on the bottom line. Systems change is not going to happen unless we can prov not only the clinical value of OT, but its cost-effectiveness as well. AOTA has recently cited two just-released studies in Health Affairs and Medical Care Research and Review, documenting how home-based OT can reduce disability and promote aging in place, and how an investment in more hospital-based OT is associated with lower readmission rates. This is the evidence that has been missing in our previous efforts to persuade legislators to support our policy interests. Perhaps now, as research confirms the fiscal benefits we’d always suspected, our push to promote positive change will be…slightly less challenging?!

A Tough Pill to Swallow

By Associate Professor Stacey Reynolds, PhD OTR/L

For children and adults with chronic health conditions, taking medications orally is part of their everyday lives. While some medications come in liquid format, oftentimes pill format is the only option. Swallowing pills, however, can be a challenge to individuals whose diagnostic condition includes sensory sensitivities, postural control deficits, and oral-motor coordination problems. This is the case for individuals with Barth Syndrome.

Barth Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that affects only males and that impacts the cardiac and skeletal muscles ability to generate energy for use. There are new clinical trials being initiated for this population; however inclusion into the trials requires the ability to swallow the large encapsulated pills. To help overcome challenges to pill-swallowing, I was invited- along VCU adjunct instructor Emily Burgess, MS, OTR/L- to host a pill-swallowing clinic at this year’s International Barth Syndrome conference held in Clearwater, Florida.

Before running the clinic Emily and I went to the literature to see what had worked before with other populations of children and adults. The most common approach used a technique called behavioral shaping in which individuals practiced swallowing a variety of candies that progressively increased in size (e.g. cupcake sprinkles, Nerds, tic-tacs, M&M’s, and Mike & Ikes). Other strategies included altering head positions during the swallow (e.g. with/without chin tuck, or head turned to side) and use of adaptive equipment like the Oralflo pill swallowing cup ( and flavored Pill Glide sprays.

At the clinic Emily and I used questionnaires and clinical tools to evaluate sensory, motor, cognitive and behavioral/psychological issues related to pill swallowing. Based on the participant’s age and profile we selected evidence based strategies to help facilitate pill swallowing. We assessed progress based on the subject’s willingness to engage in the pill-swallowing process and the size of pill (candy) they were able to swallow. Out of the 16 boys and men who participated in the clinic, all 16 made significant progress towards pill-swallowing independence and many were able to progress to the largest size pill (candy) by the end of the brief intervention.

Emily and I have been invited to present our pill-swallowing methods at the 2017 Annual Conference of the American Occupational Therapy Association in Philadelphia- so stop by and see us there to find out more!

Stacey sets up candy at the conference.

Stacey sets up candy at the conference.

Emily tries out pill swallowing strategies with a conference attendee.

Emily tries out pill swallowing strategies with a conference attendee.

Introducing Our Newest Faculty Member: Patty Laverdure

Assistant Professor Patricia Laverdure, OTD, OTR/L, BCP

Assistant Professor Patricia Laverdure, OTD, OTR/L, BCP

I am thrilled to join the faculty and staff of the occupational therapy department at Virginia Commonwealth University! I am an occupational therapist with extensive educational, mentoring/supervision, administrative, and clinical expertise acquired throughout my career. I hold a post-professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree from Creighton University, Nebraska and have focused my efforts in the last number of years on the advancement of pediatric practice competency, value added evaluation of occupational therapy contribution, and the translation of evidence to support the critical analysis of pediatric occupational therapy practice. I am a detail oriented educator, scholar and leader and have presented at local, regional and national levels on pediatric and school based practice and evidence based practice and practice change. I have been very active in leadership positions in the Virginia Occupational Therapy Association and currently serve as the chair of the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Early Intervention and Schools Special Interest Section. I regularly advocate on behalf of occupational therapy, occupational therapy practitioners, children, families and schools.

I began my career in early intervention serving children and families in suburban and rural settings. I later transitioned to work in pediatric rehabilitation and hospital settings where I worked with children and families in maternal and child health, neonatal intensive care, behavioral-cognitive, and psycho-educational units. I have spent the last several years working in school divisions in both rural and urban settings as a school based practitioner, private practitioner, consultant and administrator. Prior to my transition to VCU, I was the Program Manager of Physical and Occupational Therapy Services at Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, Virginia.

