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Occupational Therapy Program

Course of Study

photo of people using wheel chairs in a classroom setting

The program curriculum requires the completion of 81.5 credits over 2.5 years of full-time study. The 81.5 credits include 6 credits of Fieldwork I experiences and 10 required credits of Fieldwork II experiences. A part-time option is available, in which students complete the curriculum in 3.5 years.  Students must complete all academic and fieldwork requirements within 5 years.  Students who choose to complete an additional Fieldwork II elective earn additional credits, based upon the length of the elective Fieldwork II experience.  Students must complete Level II fieldwork within 24 months following completion of the didactic portion of the program.

Students begin their course of study in the Summer Semester (immediately after Memorial Day).

The curriculum is comprised of integrated course sequences in:

  • the health sciences
  • occupational therapy foundations
  • occupational therapy practice
  • research theory and application

The Health Science Sequence

Prerequisite courses in biology, chemistry, human anatomy and physiology prepare students for this course sequence. The emphasis during this sequence is on students' mastery of the theories and concepts that provide a foundation for practice within a health profession. Basic and Medical Science courses are arranged in a developmental sequence starting with Human Gross Anatomy in the Summer Semester of the first year. A mastery of anatomical structure provides the foundation needed for understanding human movement, as taught during the Fall Semester of the first year in the Kinesiology course, where students integrate the principles of kinetics and kinematics with their knowledge of anatomy to analyze human movement.

In the Spring Semester of the first year, students further apply their knowledge of Biological and Health Sciences in the Human Neuroanatomy, Neurophysiology, and Medical Sciences courses. Neurophysiology builds on concepts acquired in the Human Physiology prerequisite. Human Neuroanatomy builds on the introduction to the brain and nervous system that was presented in the Human Gross Anatomy course. In Medical Sciences, students apply their knowledge of body structure and function to learn about medical intervention for pediatric, neurologic, orthopedic, and medical conditions.


Occupational Therapy Foundations

Student on a jumping board, smilingDuring this sequence, students master foundational concepts, theories, and skills required for occupational therapy practice. Simultaneously, students are introduced to the values and attitudes associated with the occupational therapy profession, and have opportunities to explore their own values. Issues related to cultural diversity and professional ethics are explored throughout this sequence of courses. In addition, students are introduced to issues related to working as members of a health care team. This includes discussion of professional role boundaries and supervision of occupational therapy assistants. The clinical reasoning process is facilitated through the application of occupational therapy principles to case studies, case stories, problem solving laboratory experiences, and clinical assignments. Student performance is assessed through a variety of methods including tests, individual and group papers, individual and group presentations, and class participation.

In the Summer Semester of the first year, students learn the history and philosophy of the occupational therapy profession in Foundations of Occupational Therapy I. They are also introduced to the roles and functions of occupational therapists and certified occupational therapy assistants, and to collaboration with other health professionals. This is followed by Foundations of Occupational Therapy II in the Fall Semester, in which students analyze core theoretical constructs that are the foundation of all areas of occupational therapy practice.

Group Process, offered in the Fall Semester of the first year, provides students with a foundation in the theory and application of group dynamics. It prepares students to work collaboratively with peers in concurrent and subsequent courses. Students learn concepts necessary for developing and leading patient treatment groups, which will later be applied in Level I and Level II Fieldwork experiences.

Kinesiology Laboratory, given in the Fall Semester of the first year, provides the foundation for using kinetic and kinematic principles to analyze and synthesize motor activities. This knowledge is applied in the Therapeutic Occupations courses, several of the Theory and Practice courses, and Orthotics and Prosthetics. Additionally, students develop fundamental skills in assessing muscle strength, joint range of motion, and postural alignment, which will be applied in the Theory and Practice course sequence and in fieldwork experiences.

