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Clarkson University's Tebo Says Occupational Therapy Field Gives Students Many Career Options

Clarkson University's Lisa Tebo says the field of occupational therapy provides a wealth of innovative and rewarding career opportunities for students.

Lisa TeboOccupational therapy is a health profession that helps individuals with disabilities either assume or return to their normal activities of life, said Tebo, instructor / clinical educator / fieldwork coordinator in Clarkson's proposed Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (M.S. in OT) program. Clarkson plans to offer three tracks in occupational therapy: assistive technology, innovation, and education and research.

While people tend to think of occupational therapists as having roles in hospitals or clinics, Tebo said, they also serve in school districts, community-based programs and mental health programs. A degree in occupational therapy allows graduates to work in various settings, with occupational therapists specializing in areas such as sports medicine, gerontology and K-12 education.

"There are not many professions that allow you to do so many different things with your degree," she said. "At the same time, it's incredibly rewarding to make a difference in someone's life and see them experience the success and satisfaction of returning to the activities that are important to them."

The "occupation" in occupational therapy refers to more than just a vocation, Tebo said. While returning to work might be an element of occupational therapy, it is only one of many goals clients have.

"When we think of occupation, we think of all the things that occupy our time," she said, "so it's all of the things that are important to us, such as your role being a mother, your professional role or your role in recreation. We address all of those roles through therapeutic intervention."

Tebo, who has more than 25 years of experience in occupational therapy, said studying the role of assistive technology in education is one of her passions. She said assistive technology helps students with learning differences access the information they need to learn or produce work in a different format to demonstrate their knowledge.

Assistive technology is any kind of tool or strategy that helps a person compensate for a challenge or allows them to do tasks that they need or want to do, Tebo said. Solutions can range from low-tech modifications to a tool to extremely complex and high-tech devices like computerized controls for an automobile or a speech device.

"As an occupational therapist, you really have to think creatively about the kinds of solutions that will work for the individual while integrating that science piece of it," she said.

Tebo now is finishing her clinical doctorate in occupation therapy. Her research examines the impact of online environments for professional development and training in assistive technology for professionals.

There is a misperception that children who rely on assistive technology such as powered mobility or speech devices won't develop those skills on their own, Tebo said. The opposite tends to occur, however, because children who experience success with assistive technology build on that success.

"In early childhood, assistive technology is often thought of as a last resort," she said, "but research shows that it can really make an immediate, powerful impact in terms of a young child's social connections with their family and peers, and their ability to explore their environment to learn by doing."

Tebo said she believes there are great opportunities for collaboration between Clarkson's Occupational Therapy Department and other educational institutions and community-based programs to meet health and wellness needs of the North Country. She said she sees a lot of potential to explore new and innovative ways to make a difference in the lives of the community.

"Being associated with Clarkson and the University's commitment to technology and innovation is really exciting for our program because we see that as an integral part for our occupational therapy students to think outside of the box when it comes to intervention," she said.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

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