5 Foods for Concentration, Memory & Mood

By Ashlyn Hlafka and Kassandra Emery

Occupational Therapy is a health care profession that focuses on the meaningful activities that each of us does every day. We can’t function on a daily basis if we don’t feel like our normal selves.

So, if you’re feeling hungry, stressed or tired, here are five suggested brain foods to get you back on track!

But, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about just what brain foods are exactly. According to Be Brain Fit, brain foods are the types of foods that contain all of the building blocks to properly and adequately nourish your brain to keep you alert, aware, and at ease. Specifically, these foods will be:

  1. High in nutrients to create, protect, and repair damaged brain cells,
  2. Provide a supply of chemical building blocks that translate messages within the brain, and
  3. Are rich in essential nutrients that affect susceptibility to mental disorders today and degenerative brain diseases down the road.

1. Sea Vegetables

This forgotten food commonly enjoyed as sushi has quite a few benefits for the body and mind, but the top two benefits for memory and mood are the content of taurine and inositol.

  • “Nature’s Valium,” also known as the neurotransmitter GABA, is released by taurine. This inhibits anxious feelings during times of stress, like midterms or major life changes.
  • Inositol acts like the Blackboard of the brain – it connects the dots between information just as Bb connects students to teachers. Neurotransmitters, the chemical Gmail of the brain, rely upon inositol to relay important messages.

2. Walnuts

Feeling nutty for trying brain foods? Well, walnuts are just the snack for you!

A specific study has found that eating walnuts improves reflex reactions as well as your ability to learn new things and remember old knowledge. This can be especially helpful when trying to remember what you learned the first week of the semester before taking a final.

Walnuts also are one of the few foods that contain a natural supply of serotonin, which can elevate your mood on a rainy day.

3. Turmeric

This spice can be added as extra flavoring to anything you decide to cook, and if you still live at home, your mom probably has some turmeric in the spice cabinet.

One of the amazing properties of turmeric is that it is often described as a natural version of Prozac, a common anti-depressant. So if you feel overwhelmed but are concerned about the side effects of most anti-depressant medications, you might try adding turmeric to a few meals a week. Turmeric is a safe spice that will not have negative effects on the body when used for long periods of time, even indefinitely.

Originating from India, we see that Indian seniors display some of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s in the world – possibly due to a regular intake of turmeric in their diets. Curcumin, an active compound within turmeric, increases the brain’s production of BDNF, which can break up brain plaques that are thought to be related or even cause Alzheimer’s.

4. Olive Oil

Olive oil, while seemingly a fatty substance, actually contains monounsaturated fats as well as vitamins E and K, all of which are known to support memory. Olive oil also increases the levels of BDNF in the brain, which inhibits depressive tendencies as well as the feelings of stress.

So by using extra virgin olive oil (instead of canola oil or vegetable oil, which contain trans fats), you can lower the risk of depression by nearly 50 percent just by how you cook a meal.

5. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil from the “tree of life” has been previously put down for its high content of saturated fats, but people who incorporate this into their eating habits are typically quite healthy. Coconut oil is also known for its ability to inhibit depressive tendencies as well as feelings of stress, and can also postpone the aging process in the brain. Specifically, coconut oil is known to reduce the abundance of plaques related to Alzheimer’s disease.

So next time you have frizzy hair, rough skin, and a frazzled mind before finals or a big day at work, use some coconut oil for your hair, skin, and brain to make you feel confident and focused!

What are some of your favorite brain foods for chaotic, stressful times in your own lives? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!


6 Benefits of using the Wii for Occupational Therapy

By Ashley Heron, OTAS and Hannah Robeen, OTAS

Look around you and what do you see? Everyone and or everything revolves around electronics and technology nowadays.

Phones, tablets, televisions, blue tooth headphones, even some cars can parallel park themselves! With the world wirelessly changing it’s no surprise that Occupational Therapy would jump on the wagon.

