Title

Student Poster Session - Maintaining Occupational Engagement and Well-Being through Disaster and Emergency Preparedness of Middle School Students

Start Time

18-10-2013 12:40 PM

End Time

18-10-2013 1:30 PM

Abstract

When a disaster occurs, society becomes disabled, limiting participation in meaningful activities (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2013). Developing emergency preparedness and disaster response programming to address the physical and emotional needs of individuals who may go through disaster situations is vital (Scaffa, Reitz, & Smith, 2011). With an understanding of the impact of client factors and context on occupational participation, occupational therapy practitioners are uniquely qualified to assist individuals, organizations, and communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a disaster (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2013; Scaffa, et al., 2011). Exploring the impact of disasters on daily lives and occupations from an occupational science perspective (Clark & Lawlor, 2009), two graduate occupational therapy students conducted an independent study project at a local middle school.

Over a five month period, the graduate students prepared 85 seventh grade students for disaster and emergency situations through the development of skills necessary for maintaining occupational participation and well-being. While involvement in a disaster can be a traumatic experience, preparatory actions, including the development of a family plan, emergency preparedness kit, and go-bags can significantly reduce the associated trauma (Scaffa et al., 2009). The occupational therapy students guided the seventh grade youth through a series of activities designed to explore these preparatory actions and the emotions typically experienced by individuals in an emergency situation. In exploring these emotions, the seventh graders developed a repertoire of coping skills to reduce the impact of negative reactions on their mental health in an actual emergency. The project culminated with participation of the middle school youth in a disaster drill at the university.

After participation in the disaster drill, the seventh graders were interviewed in groups to gain a greater understanding of the impact of the programming as it related to the occupational nature of being human. The youth reported that participation in the drill felt very realistic and emphasized the importance of preparatory actions in developing the skills to maintain meaningful patterns of occupations in an actual disaster situation. From an occupational science perspective, these experiences highlight the impact of disasters on daily lives and occupations, and the need for additional research to develop scientifically informed interventions teaching individuals, organizations, and communities the skills for maintaining occupational participation in emergency situations.

Keywords: emergency preparedness, disaster preparation, occupational therapy

References

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2013). Emergency preparedness and disaster response. Retrieved from http://aota.org/practitioners/resources/collections/preparedness_ Library.aspx

Clark, F., & Lawlor, M. C. (2009). The making and mattering of occupational science. In E. B. Crepeau, E. S. Cohn, B. A. Boyt Schell (Eds.), Willard & Spackman’s Occupational Therapy (11th ed., pp. 2-14). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Scaffa, M. E., Reitz, S. M., & Smith, T. M. (2011). The role of occupational therapy in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery: A concept paper. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65(6), 511-525. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2011.65S11

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Oct 18th, 12:40 PM Oct 18th, 1:30 PM

Student Poster Session - Maintaining Occupational Engagement and Well-Being through Disaster and Emergency Preparedness of Middle School Students

When a disaster occurs, society becomes disabled, limiting participation in meaningful activities (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2013). Developing emergency preparedness and disaster response programming to address the physical and emotional needs of individuals who may go through disaster situations is vital (Scaffa, Reitz, & Smith, 2011). With an understanding of the impact of client factors and context on occupational participation, occupational therapy practitioners are uniquely qualified to assist individuals, organizations, and communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a disaster (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2013; Scaffa, et al., 2011). Exploring the impact of disasters on daily lives and occupations from an occupational science perspective (Clark & Lawlor, 2009), two graduate occupational therapy students conducted an independent study project at a local middle school.

Over a five month period, the graduate students prepared 85 seventh grade students for disaster and emergency situations through the development of skills necessary for maintaining occupational participation and well-being. While involvement in a disaster can be a traumatic experience, preparatory actions, including the development of a family plan, emergency preparedness kit, and go-bags can significantly reduce the associated trauma (Scaffa et al., 2009). The occupational therapy students guided the seventh grade youth through a series of activities designed to explore these preparatory actions and the emotions typically experienced by individuals in an emergency situation. In exploring these emotions, the seventh graders developed a repertoire of coping skills to reduce the impact of negative reactions on their mental health in an actual emergency. The project culminated with participation of the middle school youth in a disaster drill at the university.

After participation in the disaster drill, the seventh graders were interviewed in groups to gain a greater understanding of the impact of the programming as it related to the occupational nature of being human. The youth reported that participation in the drill felt very realistic and emphasized the importance of preparatory actions in developing the skills to maintain meaningful patterns of occupations in an actual disaster situation. From an occupational science perspective, these experiences highlight the impact of disasters on daily lives and occupations, and the need for additional research to develop scientifically informed interventions teaching individuals, organizations, and communities the skills for maintaining occupational participation in emergency situations.

Keywords: emergency preparedness, disaster preparation, occupational therapy