I enjoy forming collaborative partnerships and recognize reciprocal opportunities for professional training, practice scholarship and academic advancement among practitioners, researchers, community agencies and health care facilities. In my role as Director of Fieldwork, I am looking forward to working collaboratively with the students, faculty, and practice community to continue our tradition of excellence in academic to clinical transition; promoting evidence based practice in the field; and deepening opportunities to build meaningful relationships and networking opportunities that advance clinical practice. To that end, I am in the process of forming a VCU Fieldwork Advisory committee of interested community fieldwork and practice community partners. Please contact me at if you are interested. I look forward to meeting and working with you!

Adaptive Project Fair

By Associate Professors Jayne Shepherd & Tony Gentry

Every spring in Jayne’s Activities Class, Grad II students invent, build and adapt devices to support people with disabilities in the community. We’re proud to present the projects completed by this year’s class:

Sensory Board for Sarah Anna Elementary
Justine Leftwich
I have created two different sensory boards for a classroom. One is a framed quilt to expose the students to different fabric textures. The second one allows students to experience different textures, sounds, and lights independently.


Adaptive Art Equipment for CMoR (3 locations)
Caitlin Boulware
This art equipment enables children with special needs to participate in art activities at the museums using adapted materials to tap into their strengths and support their areas of need. The purpose of this project was to extend the availability of adaptive art equipment beyond the Central location of the Children’s Museum of Richmond (CMoR) to the Chesterfield, Short Pump, and Fredericksburg locations.


Mirror Box
Alex Shrewsberry
This tool is used in the treatment of phantom limb pain, complex regional pain syndrome, stroke, and other diagnoses. The tri-fold design is compact, portable and made of easily cleaned plastics.


Mobile Arm Support for Tree of Life
Olivia Sherck
Using items from the VCU OT ADL lab, I constructed a mobile arm support (MAS) for a woman (Miss Joan) at Tree of Life who has experienced both a stroke and a TBI. I also adapted a manual describing how to put the MAS together as well as functional activities that can be completed using the MAS. The MAS will Miss Joan allow her to more easily use her left UE to eat and use her computer.


Sensory Board for Spot On Therapy
Brittany Short
This sensory board has a “Day at the Ocean” theme. The purpose of the board is to help children who receive OT services at Spot On use various textures, sights, and sounds to aide them in emotional regulation. The facility preferred a board with multiple removable pieces as well as activities that would challenge children’s fine motor skills. The board contains many different kinds of fabric, a rain stick, a calming glitter bottle, bubbles, a pin-wheel, a weaving activity, and sorting and fine motor activities related to the ocean.

sensory board

Adapted Bowling/Skee Ball Game
Jared Purvis
Creating a ramp that uses an easy-to-operate lever will allow children with physical and/or cognitive challenges along with limited mobility the opportunity to participate in a game of either bowling or skee ball without requiring a significant level of assistance.


Activity Boards for Sensory Tent at Short Pump Middle School
Megan Anderson and Kristen Huenerberg
Several activity boards (busy, sensory, etc) will be mounted to a “sensory tent’s” wooden walls. The structure is enclosed by a clear shower curtain splattered with glow-in-the-dark paint and a see-through linen roof. The structure will have twinkle lights mounted around the roof.
The “sensory tent” structure was created by school’s maintenance team and includes a padded bench.


Fastener Practice Dress Up Clothes
Ashley Abraham, Reny Wilcher
The Bon Air Therapy Center of the Children’s Hospital of Richmond serves a number of children in their outpatient therapy clinic who struggle with dressing and manipulating fasteners. Dressing is often a stressful and unfavored activity for children who struggle with this skillset. The purpose of this project is to find ways to make the activity more enjoyable.


Adjustable Activity Board
Mallory McKenzie
Similar to a slant board, the adjustable activity board’s work surface can be adjusted to five different angles ranging from 20° – 80° and can accommodate paper inserts up to 2’ x 2’. The purpose is to provide an adjustable surface for visual and cognitive tasks that can be completed in the seated or standing position.


Adaptive Art tools and stylus for Treehouse Pediatric Therapy
Eileen Choi
The adaptive art tools and stylus are designed to promote a dynamic tripod grasp pattern for children with fine motor difficulties. The adaptive art tools would enable children with special needs to access to art and education. The adaptive stylus would allow children with special needs to access to an ipad for communication and/or recreation use.


Activity Inserts for Adaptive Activity Board
Becky Haller
Poster Board inserts that slide into a large activity board. These were made for one of Sheltering Arms outpatient clinics. The different puzzles are helpful for visual scanning, problem solving, visual-sequential memory, shoulder/arm/wrist/finger ROM, and play/leisure just to name a few. I made 10 boards in total (double sided) (2) Sudoku puzzles, (2) Letter Finds, (2) Number Finds, (2) Mazes, (2) Word Finds.