The Nintendo Wii has proven to be very beneficial for clients of all diagnoses and disorders as part of an occupational therapy treatment plan, especially during cold weather.

Below we have included why Occupational Therapy Practitioners love using the Wii with clients!

Image Source

Nintendo Wii – Image Source

1. Cost Effective

The Wii is cheaper than most tools used in the OT world and is well known. There are tons of different games clients can play that work with different abilities and many simulate everyday activities.

2. Saves Energy

Clients who don’t have enough endurance can become tired easily. With the Wii, the clients can be seated while working on upper body movements. This way the clients can save their energy for other daily activities.

3. It is fun!

The Wii games are more fun than traditional exercises and are visually pleasing. Clients who enjoy bowling, boxing, tennis, golf or any other leisure activities can virtually experience them while working on strength and mobility.

“Adding fun can be an effective way to make activity purposeful and meaningful.” ~ www.myotspot.com

4. Helps Prevent Falls

Most of the Wii games increase strength and endurance while also working on balance. Clients can work on restoring or establishing muscle strength by playing the Wii.

5. Encourages Social Interaction

The Wii encourages clients to play with others and can even create a little competition. By playing with others the client’s motivation can increase and it can inspire the clients to participate.

6. Increases Mental functions

“By playing games on the Wii, clients will be focused on moving the virtual character rather than thinking about left, right, up, and down.” ~ www.myotspot.com

Most games work on problem-solving, timing, and sequencing actions.

Your Turn

What skills have you used while playing the Wii? Let us know in the comments below.

5 Ways To Make Healthier Choices

By Korinne Christner, OTAS

The holidays are upon us! Now is the time to remember that making healthy choices can set you up for success.

OT practitioners work hard every day to help people live the life they want to live as much as possible, usually following an injury or medical setback.

However, sometimes these setbacks can be avoided altogether, and you can live your life, your way if you take care of yourself from the get-go.

Here are some tips on how to stay healthy, and develop some good patterns of healthy living.

1. Drink your daily recommended amount of water.

The amount of water you need per day depends on the size of your body. To calculate how much you need per day, read How to Calculate How Much Water You Should Drink A Day.

2. Try to do something active every day.

Find an activity that makes you happy and make an appointment with yourself every day to engage in that activity. Even something as simple as walking will boost your mood and is good for your body. Plus, getting involved in a sport of some kind can be good for socialization!

3. Make small changes in your diet at first.

If your diet is something that is keeping your from being as healthy as you would like to be, try eliminating one “bad” food at a time. Trying to overhaul your entire diet at once will set you up to fail. Instead, take small steps to make your overall diet a healthier one.

Image Source

Image Source

4. Set goals for yourself.

Having a realistic goal in mind will keep you motivated to stick with the changes you are making. You can have a large goal, such as, “I want to lose 20 lbs before my vacation this summer,” and then set weekly goals for yourself within that large goal.

An example would be to have the goal of only exercising 5 days this week. This smaller goal is part of the large goal.

5. Find an accountability buddy.

Having someone who you know is going to check in with you and ask how your lifestyle changes are going will make you more likely to stick with it. Plus, they will be challenging themselves, too, and can understand the struggles that you face in trying to be successful.

SUPER Kelan and his SUPER team

Image Source

By Hope Smith, OTAS, and Dustin Patterson, OTAS

Everyone meet Kelan! A very special boy with an even more special story to tell.

Mom and Dad, the Masinelli’s, knew Kelan was special from the moment they found out they were pregnant. They added a special sunroom for all his toys and the excitement continued to grow as they enjoyed 3 baby showers for their new bouncing boy.

Kelan was born on July 14, 2007 at 6:04 P.M. with no complications during labor or delivery. Mom, Jamie, says on her blog, “Both of us had anticipated this moment with excitement for years but never imagined how seeing Kelan for the first time would open up our hearts.”

This beautiful baby boy was everything they could have asked for.  He was playful and strong.  The Masinelli’s couldn’t wait to enjoy the new family life they had received.