The Therapeutic Occupations sequence consists of three courses that serve an integrative function in the curriculum. In Introduction to Therapeutic Occupations, taught in the Fall semester of the first year, students master the concepts of occupation and occupational performance and develop skill in activity analysis. They learn to administer occupational performance assessment tools that apply across all practice areas, and begin to develop their understanding of occupational context through an exploration of sociocultural variables that influence occupational performance. In Activities of Daily Living, taught in the Spring semester of the first year, students develop knowledge and skill in self-care assessment, as well as treatment planning and environmental adaptations to improve clients' capacities to perform daily tasks. In Designing Therapeutic Environments, students develop knowledge and skill related to assessing and adapting the environmental context to facilitate functional performance by individuals with disabilities. This course, taught in the summer semester of the second year, includes hands-on practice in assessment and planning for wheelchair accessible home design, wheelchair prescription, and fabrication of wheelchair positioning systems.

Experiential Movement Labs are integrated throughout the curriculum to help students develop a kinesthetic foundation for using their own effective body mechanics and for developing interventions for clients. The first of these experiences is the multi-session Awareness Through Movement Lab, a component of Kinesiology Lecture, in the first year Fall semester. In Activities of Daily Living (first year Spring semester) students participate in labs where they explore the relationship between underlying movement patterns and performance of functional tasks. In addition, through simulation, they examine the movement options that are available to people who live with a variety of physical disabilities. A two-session movement workshop, in the 2nd year summer semester, provides students with hands-on experience facilitating movement to promote functional performance in future clients. These skills are developed further in movement labs that are integral components in the Theory and Practice courses.

Assistive Technology and Orthotics and Prosthetics provide students with a foundation for implementing current technology into occupational therapy practice. These courses are coordinated with concurrent or subsequent Theory and Practice and Level I Fieldwork courses. In Cognition and Perception, students apply principles of human information processing to analyzing activities, evaluating cognitive and perceptual performance, and designing therapeutic interventions related to cognitive and perceptual performance.

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Integration of Occupational Therapy Theory and Practice

Photo of student being pulled on floor deviseDuring this course sequence, students focus on developing specific knowledge and skills that are appropriate to the various practice areas in occupational therapy. Simultaneously, they refine their clinical reasoning skills and begin to internalize the skills, behaviors, and values that will enable them to develop professional self images as occupational therapists. Issues related to cultural diversity and professional ethics are explored throughout this sequence. Each Theory and Practice course is accompanied by a concurrent Level I Fieldwork course consisting of a 9-12 day clinical placement. Clinical assignments are integrated with course content and sequence and are carried out in the concurrent Fieldwork I course. Fieldwork seminars meet regularly in conjunction with the Theory and Practice courses. These provide an opportunity for students to explore their own affective responses to the fieldwork setting, to develop more advanced clinical reasoning skills and problem solving skills, to discuss issues related to working collaboratively with occupational therapy assistants, and to further develop their professional self- image through peer discussion of professional and clinical issues. The Community Practice sequence, which has its own field-based experience,, introduces students to occupational therapy practice in community settings and prepares students to develop and market innovative services.

In Administration and Professional Issues, taught in the Spring Semester of the second year, students learn to apply principles of management and supervision in the provision of occupational therapy services. Students also examine how professional ethics, current legislation, and health care systems influence occupational therapy practice.

Level II Fieldwork courses are the culminating integrative experience. They follow the second year with two sequential three-month placements during the Summer and Fall semesters. Students enrolled in Fieldwork II join the faculty for a half-day seminar at the midpoint of each Fieldwork II experience. Seminar issues commonly explored are the development of a professional self- image, clinical staffing and pacing concerns, role delineation, larger health care delivery issues, advanced clinical reasoning processes, affective responses during the fieldwork experience, and the effectiveness of academic preparation for fieldwork. An optional specialty placement from one to three months in length is available for students wishing further experience in a specialized area of practice.

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Theory and Application of Research

poster session

This sequence includes practical experience in all aspects of conducting a research study or developing an educational or clinical product.  Beginning with Research Methods, given in the fall semester of the first year, students learn basic quantitative and qualitative research design and the application of research concepts to occupational therapy, including how to critically appraise and integrate current research evidence into practice.  In the Master’s Project I-IV courses which follow, students work closely with their faculty advisors to implement research studies.  This includes writing a formal proposal, collecting data, analyzing results, presenting poster and platform presentations, and writing a paper on the project in a format suitable for publication. 

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