In The News

Student Corner: Taking An IADL To The Next Level

On April 19, 2019, occupational therapy students and practitioners celebrated a significant contribution in the gaming world of one occupational therapist who was at the forefront of creating an adaptive gaming controller for XBOX. Erin Muston-Firsch, MS, OTR/L, an occupational therapist at Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado, helped a team at Microsoft to develop the first Xbox Adaptive Controller. She was approached by Microsoft because of her creation of the Adaptive Gaming Program at Craig Hospital. She was inspired to create the program after she was referred to a patient who had sustained a spinal cord injury. Prior to his injury he was an avid gamer, playing over ten hours per week. “In partnering with him to figure out how he could game, I realized how important gaming was to people and how it could help them return to a very valued occupation” said Muston-Firsch.

Microsoft had initially come up with the idea for an adaptive controller when they partnered with a nonprofit adaptive gaming organization, “Warfighter Engaged”, during their annual Hackathon. Warfighter Engaged supports injured veterans by creating custom built adaptive controllers for individuals. After Microsoft saw the need for this type of adaptive equipment to reach a broader population of gamers, they partnered with Muston-Firsch and Craig. The Microsoft team made many prototypes that were then tested in the hospital and then adapted and modified based on what was observed with clients. “It was great to see our patients give feedback as it was incredibly empowering for them to say that they influenced its design as well,” said Muston-Firsch. She also had the opportunity to attend Microsoft’s announcement of the controller where they shared the story of how the controller was developed. Muston-Firsch said, “It was pretty amazing to get to go to the Microsoft campus and see all the work that had been done to develop and test the controller.”
Gaming is not only a great recreational therapy for our spinal cord and brain injury patients but also an effective physical and occupational therapy practice. It can help patients increase their strength, dexterity, balance and more. “Research shows that patients have better outcomes when they are engaged with their therapy,” said Erin Muston-Firsch, an occupational therapist in the Assistive Technology Lab at Craig. “Mass repetition of movement is critical in neuro recovery, and gaming gives patients a really fun and measurable way to do that.”

This groundbreaking controller was released in May of 2018 after a four-year process of creation and revision with a Microsoft team. The controller was promoted in Super Bowl LIII commercial this past February.

Submitted by Heidi Kunugi, OTS, Creighton-Regis Student Representative, OTAS. Vetted by Erin Muston-Firsch, MS, OTR/L.


Student Corner: Sex and Sexuality in OT: An OTA Student’s Perspective

I was 24 years old when I received a common surgery to alleviate symptoms caused by a varicose vein in my pelvic region. The surgery was a success by the standards of the urologist who performed it, and I was left with only a small scar about an inch above my genitals. “Nothing a former high school wrestling star can’t handle,” I told myself. Confidence had never been an issue for me. That was until the little scar left behind became the bane of my existence. It burned. I felt like it was on fire at times. The sensation was on the opposite end of the spectrum from the pleasure I typically felt from that region of my body. To make things worse, the pain was unbearable during sex because of the pressure and rubbing on the scar. I returned to the urologist for my post-op check-up about a month later. I immediately expressed my concerns about the pain I felt. I was distraught, confused, and angry. She looked at me and said, “Some people heal differently, just give it time.” Before I knew it, I was driving back home with nothing more than a painful scar of shame and embarrassment in my pants. The demons in my head laughed. Would I ever be able to perform sexually the same way? Will my fiancé want to be with me if the sex isn’t as good? Oh my god, sex will never be the same! The physical pain lasted for months, but eventually subsided. The effect of the experience on my psyche lasted far longer, and is still something that I think about every time I see that little scar.

I share this with you today because I know my story of pain, insecurity, and change related to sex and sexuality do not stand alone. Thanks to Janice Hinds, MS, OTR/L, BCMH and her leadership group at the latest OTAC Conference, I was able to speak about the topic of sex and sexuality as an area personal interest to a room filled with students, professors, and occupational therapy practitioners. That day I announced my goal of advocating for occupational therapy as a primary tool to those who have an acquired disability that affects their sex life and would benefit from the holistic approach we as a profession take to health and wellness.