Then, just 4 ½ months later their world was turned upside down.  Kelan was diagnosed with Lissencephaly on December 10th after a week of seizures with no explanation.

Like most of you reading this, mom and dad had no clue what that was or what it held for their new child. In general terms, Lissencephaly is a rare genetic condition that develops when the fetus is 12-14 weeks old. This cannot be reversed and treatment aims to support and comfort the family and the child.

The life expectancy for a child with this condition varies but children with severe Lissencephaly only live to be about 10 years old. Some symptoms of Lissencephaly are difficulty feeding, muscle spasms, seizures, trouble swallowing and intellectual impairment.

Learn More about Lissencephaly

Kelan's Family

Kelan’s Family

Jamie told me, “When the Dr. came to tell us what was wrong we hardly heard a word he said. Just that our son would never walk or talk or sit-up on his own.”

This, as you can imagine, would be hard for any parent to hear.  After digesting the information, the Masinelli’s decided they were not going to let this conquer their life.  They decided that no matter what, they were going to give Kelan the best possible life that they could.

Throughout the years there have been many tough times including hundreds of hospital visits, countless sleepless nights, and many different medications.  The struggles have been hard and his mom said, “This is not the life that we thought it would be but Kelan has made us the best versions of ourselves.”

Kelan experiences very frequent seizures (about 50 a day) and respiratory issues; he is also non-verbal.

Kelan started receiving Occupational Therapy on Feb 4th of 2008, which he continues now to help him with his developmental milestones. Even though there are lots of hard times, the good times make it all worth it.  Kelan makes the best out of every day!

Though he cannot speak, he loves the color red.  Balloons make him so happy and his little sister, Riley (7), makes him even happier.  Over the years Kelan has grown a huge following.  Everyone wants to help this super boy out!

Community members, organizations, family, and friends gathered together to make “A place for Kelan” which is an outdoor oasis that is safe for the family and Kelan to enjoy together. This hard work and dedication created one of Kelan’s favorite spots!

Visit Kelan’s Facebook Page

This was just the beginning of their journey! The Masinelli’s then set on their way with the Make a Wish Foundation to give back to the community while also helping Kelan.

They teamed up to create a wheelchair swing to go into a local park so that not only can Kelan enjoy, but other children in wheelchairs can enjoy as well!

Follow the Kelan’s Swing Progress

Kelan's Visit

Kelan’s Visit

The OTA program here at Lewis and Clark Community College was lucky enough to have the chance to meet Kelan, his home nurse, his OT Practitioner and his mother and father.

This experience was heartwarming to all of us.  Even though Kelan was nonverbal we learned a lot of things about him.  Like, he loves the color red, balloons and being with his sister makes him so happy. In just a short time, he has already made an impact on all of us!

The trials this family faces every day are tiring and some days may seem impossible but with the help of his Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Nurses, amazing family, and friends, Kelan has surpassed his life expectancy and this family continues to hope for more memories to come!

Kelan is sure to touch anyone’s life that he encounters.  He is more than just his diagnosis. Kelan is strong, handsome, and more importantly a hero.

As his mother says, “I know what unconditional love is, and it is Kelan.”

OTA Students Compete for Fall Fest!

Earlier this fall, the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) students at Lewis and Clark Community College (L&C), split up into three different teams to come up with a creative way to promote OT at the fall fest!

The idea was to have a catchy theme with three different activities to show other students what occupational therapy was all about.

1. Team OT!

This group had a game night theme. There was an obstacle course that included taking off a shirt with gloves to stimulate decreased sensitivity and wearing glasses with blurred vision to stimulate a vision impairment.

The second activity was a Yardzee game. The person would roll the dice and depending on what number was chosen, the person would do a certain task with a disability. The third activity was a “The Price Is Right” game. The individual had to guess what the adaptive equipment was and how much it cost.

