OTA students get ‘a-peeling’ opportunity


Students in the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at Mercyhurst University – The North East Campus got an “a-peel-ing” opportunity to practice what they learned in class today.

As part of the Intro to Occupational Therapy course, OTA students hosted an apple peeling contest for the campus community. The catch? Contestants had to use their non-dominant hand to simulate a disability that affects a person’s coordination.

Occupational therapy assistants help people develop, recover or maintain daily living and work skills needed to participate fully in everyday life, such as a patient losing mobility in a limb following a stroke or other injury.

“It’s a fun event,” said Sierra Riedy, a first year OTA student at Mercyhurst North East. “People get a little frustrated when they can’t use both hands, but we talk them through it and show them how to use the equipment.”

The adaptive cutting board the contestants used is a real tool used by those suffering the loss of function in one hand, Riedy explained. It has suction cups on the bottom to secure it to the countertop, and a trio of protruding spikes to stabilize the apple. The cutting board also has removable walls in the corner that help corral the food being cut.

The apple peeling contest was sponsored by the Student Government Association. Most contestants averaged upward of one minute, but the faster times broke the 60-second mark. The top two fastest male and female contestants won an apple crisp to take home.

“This gives our students the hands-on opportunity to practice skills they will need as occupational therapy assistants,” said Mary Gavacs, OTA program director at Mercyhurst North East. “They learn to interact with clients and teach them a skill using the adaptive equipment. These are things they’ll put into practice when they start their careers.”

The event was held to commemorate Occupational Therapy Month, an awareness month created by the American Occupational Therapy Association.

For more information about the OTA program at Mercyhurst North East, contact Gavacs at mgavacs@mercyhurst.edu or 814-725-6309.

Photo: Occupational therapy assistant students Sierra Riedy and Taylor Roth show MNE nursing student Kacie McFarland how to peel an apple using adaptive equipment during the OTA Department's apple peeling contest.
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