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.

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? 

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.



AOTA Hosts Game-Changing Conference

Conference Students

Six Lewis and Clark Community College OTA students attend the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Conference.

Every year, Occupational Therapy practitioners around the world attend the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Conference. This is an opportunity for professionals to further develop their skills and increase their knowledge through workshops, research panels, and presentations to learn the most current methods and continue providing skilled therapy.

This year it was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was extra special because not only was it our first time attending the conference, but we also celebrated the 100-year anniversary of Occupational Therapy!

100-year celebration

The AOTA Conference celebrated the 100-year anniversary of Occupational Therapy.

Over the course of several days, six of us Lewis and Clark Community College Occupational Therapy Assistant students attended various presentations. As students, we felt our time would be most wisely spent in student-oriented sessions to help us better prepare for entering the workforce.

We attended discussion panels of new practitioners, prep sessions with tips for taking the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy exam, but in the end, several of us agreed that a lecture we attended by Brandon Siegel, CRP, was the most impactful of all the sessions we attended during the conference.

Mr. Siegel provided information on to help jump start a career in Occupational Therapy, and his approach to the topic was humorous and down to earth. Below is our condensed list of Mr. Siegel’s presentation with 15 game-changing tips to entering the Occupational Therapy workforce.

Next-Gen Occupational Therapists: Secrets to Entering the Workforce in Today’s Ever-Changing Environment

  1. Create relationships within the company – NETWORK!!!
  2. Document each Fieldwork experience (Disease, Treatment, Methods, Protocols, Patient Outcomes, etc.)
  3. Focus on your Productivity: HARD WORK PAYS OFF!
  4. Interview your coworkers to step up your game
  5. Resume (1-2 pages)
    • Needs to have licensure at the top
    • Goal: Hit key words, Disease, Treatment, Exposure (summary)
    • Summary of Qualifications: 1-2 pages
    • Brag about your exposure and experience
    • Fieldwork Level 1: 1-2 bullet points
    • Fieldwork Level 2: 2-3 bullet points
  6. Curriculum Vitae (CV) … Life story as an OT
    • Could be 20 pgs.….
    • Include only experience relevant to OT
  7. Get a LinkedIn Profile
    • Productivity:
      1. Copy of resume, 2 letters of recommendation (1 clinical, 1 character building) Sample documentation

** The quality of therapy is only as good as your documentation**

  1. Verify the job hours (e.g., PRN, Full Time)
  2. GPA is not relevant
    • Passing the NBCOT exam states you are qualified for entry level job
  3. Cover letter:
    • 2-3 paragraphs max
    • 1/2 – 2/3 page – Background information and your qualifications
  4. Don’t include an objective statement
  5. Start looking for jobs 6-8 weeks before the exam
  6. Put the most relevant information at the top of the resume
  7. Resume should include bullet points and minimal color
  8. Do your homework! Not only is the employer interviewing you, but you are interviewing them! The more you know about the employer, the better you can judge if the job opportunity and workplace is a match for you. Knowledge is power!!
AOTA Conference

L&C OTA students celebrated the 100-year anniversary of Occupational Therapy at the AOTA Conference in 2017.

The Dog Days of OT: Meet Spuds & Ribbie

Spuds and Ribbie

Meet Spuds and Ribbie! Image Source

By Lisa Hill, OTAS, and Larissa Heeren, OTAS

Therapy can be found everywhere these days, and it comes in many forms.  However, when it comes to therapy dogs, most people think of the large breed dogs such as German Shepherds or Labradors.  But, that is not always the case.

Please meet Spuds and Ribbie, the two lovable companions of Mackenzie Lowrance COTA/L, CPAM.  Mackenzie is a graduate of the Lewis and Clark Community College Occupational Therapy Assistant Program.  She is currently employed as a Licensed and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with a Certificate in Physical Agent Modalities. This means she can treat clients with light, water, temperature, sound, or electricity in preparation or in combination with occupational therapy interventions.  Spuds and Ribbie are not only her companions but also her coworkers.

Therapy Dogs

Spuds and Ribbie are registered Therapy Dogs. Image Source

Spuds crossed Mackenzie’s path when he was approximately 8 weeks old and only weighed 2 lbs! He tried crossing the road on a rural highway in front of her, so she scooped him up and made him her own. Mackenzie soon began to train Spuds and his first accomplishment was the American Kennel Club (AKC) good citizen course.  After this certificate, he began to go to work with Mackenzie.  He was practically a veteran when he tested for Therapy Dogs International and received his official license.


Spuds has now made more than 150 therapy visits. Image Source

Ribbie was the runt of her litter that came from a friend of Mackenzie’s and at 6 weeks old weighing in at an amazing ½ lb, Mackenzie took her home to meet Spuds.  Mackenzie eventually began to work with Ribbie and had her tested with Therapy Dogs International also. Ribbie was awarded her license and soon began to go to work with Mackenzie too. Both Ribbie and Spuds had very sweet temperaments and both of them loved being with people. Their wonderful dispositions have made them very successful therapy dogs and they have been loving life in the working world ever since.

Fun Loving

Spuds and Ribbie are fun loving dogs. Image Source

Spuds and Ribbie are excellent examples of how important therapy dogs have become in the medical field.  The dogs bring peace and happiness to those with illness and disability.  And, as Spuds and Ribbie have proven, therapy dogs can come in all shapes and sizes.  These kinds of dogs have a presence in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, hospice, home visits, libraries, schools, shelters and anywhere else there are people with a need to feel their love and comfort.  In fact, libraries have started implementing programs called Tail Waggin’ Tutors where children read to dogs as a way to promote literacy.

Ribbie Cuddles

Ribbie gives some therapeutic cuddles. Image Source

As Occupational Therapy Assistant students, we urge all pet owners to visit the Therapy Dogs International’s webpage at http://www.tdi-dog.org to learn more about this awesome way the dogs of the world are making a big difference in people’s lives on a daily basis.

Spuds Snuggles

Spuds snuggles up to a patient. Image Source

Let us know if your pet would make a good co-worker in the comments below.