Team OT

Team OT: Amanda, Katelyn, Rachel, Hope, Paula, Hannah and Ashley

2. The Great OuTdoors!

This team’s theme was about how occupational therapy can help people with an illness or injury still be active and engaged in the outdoors.

The first activity was a timed game to see how many sticks could be picked up with a reacher. This represented older adults who are not able to bend over and pick items up as easily anymore.

The second activity was a sleep-bag race which represented the community who is not able to walk typically. The third activity was a timed one-handed fishing game which represented the community that has use of only one upper extremity.

The Great OuTdoors!

The Great OuTdoors! Baylee, Brandie, Brittney, Kassy, Rebekah, Ashlyn, Makinze and Keri

3. Fall into OT!

The first activity included using a reacher to grab an apple out of a bowl of water. This represented someone who could not bend over to bob an apple with their mouth.

The second activity included using the individual’s non-dominant hand to button the scarecrow’s shirt. This stimulated how a person with only one arm feels when dressing.

The third activity was to rake leaves using the individual’s non-dominant hand into the hula hoop. This showed the students how a person feels who can only use one hand when doing yard work.

Fall into OT!

Fall into OT! Whitney, Dustin, Emily, Sumer, Haley, Rachael, Liz and Korrine

After presenting the team’s ideas and taking a vote, the winners were….

The Great OuTdoors!!!

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6 Ideas to Fire Up Your Next Camping Trip

By L&C OTA Student Rebekah Miler-Lyles

“Time camping isn’t spent; it’s invested.”

When the air turns a little nippy and the leaves a little crisp, I know the time has come to get outdoors and unplug.

One of my all-time favorite ways to unplug is through camping. I know that if I were to suffer from an injury or disability, I would still want to find a way to enjoy camping.

One of the goals of Occupational Therapy Practitioners is to find a way to get people back to doing the things they love. Following these few tips will have you back enjoying the great outdoors in no time

Plan Ahead

First, contact your local campsite to find out whether they have handicap accessible camping spots available. National and State Parks are a good place to start as they often list such information online.

Be sure to ask about the distance to amenities, whether the ground is level, and sidewalk availability.

Grab Your Gear

Next, make sure to come equipped with the right gear. Many manufacturers offer a range of tents with wheelchair friendly dome entrances and raised cot areas.  Adaptive equipment such as easy peg removers simplifies the process even more.

Have Fun

Finally, get involved and enjoy yourself. Not sure what to do? Try some of these 6 ideas.

1. Campfire Cooking

Try an old favorite like roasting hot dogs or something with a twist like Smoreos.

2. Stargazing

Whether looking for constellations or observing meteorological events such as a meteor shower, the sky is always a wonder to behold.

3. Be Present

Experience nature with your eyes and ears. Watch a sunset, observe the fireflies dance in the night sky, or listen for the distinct song of the Barred Owl as he sings, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”

4. Sing a Campfire Song

Sing some of your favorite camp songs around the fire. Whether singing “Kumbaya My Lord” or “Hello Mu-dda! Hello Fa-dda!,” a sing-along is a great way to get everyone together at the end of the day.

5. Play Games & Tell Stories

Make memories together playing games, such as washers, or telling stories.

6. Explore Your Options

If sensory-processing challenges are preventing your child from enjoying unstructured camp experiences, they may flourish under the care of an occupational therapy summer camp where sensory integration and socialization are built into daily camp life.

Now tell me, what are some of your favorite camping memories or tips and tricks? 

3 Habits of Highly Successful Hikers with Disabilities

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” ~ T.S. Elliot

By OTA Student Rebekah Miler-Lyles

Challenges have a way changing a person, and the way a person rises up to meet those challenges determines their success or failure.

When you find yourself with a disability, you may think you will never be able to do the things you love again, especially if you are the sort of person who enjoys physically stimulating activities, such as hiking.

