occupational therapy

Rocking chair – work in progress


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I am an occupational therapist working with patients with mental health problems in a psychiatric nursing home.. One of the main problems that the people I work with face is their poor cognition. Their ability to reason in a coherent manner, short term memory, reasoning ability and the ability to learn new task is affected due to their condition of schizophrenia, low IQ, among other diagnosis.

Their cognitive deficits also affect their psychosocial aspects as well. Because they are achieving much less than others, issues such as self esteem, self concept, self efficacy are also a problem. They may see themselves as being unable to achieve anything except whatever to take whatever handouts that the healthcare providers or volunteers give. They say something is too difficult even before they try because they lack the confidence to even try.

After analyzing these problems, I decided to work with them to build a rocking chair. I thought that building a rocking chair would let them see themselves as achievers. Inspiration for the design was gathered from the Maloof Rocking chair and that of  the Shaker rocking chair. I did not have a clear design on paper to work with. Instead what I did was to make a plywood model of the rocking chair, test it for comfort, before I sketch the curves on the plywood. After one side is done, my friendly router bit did the work of shaping the other side, using the first side as a template.

My patients did the sanding, lots of it. One or two of them help to drive in the screws during assembly. All of them felt that they contributed to the making of the chair in some way and they were all smiles when they sat on the chair and started rocking. One of them was heard exclaiming, “we succeeded, we succeeded!”

While the material cost of the rocking chair is really cheap (S$65), the amount of self esteem it brings to the patients is through the roof. Woodworking is indeed a good activity for patients with mental health issues.



Customised seating

I was working with a five year old boy who had cerebral palsy. He moved about quite a bit due to his athetoid movements. His mother needed a chair that she could put him in. The chair must be sturdy enough to withstand his athetoid movements and not fall over. It should keep him in the chair and allow him to engage in activities with his hands.  I placed the child in a simulater and adjusted the angles till I thought it met my therapy goals.

The problem is there was no commercially availiable chair for the child to try. This is important in AT prescription because the child needs to try sitting on the chair for a reasonable period of time. I ended up fabricating a chair for him. The chair has a flat base that extended all the way from the toes to 5 inches past the backrest so there is little danger of it tipping over. The armrest are removable so the chair will be wider as the child grows. A removable footplate allows for growth in leg length. The lap tray is also provided so that the child can engage in a table top. The seat is tilted 20 degrees backwards to prevent him from sliding out of the chair as seen in the first picture.