If something such as a small incision to the pelvic region can have great effects to sexual activity, what are the consequences of a CVA, SCI, amputation, catheter bag, etc.? I have been taught that a solid OT intervention incorporates what is important and enjoyable to a patient. We discuss bathing, care for pets, leisure participation, and so much more. As important and enjoyable these things are to me, and I imagine most others, sex is even more enjoyable. Let’s go as far as saying it is the most enjoyable. Sexual activity, conveniently listed as one of the primary ADL categories in the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework, is defined as, “engaging in activities that result in sexual satisfaction and/or meet relational or reproductive needs” (AOTA, 2016). Satisfaction is a very important word in that definition. The act of having sex is not enough. Leaving a patient to figure it out on their own is not the way. We as occupational therapist have the duty to discuss sex and sexuality with our patients, as long as we have permission. “Exclusion of sex and sexuality within the rehabilitative process has serious consequences for clients and occupational therapy practice as a whole” (Rose & Hughes, 2018). We would not leave a patient who has post-CVA sensory loss in the kitchen to start chopping, grating, and boiling without help and professional intervention. At the same time, we should not leave this patient to explore sexual function and how they now feel about their sexuality completely to their own device.

The idea of speaking about something so personal and intimate with another person is scary. Not only for the patient, but for the OT practitioner as well. Thoughts of doubt may enter your mind. What do I know about helping someone in the realm of sex and sexuality? You know more than you may think. We have the tools. “Sexual concerns often can be addressed through positioning, tool adaptation, energy conservation principles, and other forms of intervention already familiar to most practitioners” (Rose & Hughes, 2018).

Challenge yourself and the OT community to create a sex positive environment. Be open and honest with your fellow practitioners, patients, and anyone who is interested in the topic. The more we discuss how OT can benefit patients in the realm of sex and sexuality due to a change in their life, the more we will learn and the more people we will help.

*Submitted by Nicholas T. Moceri, OTAS. Vetted by Pima Medical Institute, OTA Instructor, Amber Sand, BS, COTA/L*

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2016). The reference manual of the official documents of the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (21st ed.). Bethesda, MD: Author.

Rose, N., & Hughes, C. (2018). Addressing sex in occupational therapy: A coconstructed autoethnography. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72(3), 1-6. doi:


Please Welcome OTAC’s New And Renewing Members - April, 2019

We would like to take a moment to recognize our new and renewing members from April, below. We are so thankful for your support!

New Members

Renewing Members

  • Sylverline Agomoh, Aurora

  • Danielle Fontana, Littleton

  • Katie Hoff, Denver

  • Laura Morehouse, Denver

  • Kristin Rongaus, Arvada

  • Denise LaRocca, Boulder

  • Meghan Weber, Littleton

  • Jenny Junker, Parker

  • Lisa Cover, Longmont

  • Amanda Molnar, Lakewood

Remember, the bigger the number, the bigger the voice. We are excited these members have joined OTAC to let all of our voices be heard.

OTAC members: View the online membership directory (you must be signed in as a member). Also, search for a member.

Not a member? Join us!

Please Welcome OTAC’s New And Renewing Members

We would like to take a moment to recognize our new and renewing members from January - March. We are so thankful for your support!