Adaptive Game and Sensory Bin tools for Treehouse Pediatric Therapy
Christa Kurbel
Adapted Guess Who? by creating a new board with animals, large cards and a card holder for each player for those with visual and visual motor deficits. I built up handles for two scoops and tongs and made a funnel holder that attaches to the side of a sensory bin for those with decreased hand strength, limited prehension, and limited bilateral coordination.


Visual Card Sort
Michelle Leon
Large board displaying a full randomized deck of cards. Second set of matching cards with velcro attachments creates a game for a variety of clients (e.g. neurorehabilitation). Game can address a myriad of goals for a client, ranging from utilization of a variety of body functions (ROM, joint mobility, reaching) and mental functions (attention, memory).


Occupation-Based Activity Board for Sheltering Arms
Allison Erfort and Maggie McDermott
Tri-panel table-top activity board that focuses on improving fine-motor, gross motor and cognitive reasoning skills for clients at an inpatient rehabilitation facility. Activities are geared towards an adult male population and include a knot-tying activity panel, a nuts and bolts activity panel and a an electric box activity panel. Each panel can be used standing up or sitting down and can be graded and used various ways.


Weighted Vest
Christine McNichols
Developed for a student in elementary school, this weighted vested was created with the weight distributed on top of the shoulder girdle muscles and the upper back. In this manner the weight is not simply pulling on the fabric but instead applying deep pressure to the child involved.


Wheelchair Sleeve & Car Protector
Riz Baul and Christine Yang
Created for the VCU OT Department for student use during their wheelchair experience. This device is intended to assist caretakers with loading and unloading a wheelchair into and out of the trunk of a vehicle while using good body mechanics and ergonomics to prevent injury. Along with the wheelchair sleeve, a car protector was also fabricated to assist in performing this task as well as to protect the vehicle from being damaged by the wheelchair as it is being transported in and out of the car.


Binder Activities (+ Fine Motor Task Boxes)
Stephanie Park
Developed for students in a high school special education classroom: (1) three binder games (making a sandwich, picking out clothes for different types of weather, and matching different textures–for the sensory kids) to work on fine motor manipulation, problem-solving, following directions, and getting them to start thinking about important life skills; (2) two fine motor task boxes with different types of containers & pom poms to practice opening/closing lids and categorizing by size/color.


Adapted Materials for SwimRVA Autism Swims
Liat Damari and Corinne McLees
Fabricated materials include (1) one ‘social story’ video that is intended for the child to view prior to entering the SwimRVA facility and depicts how to enter the facility, how to check in, where the bathrooms/changing rooms are located, & where to wait for swim instructor; (2) 38 skill videos (with & without subtitles/audio) used as video modeling of swim skills during lessons; and (3) 10 visual board schedules with buttons for specific swim skills, breaks, and rewards.

swim video

Weighted Vests for Richmond ARC
Caitlin Johnson and Courtney Walker
Two weighted vests of different sizes were created in a gender-neutral color for Richmond ARC therapists to use as a loaner vest for their clients to trial before deciding to purchase their own weighted vest. The vests were made with an adjustable amount of weight so that they can be used to fit a greater number of individuals.


Foot Rest
Jesse Ingram
Foot rests allow students to maintain a more ergonomically sound and stable position while seated, which facilitates greater distal control (e.g., practicing handwriting).This wooden foot rest is designed with a slot that allows the front two legs of a chair to hold the foot rest in place. The slot on the top of the foot rest was made in such a way so as to accommodate various dimensions of chairs (which will allow it to be used by a variety of students).


Upper Extremity BAPS Board Game for Sheltering Arms Rehabilitation Hospital
Katrina Kask
Tabletop game on top of a fulcrum, in which participants roll a marble through a maze in the center of the game, by tipping the maze in different directions. There are forearm troughs on either side of the maze to faciliate sensory input to the UEs and weightbearing in different directions while rolling the marble through the maze. Intended for use with clients with stroke/affected UE.


Sensory Tools for Self-Regulation
Sarah Harsche
A variety of calming sensory tools created for use at Hallmark Youthcare, a residential facility for youth who have experienced trauma. These tools are intended for use during times of anxiety & stress, assisting with emotional self-regulation.

sensory board

Weighted Pillow Pets for Children’s Museum of Richmond
Rebecca Cooper-Mullin and Kathleen Freeze
Two pillow pets were modified and adapted to contain a weighted insert that can be removed, so that the outside animal covering can be washed. The benefit of the Pillow Pet is that the object can be transformed into a weighted animal if the velcro attachment is in place, but can also function as a lap blanket when left un-velcroed. The stuffed animals are also incredibly soft, providing an additional calming sensory support.


