Name & Faces: OT January 2017

See who is making news and notable career moves in the occupational therapy world

For over 30 years, ADVANCE for Occupational Therapy Practitioners has worked tirelessly to deliver the latest industry news and support the professionals of this wonderful healthcare field. Occupational Therapy Names & Faces is meant to give a platform to those who are making an impact, and to spread the good news about the work you are doing in facilities, rehabilitation practices and other settings throughout the nation.

Check back often to find more award winners, staff and manager promotions, facility expansions, board appointments, association news, profession-specific announcements and more. We encourage our readers to keep us updated on anything happening in their community through articles, press releases and photos by using the Contact Us page, which can be found under the Toolbox tab.

Tech Kids Unlimited teaches children with ASD and processing disorders how to work with technology.

Tech Kids Unlimited Receives Google RISE Award for Promoting Computer Science and Technology to Youth with Learning Differences

Google has granted Tech Kids Unlimited (TKU) a RISE Award to support the nonprofit’s efforts to empower teens with special needs to learn about, create, develop and share the tools of technology.

TKU was founded by Beth Rosenberg, an adjunct faculty member in NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s Integrated Digital Media Program, and her son, Jack, to teach 21st-century tech skills to young people with autism spectrum disorder, learning and emotional disabilities, processing problems and other such issues.

“Many youth with ASD intuitively understand technology; computer code is predictable, rote and follows a set of finite rules, which make them comfortable,” Rosenberg said. “Additionally, many of these students are not given the opportunity to further their interest in computer science during the school week because they are inundated with occupational and physical therapy, tutoring, social work appointments and other needed services.”

The RISE Award will fund TKU’s newest initiative, the T3 Digital Agency, which will provide a channel for teens with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to undertake commissioned projects such as websites and apps for real clients.

That goal is particularly important in light of the fact that in the United States, 500,000 teens with ASD will reach adulthood over the next decade, and 90% of adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed.

The 21st Century Cures Act, signed on December 13, will help OTs more effectively treat their patients.

21st Century Cures Act Signed Into Law; Contains Major Victories for OTs

The Senate has passed the 21st Century Cures Act, and as of December 13, 2016, it has been signed by President Barack Obama. The bill includes four provisions important to occupational therapy, including three of which have been part of AOTA’s major grassroots and advocacy efforts.

The major victories for occupational therapy include the inclusion of OT in mental health training grants, an increase in the stature of rehabilitation research at NIH, a 6-month delay in subjecting complex rehabilitation technology (CRT) wheelchair accessories to competitive bidding and a new focus at NIH on supporting emerging scientists.

Included in the portion of the bill to improve mental health services is an expansion of a current grant program that currently helps with recruitment and training of professionals in certain mental health professions. Among other changes, the new language would award grants to “accredited institutions of higher education or accredited professional training programs that are establishing or expanding internships or other field placement programs in mental health,” including occupational therapy.

This language helps to promote occupational therapy’s role in mental and behavioral health in two ways. First, occupational therapy educational programs would be able to apply for and receive grants in order to provide or improve fieldwork placements in mental and behavioral health settings. (AOTA believes this language would apply to training programs for all occupational therapy practitioners and will advocate for this position as the statute is implemented).

Secondly, this language will include, in federal statute, occupational therapy within a list of other mental health professionals (while not explicitly defining it as a “mental health profession”). Inclusion in a list such as this is essential for our continued efforts to have occupational therapy reimbursed for mental health services at the state level, to be included in future mental and behavioral health programs, and to be recognized as mental health providers in all 50 states.

The portion of the bill focused on improving medical rehabilitation research at NIH mirrors legislation (S. 800; H.R. 1631) introduced by Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Gregg Harper (R-MS) to improve, coordinate, and enhance medical rehabilitation research at NIH. The language builds upon the conclusions and recommendations of an NIH Blue Ribbon Panel on Medical Rehabilitation Research, which issued a comprehensive report in January 2013 that concluded that rehabilitation research is not thriving at NIH and that reforms are needed to assist people with injuries, illnesses, disabilities, and chronic conditions in order to maximize their health and their ability to function, live independently, and return to work if possible.

This language does this by:

  • Focusing on creating greater links within NIH to help coordinate rehabilitation research across Institutes and Centers to streamline rehabilitation research priorities and maximize the current federal investment in this area of research,
  • Involving the Office of the NIH Director in coordination activities,
  • Updating the Rehabilitation Research Plan every 5 years following a scientific conference or workshop,
  • Requiring an annual progress report,
  • Tying co-funding of medical rehabilitation research projects to the Research Plan and
  • Including a definition of medical rehabilitation research to ensure consistent tracking of rehabilitation research across NIH.


Under current law, the seating systems and accessories used in conjunction with complex rehabilitation technology wheelchairs is subject to competitive-bidding pricing. Many fear that subjecting these items to competitive bidding will limit access, and make it more difficult for individuals to receive the system or accessory that is the most appropriate for that individual. Congress delayed implementation of competitive bidding for one year, but this delay expires at the end of 2016. The 21st Century Cures Act will extend this delay through July 2017.

Harrison Phelps, MOT student at University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences

University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences Student Selected to Ride on OTAC Float at 2017 Tournament of Roses Parade

Harrison Phelps, a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) student at University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS), was recently named one of the 12 riders of the 2017 Occupational Therapy Association Centennial Float. Sponsored by the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) Board of Directors, the float will appear in the historic 128th Tournament of Roses® Parade in Pasadena, California on Monday, January 2, 2017.

The float serves as a floral salute and kick off to the year-long celebration of the 100 year history of occupational therapy. In addition, the event will also mark the 20th year of occupational therapy educational programs at USAHS, which were first established on the university’s St. Augustine, Florida, campus in 1997. In partnership with students across the university’s three campuses in California, Florida and Texas, Phelps, who is the president of the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) on the San Marcos campus, organized an array of fundraisers which led to the university’s selection. He was named a rider based on his leadership at the university.

“As the SOTA President on the USAHS San Marcos Campus, Harrison has quickly established an advocacy and community-based culture for our OT students,” said Terri Roberts, OTD, OTR, CHT, CLT, assistant program director, Masters of Occupational Therapy, USAHS. “Harrison’s ability to collaborate and lead as we worked to raise funds for the OTAC float made him an excellent choice to represent USAHS, our students and the OT profession on this historic float.”

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