Occupational Therapy students in stride with the community

Bachelor of Applied Science/Occupational Therapy student Del Adams-Jolly and Bachelor of Health Science/Master of Occupational Therapy student Fiona Brackenbury, have been keeping stride with their local community by assisting at the Camden High Inter-School Equestrian Carnival recently.

2012 was only the fifth year the carnival has included a program of events for children with disabilities and final year student Del, who has been involved in the carnival for these five years, feels it is an invaluable experience for the children.

“The inclusion of a program of events for children with disabilities is important because it contributes to the child's sense of belonging to a school team, and engages them in a competitive sporting activity,” says Del.

“Two of the children who competed in the special needs ring this year had siblings who competed in the open rings and their parents were delighted to attend an event where their child with a disability was able to participate and compete in a safe environment.”

Following her graduation in December, Del will be one of only eight occupational therapists practicing ‘hippotherapy’ in Australia and can see the value of such equestrian carnival programs as a therapy.

“Hippotherapy is a treatment strategy that uses the movement of the horse to achieve outcomes such as improved balance and postural control, improved coordination, and psychological and cognitive benefits,” says Del.

When Del put out an appeal to her fellow Occupational Therapy students for assistance with judging, first year student Fiona Brackenbury answered the call.

“I signed up because it was an opportunity to work with the students and gain experience outside of a clinical setting. Watching them do something they enjoy and have so much fun made it worthwhile,” says Fiona.

“The experience really helped my studies because I learnt how to communicate with the students to let them know what I needed them to do. I’d do it again, it was a lot of fun and the kids were just gorgeous.”

Dr Rosalind Bye, Director of Academic Program Occupational Therapy, says UWS occupational therapy students are actively engaged in community activities supporting people with disabilities and other health challenges.

“In this instance, we are proud to have two students with expertise in horse riding who have made a fabulous contribution to local children and young people with disabilities,” says Dr Bye.

“They are applying their occupational therapy knowledge into real life situations even before graduating.”

Competitors in this special program of events included children with cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, hearing impairments and other physical and intellectual disabilities.


Words: Hannah Guilfoyle

30 October 2012