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Faculty Focus: “Sammy’s Physical Therapy Adventure” Taps Four Departments to Help Kids
07.26.13 |
Dr. Michael Fink, assistant professor of physical therapy, was a frustrated consumer. “I was looking for a book about physical therapy that could speak to pediatric patients going through physical therapy—any patient below the age of 10,” he explained. “I looked in all the bookstores and researched it extensively, but I could not find a single book written for a child that described what a physical therapist does.”

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention, and this was certainly true for Fink. Not finding the book he was searching for, he thought, “Why not create one?”

Fink teamed up with Dr. Kathryn Oriel, associate professor of physical therapy, who served as a project advisor, and enlisted two students from her community-based physical therapy class to help. “The PT students were great as content experts,” said Fink. “But we also needed people to illustrate and digitize, and we didn’t yet have the language experts necessary to make the material ‘kid friendly.’”

That’s when Fink realized he had a great interdisciplinary project at hand. “We have a strong elementary Education Department at LVC, and they know how to effectively communicate to kids. So I spoke with Jane Yingling [associate professor of education] who recruited three elementary education students to help us with reading level, sentence syntax, and word structure,” said Fink. “Then I spoke with Michael Pittari [chair and associate professor of art & art history] in the Art & Art History Department about illustrating the book. He recommended three additional students who became involved in the illustrations and Mat Samuel [assistant professor of digital communications] suggested a student who could embed color into the line drawings as well as digitize the book to enable us to create an e-book.” At that point, Fink applied for and received an Arnold Grant to provide stipends for the students to work on the book during the summer and to move the book through the publishing process.

Fink was happy to see so many different departments involved in producing the book. “The students really began to appreciate those with skill sets very different than their own, and the value that can be added from outside disciplines,” he said. “They learned how to work as a team. One of the biggest challenges for the students was meeting deadlines set by the students in other disciplines—the evolution of peer-to-peer accountability was really interesting to observe. The students also developed great leadership skills as project managers and learned how to create buy-in for the project at different levels—how to create enthusiasm while getting things done.”

Not unexpectedly, the biggest learning curve was communication—not only breaking down technical language to a child’s reading level, but doing what Fink called ‘discipline cross-talk.’ “When physical therapists talk to one another, we use medical jargon that is foreign to non-physical therapists,” he explained. “The same is true of other disciplines, so we had to find a way to all speak a common language.”

Fink was also impressed by the skill and enthusiasm the students brought to the project. “We faculty saw some skills and talents in our students that we didn’t know were there,” he said. “I don’t think we realized how much creative energy our students really have. I think all of us in each of our respective domains were impressed by what the students brought to the table.”

The book, with the working title “Sammy’s Physical Therapy Adventure,” features cartoon animals that help explain the physical therapy experience to young children. Fink hopes to have the book published soon and to include production of a companion coloring book as well.

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