Timing is everything, or so the saying goes. For students from the Ross College campus in Quad Cities, Iowa Occupational Therapy Assistant program, timing lead to the students wanting to help a local non profit childcare center in a few different ways. The organization they decided to come alongside is Hand-in-Hand.
According to Elizabeth VanCamp, Marketing and Development Coordinator, Hand-in-Hand offers several types of integrative programming for children with and without disabilities. Programming ranges from integrated child care, summer camp, week-end programming, and special events such as Hand-in-Hand Prom. Hand-in-Hand’s website further states that “all Hand-in-Hand programs are integrated and adaptive so participants of all abilities can learn, have fun, become more independent, and make friends.”
Hand-in-Hand has been a valuable community partner for the Ross College Quad Cities Occupational Therapy Assistant program for the last year. Hand-in-Hand is one of many community partners who accept occupational therapy assistant students for one-week fieldwork experiences in April and again in October.
Jade Moore-Jackson was one of the occupational therapy assistant students placed at Hand-in-Hand in April. Prior to this experience, Jade never considered herself to be a “kid person.” This all changed for Jade. “During my experience at Hand-in-Hand, I had the wonderful opportunity to play a multitude of games with the children and to observe their actions and creative thought processes,” she shared.
As timing would have it, the next class for Jade and the rest of her classmates in the occupational therapy assistant program at Ross College Quad Cities was Intervention in Pediatrics and Adolescents. One of the assignments in this class was to modify or adapt a toy for a child with a disability. More specifically, the assignment required the student to modify a toy, puzzle, or book in a way that maintains the playfulness of the toy in a professional manner. Among the toys that were adapted were a children’s book, a wooden puzzle, a Candyland game, and pound-a-peg game.
Each student voiced a different reason for why each toy was chosen. Stacy Arroyo commented that she “thought about a child who might be left out because of a deficit. That’s when I took a favorite game and thought about how to change it for a child who cannot use their hands.” Stacy adapted a “Let’s go Fishing” game by placing the fishing pole in a wrist band allowing a child who is unable to grasp the very small fishing pole the chance to play the game.
Delaney Royse took a different route. She created a new game to address fine motor deficits. She created a game called “finger twister.” She stated that, “being a kid is all about having fun. Adapting a toy that not only is fun but can help them with their condition warms the heart.” Kimberly Grimm, course instructor, was very impressed with each student’s toy modification, “each student did a great job modifying each toy. I was very proud of each student’s toy choice as well as their enthusiasm about their toy.”
After their projects, the Ross College Quad Cities Occupational Therapy Assistant classroom had several modified toys with no children to benefit from the toys. When considering what to do with their projects, the students unanimously decided to donate the toys to Hand-in-Hand. The students who completed their one week fieldwork there in April knew that the facility is always in need of toys. The students are excited that the fruit of their labor will be put to good use.
Not only did the students decide to donate their modified toys, they also decided to have an impromptu fundraiser to raise money for Hand-in-Hand. One of the students, Abbey Ruppert, designed t-shirts to be sold to Ross Occupational Therapy Assistant students. Some shirts were even bought by local doctorate level occupational therapy students. In the course of one week, the Occupational Therapy Assistant students raised $50 to donate to Hand-in-Hand.
In this case, timing was everything. From the fieldwork, to the toy assignment, to the t-shirt fundraiser, the Ross College Quad Cities Occupational Therapy Assistant students are looking forward to donating their toys and the money to Hand-in-Hand. Sam Longner sums up the thoughts of most the students by saying, “I think all kids should be able to be kids regardless of deficits or impairments.” The donations to Hand-in-Hand will allow more kids to be kids.