UKZN College of Health Sciences (CHS) final year Occupational therapy (OT) students provide OT services as part of their community engagement at the Centre for Occupational Performance and Research’s (COPAR) Paediatric Clinic based on UKZN’s Westville Campus. The clinic is run by OT 4th-year students as part of their paediatric block.
The 4th years are divided into groups throughout the year to ensure that there is a paediatric block each term at the clinic to allow for carry-over of treatment with the children.
The OT department’s Ms Lauren Hepworth said that the main treatment takes place once a week. Students often treat children diagnosed with learning difficulties, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sensory processing difficulties and epilepsy, who are all experiencing scholastic problems.
‘The clinic is open to any child who is not already receiving OT elsewhere and there are waiting lists for both assessments and treatment,’ she said. Assessments take place on a Friday morning and if a child requires occupational therapy services, they are placed on the waiting list.
As a result of a new service implemented by Ms Lauren Hepworth in 2016, the students also screen children from children’s homes in the area, in order to identify problems that may have been missed. Once the students have screened the children identified by the social workers at various children’s homes, the reports are evaluated and the children who require occupational therapy are asked to come back for treatment either every alternate week or once a month.
The clinic also offers its services to KZN Children’s Hospital (the old Addington Children’s Hospital) as it currently has no employed OT. ‘The hospital is government run and thus we are offering this service for free. This assists families who require occupational therapy and are able to come to the clinic,’ said Ms Hepworth.
Every alternate week, the students also visit a special school in the area, called Pathways, in order to be exposed to diagnoses such as cerebral palsy and autism. Lauren said that Pathways exposes students to more paediatric conditions and helps increase awareness while also providing an OT service on a more regular basis, as there is only a consultant OT at the school. The students also participate in a sharing of knowledge with the staff to ensure both staff members and students can handle the children effectively.