One of Occupational Therapy’s core beliefs is that engaging in meaningful occupations (i.e. activities) is essential for promoting health and well-being. Fortunately, you can follow in the footsteps of those who have experienced similar struggles and learn from their example.

Glacier National Park

The Avalanche Lake Hike at Glacier National Park has off-road wheelchair access. Image Source

Check out these 3 Habits of Highly Successful Hikers with Disabilities

1. Know where you’re going.

Take time to do some research and map out the terrain of the trails.

A topographical map or an app such as Maps 3D Pro can be helpful in determining whether a trail is an “easy” or “difficult hike.”

Visitor centers will be able to tell you whether wheelchair accessible trails are present.

2. Always be prepared.

The golden rule of the Boy Scouts applies to everyone, disabled and able-bodied alike.

Not only do you need to carry the usual arsenal of things like water, a cell phone, and a knife, but you may also want to consider using adaptive equipment, such as a wheelchair fitted with bike tires, to make your hike less taxing.

Dressing in layers will prevent you from becoming uncomfortable.

3. Safety first.

Always let someone know where you’re going and when you plan on being back.

Many larger trails even have a registration list so they can keep tabs on your safety. Bring along emergency supplies such as a first aid kit, bear spray, and a whistle.

Most importantly, know your limits.

Developing these habits will not only help YOU become a successful hiker but will serve as your guidepost on the path to health and happiness.

What other habits are important when hiking with a disability? Let us know in the comments below.

6 Ways to Save Money with OT

Being an Occupational Therapy (OT) Assistant is all about thinking on your feet and adapting items for a client so she can become as independent as possible to complete an activity.

Depending on what the client needs assistance with will help the occupational therapy practitioner decide what adaptive equipment is needed.

Not every facility has all the adaptive equipment a practitioner might need so sometimes the practitioner must improvise and make one with what is available.

Other reasons adaptive equipment may be homemade is that insurance will not cover the cost and it is a lot cheaper to make one than to purchase one.

1. Non-slip socks

For instance, all clients should always wear non-slip socks when getting up from a bed or a chair to prevent falls. For these socks, all you need is a pair of socks and some puffy paint.

Items needed:

  • Puffy Paint
  • Socks of your choice


  • Find the bottom of your sock
  • Lay it on a flat surface
  • Chose the color of your puffy paint
  • Apply puffy paint to sock
  • Set out to dry

These socks are made to help individuals who are at risk of falling.

2. Pot Pan Holder

Being able to cook for yourself is an important skill to have but, if a client has trouble holding different items like pots and pans or a cup, cooking can be difficult.

A pot and pan holder can be made from suction cups and a hanger.

Items needed:

  • Suction cups with holes
  • Wire of some sort (hanger)


  • Bend the wire in an “M” shape
  • Place the two ends of the wire and the middle of the wire to suction cups (use of glue to help hold the wire to the suction cups)

This adaptive device is usually used for individuals who have the use of only one upper extremity.

3. Sock Aid

There are clients who have trouble getting their socks or pants on. So, for help to get their socks on, a sock aid can be made from at least a one-liter bottle, tape, and some rope.

Supplies needed:

  • Bottle
  • Shoelaces/ rope


  • Cut the top and bottom of the bottle off
  • Cut a section of the middle of the bottle out
  • Cut two holes on each side of the bottle
  • Lace the shoelace/rope through the hole
  • Knot the shoelace/rope making sure it secure
  • Place tape around the cut edges of the bottle

4. Reacher

Help with getting pants on can be as simple as using a pair of suspenders to assist in pulling them up.

Items needed:

  • Suspenders


  • Apply clips of suspenders to the waist of your pants.
  • Put the pants on the floor.
  • Place your feet inside your pants.
  • Using the end of the suspenders pull up your pants.

This could be used if you can’t stand for long periods of time, have decreased strength or decreased endurance.

5. Button Hook

Clients could also use some assistance with buttoning a shirt or pants, and a button hook can be made from just a paper clip and some tape.