Adapted Underwear for Potty Training
Allison Lee
This project was individualized for a 2 year old little girl who has Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFF). She has a prosthetic right lower extremity that is secured by a thick strap that wraps around her waist. I adapted underwear for her to use as she begins to potty train so that she will not have to take her entire leg off to use the bathroom. This will be especially important when she needs to use the restroom in public and as she starts preschool. I made additional adapted panties to fit her baby dolls for use during play and for her older 6 year old sister to use to model and normalize the use of the clothing.


Weighted Objects for Virginia Treatment Center for Children
Stephanie Williams
A variety of weighted objects were created for the Virginia Treatment Center for Children to be used with children ages 3-17. Objects include: a 10 lb blanket, 2 lb stuffed animal, 3 lb neck roll, and 2 lap pads (3 & 5 lbs). Removable coverings made out of soft material were created for each item so that they can be washed and used with multiple children.


Sensory Toolkits
Brant Taylor
Individualized kits that contain a variety of calming and alerting sensory tools, activities, and strategies that were created for use at Hallmark Youthcare, a residential facility for youth who have experienced trauma. These kits were designed and made in conjunction with a sensory-based group that was conducted by VCU OT students on the boys’ unit throughout the semester. These kits utilize the Zones of Regulation model to enhance self-regulation through sensory-based strategies.


Adjustable Footrest
Erin Sim
The adjustable footrest was created for a preschool room at Cold Harbor Elementary School and will be used for several different students. The footrest is made out of PVC pipe and is adjustable between 1-11 inches from floor height.


Adaptive Hand Attachment
Nelson Clinic Hand Management
Nick Karakashian
This device was created for someone who has a middle cord brachial plexus injury and wants to be able to perform bilateral activities. It was adapted from a wrist guard, with a steel hook constructed and attached to the wrist guard. There is a detachable aluminium piece that is shaped at a 90 degree angle, has slits for velcro to fit through and can attach to an array of items such as a broom, kayak, or a milk bottle.


Telephone Remote Pocket for Client with Multiple Sclerosis
Katie Trizna
I created a pocket for a client with MS, who has limited ability of her arms. The pocket is intended to allow easier access to her remote in order to answer her telephone.


Communication Keyrings for Children’s Museum of Richmond
Flora Franklin
The keyrings are communication tools for children ages 2-8 years who have difficulty with receptive or expressive language to improve communication with their caregivers while at CMoR. The keyrings are comprised of double-sided pairings of images and words in English and Spanish, and the images are organized by colors in five topic groups: (1) exhibits, (2) basic communication, (3) “something is wrong”, (4) needs, and (5) emotions. The cards are laminated for durability and ease of cleaning, and they were made using Boardmaker software.


SmartBoard Interactive Activities (for High School Students in Special Education Classroom)
Katie Trizna
Four files were created for high school students to be used in the Special Education Classroom at Atlee High School. It was requested that these files incorporate lots of color, sounds, and activity that encourages the students to learn and engage in basic topics. Topics include: Matching opposites, sports, counting money, and community signs.


Mirror Box for Acute Care
Liz Souza
Purpose: To rehabilitate and reduce pain by creating a reflected illusion of a healthy, pain free hand in place of an affected hand.
Who: For individuals affected by phantom limb pain, complex regional pain syndrome, stroke,and hand injuries.


Boardmaker Studio Programming for Greenfield Elementary School (CCPS)
Alli Davis
Individualized programs were created to help students learn to sequence the letters of their name and/or digits of their phone number, match shapes and letters, and click and drag using a single button mouse. Students get feedback throughout the task and are rewarded with specific, preferred songs, videos, or images when they complete the tasks on screen.


SmartBoard Interactive Activities (HCPS, K-12 Special Education Classrooms)
Michelle Norris
Three interactive activities were created to help students learn concepts from the ZONES of Regulation program, specifically “Perspective Taking” and “Expected vs Unexpected Behaviors.” The adaptive project partner specifically requested a game (i.e. Candyland) with an Inside Out theme to best fit the interests of her students. Because these activities would be used with students across a wide range of age and ability level, they also needed to be easily modified (for grading) and incorporate specific language familiar to students.


Interactive Calendar
Holly Timberline
Prana for pediatric patients at an outpatient facility to help them understand sequencing and the flow of time (temporal understanding). There are 48 individual manipulatives that children can use with the colorful wooden calendar board in a variety of ways to support sequencing skills and temporal understanding.