OT Mindfulness Initiative Moves Online in Response to COVID-19
In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Occupational Therapy (OT) Program professors Dr. Mei-Ling Lin and Dr. Cecilia Fierro, together with a group of dedicated OT students, are revamping their successful mindfulness initiative in local public elementary schools.
The group piloted their intervention, which incorporates simple breathing and mindfulness exercises, coupled with yoga postures, in spring of 2019 at REL Washington Elementary School on El Paso’s east side. The group returned to REL that fall to complete a follow-up intervention after school officials indicated that students’ stress levels had been rising immediately after the August mass shooting at a central Walmart location.
Thus far, the intervention has been completed for all fifth and sixth grade and one of the fourth-grade sections at REL. A post-test for the final three fourth-grade groups will be moved to the fall, pending the re-opening of schools. The group has been collecting data since the beginning of the project and is currently writing a manuscript for submission, which is also serving as the base for a grant submission to the Paso Del Norte Health Foundation’s Think Change program.
The second phase of the program, originally aimed at training teachers across the district these techniques for future implementation in their own classrooms, has been modified to remain in compliance with CDC social-distancing guidelines. Pending funding, the group will move training to an online platform, and will begin working on the training material in fall 2020 for tentative release to the schools in spring 2021.
“Our next step is to plant the seeds for this program. We plan to create hybrid social emotional curriculum for teachers. With the assistance of our OT students, we will film short instructional and demonstration videos with our devices and technology platforms like Vyond, coupled with suggested in-class and home activities, to make this program more sustainable and accessible to multiple stakeholders.” said Lin. “The schools are supportive of this idea and have offered us a place in their Google drives where teachers can access the content.”
Lin says that despite the wrench in their original plans, she believes that the hybrid curriculum will be successful and, as an added benefit, can be made available to parents to complete at home with their children.
Lin is also working separately with a small group of OT students on a qualitative study on parent-perceived needs of school-age children, in response to COVID-19. Specifically, the group will investigate changes in daily activities or needs within families during the crisis. The IRB for the study will be submitted by the end of the spring semester, with data collection to take place in the fall semester. Given the ongoing ambiguity concerning extended social distancing requirements, Lin says that “plan B” is to conduct data collection via online interviews with parents.
For more information about the UTEP Occupational Therapy Program, please visit: https://www.utep.edu/chs/ot/