Items needed:

  • Paperclip
  • Tape


  • Shape the paper clip
  • Tape around the end creating the handle

This can be used for people who only have the use of one upper extremity.

6. Straw Holder

A straw holder can be made from a clothespin, large straw, glue, and small straws.

Items needed:

  • clothes pin
  • glue
  • large straw and smaller disposable straws


  • Cut larger straw
  • Glue larger straw onto clothespin
  • Simply slide the straw into the larger straw piece and clip the clothespin onto any cup.

This could be used for children with visual impairments and good for children who have difficulty picking up a cup to drink from it.

Many of these items can be found in the home or for under five dollars at some local stores. When a client sees how simple some adaptive equipment is to make, it will give him more confidence when he is able to go home. As future COTAs, knowing we can change a client’s outlook on life with paper clip, one-liter bottle, tape, and rope, shows us that we choose that right career path.

What kinds of things do you use from home to help your clients? Let us know in the comments.

Become an OTA Advocate


Advocacy – Image Source

Advocacy is the process of supporting a cause such as an idea, policy or activity, that can directly affect a person’s or group’s well-being.

The role of advocacy in Occupational Therapy is necessary not only for the strength of the profession but also for optimum care for clients. One way you can get involved in this profession is to become an advocate. Becoming an advocate helps to strengthen the care we have for the clients.

Call Your Representative

Call Your Representative – Image Source

There are two levels of advocacy: Informal and Formal. Informal includes writing or calling your representative for support, voting for officers of AOTA: American Occupational Therapy Association, informing your state representative about issues you may have, staying up to date on current issues via AOTA emails or blogs, and keeping your colleagues up to date on all the efforts for the profession.

Hill Day

Hill Day – Image Source

Formal advocacy efforts include attending AOTA Hill Day and your state’s Hill Day, attending local and state meetings, becoming a volunteer when needed, serving on committees, attending conferences, running for different offices, speaking to consumers and community groups about occupational therapy services, recruiting individuals to become involved in the profession, and serving as a mentor to new OTA practitioners.

A few advocacy activities that you can get involved in are Legislative Action Center, Political Action Committee and Awareness Campaigns. Legislative Action Center is an area of the AOTA’s website that allows you to voice your opinion to members of congress on important issues you want to fix and find answers and new solutions.

AOTA Conference

AOTA Conference – Image Source

Political Action Committee is used as a way to receive donations through members to elect candidates to congress, train OTs, OTAs and students, and gain local practitioners to help serve as campaign advisors, volunteers, and candidates.

Awareness Campaigns are used to build awareness and understanding of Occupational Therapy by using resources through AOTA brochures, visuals and audiovisuals that are all available on AOTA’s website.


AOTPAC – Image Source

We encourage everybody to become an advocate today for the profession of Occupational Therapy. Go to AOTA.com for more information on how you can be an advocate today.

Jacobs, K. (2016). Managment and Administration for the OTA . Thorofare, New Jersey: Slack Incorporated. Retrieved from http://www.aota.org


Horsing Around with OT

Occupational Therapy is a health discipline that focuses on activities that a person does every day and that are meaningful to the client.

Some occupational therapy practitioners use horses during treatments with clients and this is called hippotherapy.

Hippotherapy is a great way to increase muscle tone, balance and posture in a client that has difficulty in any of these areas. It is a fun and exciting way to involve the whole body in a calming therapy session.

Here are some of the awesome benefits of hippotherapy.

Physical benefits

  1. Improved Gross Motor Skills
  2. Reduced abnormal Muscle Tone
  3. Respiratory Control

Cognitive benefits

  1. Improved Attention
  2. Tactile Response
  3. Visual Coordination

Psychological benefits

  1. Enjoyable interactions with the animal
  2. Opportunities for social interactions
  3. Improved self-esteem

Hippotherapy can impact a client in many positive ways, so go out and horse around today!

For more information about hippotherapy visit www.americanhippotherapyassociation.org.