5
Nov

Cenikor Tyler Names Community Partner of the Year

Students in Tyler Junior College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program were recognized for projects that have improved the lives of their clients at events in Tyler and Austin on Friday.

The Cenikor Foundation named the TJC OTA program as its Community Partner of the Year, for its work with clients who have substance abuse and mental health issues.

In the spring, second-year OTA students completed 10 weeks of field work at Cenikor, an East Texas nonprofit substance abuse and behavioral health organization offering long- and short-term inpatient services.

“As third-semester students, part of their training includes working in the mental health field,” said Jennifer Garner, TJC OTA professor and academic field work coordinator. “Our students work alongside the counselors and help to provide activities and education about daily living as far as coping skills.”

As the Cenikor students were being honored in Tyler on Friday, a group of second-year OTA students from TJC were at the Texas Occupational Therapy Association conference in Austin, presenting on a 16-week project they created to make it easier for children with autism to go to the dentist.

“To start, we looked at what a dental visit looks like for a child with autism, and we found out that they usually involved that child either being restrained or sedated,” said TJC OTA student Emily Calafat, of Grand Prairie.

They also learned that children with autism are less likely to receive dental treatment at all, since the experience is not only traumatic for the patients but also for their parents as well as the health care professionals who treat them.

Since most of the children’s difficulties stem from sensory issues such as loud noises, bright lighting and even smells, the TJC students set out on identifying and reducing the stress factors.

“Along with the sensory issues, children with autism are also very specific and need to know what to expect before being thrown into a new situation,” said TJC OTA student Victoria Swinney, of Tyler. “So, we collaborated with the dental hygiene students in the TJC dental clinic and created a short storybook for them with actual pictures of our dental clinic, the student hygienists who would treat them and the exact dental instruments they would use.”

The OTA students also worked with TJC mass communications students to create a detailed walk-through video that the children could watch ahead of time.

The OTA students also worked with TJC mass communications students to create a detailed walk-through video that the children could watch ahead of time.

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