New Members Renewing Members
  • Amanda Blossfeld, Denver, CO
  • Cam Boehm, Aurora, CO
  • Amanda Calzolano, Levittown, NY
  • Matt Carter, Charleston, SC
  • Lauren Coble, Albuquerque, NM
  • Rebekah Crisp, Carrboro, NC
  • Sara Dodsworth, Aurora, CO
  • Brynne Dunning, Denver, CO
  • Angelique Hill Roebuck, Denver, CO
  • Benjamin Hueftle, Broomfield, CO
  • Megan Hutson, Fort Collins, CO
  • Shawna Kelley, Thornton, CO
  • Bridget Kerins, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Ashley Lowe, Broomfield, CO
  • Kelli Mabe, Asheville, NC
  • Jamie Murphy
  • Valerie O'Brien, Westminster, CO
  • Jessie Olah, Aurora, CO
  • Lisa Olson, Monument, CO
  • Andrew Persch
  • Lori Sharapov
  • Maureen Stobbelaar, Centennial, CO
  • R.J. Tuchscherer, Denver, CO
  • Tricia Williams, Centennial, CO
  • Kristina Wilson, Parker, CO
  • Danielle Wilson, Pueblo, CO
  • Carmen Aguirre, Littleton, CO
  • Melinda Brown, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Erin Brychel, Denver, CO
  • Christi Cage, Parker, CO
  • Mandy Chamberlain, Carbondale, CO
  • Lavonne Collins-Porter, Denver, CO
  • Dana Cooper, Littleton, CO
  • Brenda Cummings, Windsor, CO
  • Donna Detmar-Hanna, Fort Collins, CO
  • Amber Elhard-Sand, Centennial, CO
  • Katie Espino-Kennedy, Thornton, CO
  • Linda S Falb, Boulder, CO
  • Kellie Fietsch, Denver, CO
  • Heather Grant, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Emily Hall, Denver, CO
  • Kari Hall, Greenwood Village, CO
  • Janice Hinds, Denver, CO
  • Jessica Hinrichs, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Suzanne Holm, Loveland, CO
  • Rebecca Jensen, Boulder, CO
  • Yvonne Jimenez, Westminster, CO
  • Bailey LeBoeuf, Idledale, CO
  • Emily Jorgensen, Monument, CO
  • Adam Kinney, Fort Collins, CO
  • Lorinda G Koster, Commerce City, CO
  • Michelle L. Lange, Arvada, CO
  • Anne Martin, Denver, CO
  • Heather Mehl, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Mindy Mills, Berthoud, CO
  • Emily Miozzi, Canon city, CO
  • Elijah Mullins, Fort Collins, CO
  • Janet Noland, Monte Vista, CO
  • Anne M Pierce, Aurora, CO
  • Staci Quillen, Longmont, CO
  • Roberta Reid, Longmont, CO
  • Caroline Rose, Arvada, CO
  • Carina Roybal, Wheat Ridge, CO
  • Lisa Sandoval, Highlands Ranch, CO
  • Kylie Ann Sleeth, Highlands Ranch, CO
  • Amy Solomon, Lone Tree, CO
  • Patricia Stutz-Tanenbaum, Niwot, CO
  • Andrea Susi, Lafayette, CO
  • Celeste R Tucker, Aurora, CO
  • Jennifer Varra, Erie, CO
  • Mari K. Viers, Loveland, CO
  • Tricia Vigil, Pueblo, CO
  • Heather Walls, Durango, CO
  • Doug Walter, Denver, CO
  • Melanie Weichel, Loveland, CO
  • Melissa R. Weiser-Rose, Denver, CO
  • Courtney Shiffer, Thornton, CO
  • Shannon Young, Lakewood, CO

Creighton Regis Occupational Therapy Students’ Pop Up Bakery Featured Tasty Treats and Increased Awareness of Mental Illness

Eckhart Tolle once said, “Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” Increase the community’s awareness of mental illness is exactly what two Creighton Regis pathway Occupational Therapy students set out to do as a component of their final rotation in their doctorate program.

The first Depressed Cake Shop Pop Up in Denver was held at Brewability Lab on Saturday April 27th, 2019. Dr. Andrea Thinnes, Occupational Therapy faculty at Creighton University and two Occupational Therapy students, Sylver Agomoh and Alexa Trujillo hosted the Depressed Cake Shop as a component of the students' Doctoral Experiential Component of the doctoral program. “One in four people will experience, or be touched by a mental health issue at some point in their lives” (DCS, 2019).

The Depressed Cake Shop is a unique (and delicious) platform designed to raise awareness of mental illness. “We provide a safe place for conversation and detailed resources that will enable interested bakers and organizers to raise funds for mental health charities through locally organized pop-ups “ (DCS, 2019). In addition to the tasty treats sold, Agomoh and Trujillo created a comprehensive list of mental health resources local to the area and gave them to anyone who visited the pop up bakery. Conversations and personal stories were shared by those that visited the pop up which made for a rewarding experience!

The inaugural Denver pop up bakery raised $1,017.50 to support the National Alliance on Mental Illness for the local NAMI Colorado chapter. Trujillo and Agomoh acknowledged the partners who contributed to make the event a success: Brewability Lab for the wonderful space for the pop up bakery, Coquette’s Bakery of Colorado Springs, Cupcake Girls of Colorado Springs, Walmart of Aurora, King Soopers of Aurora, Starbucks of Aurora, fellow Creighton doctoral students and family.

Alexa Trujillo and Sylver Agomoh are Occupational Therapy students in the Creighton Regis pathway and graduate in May of 2019. Dr. Andrea Thinnes, OTR/L is an Assistant Professor in Occupational Therapy at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska and served as the faculty mentor for the student endeavor.

Depressed Cake Shop, DCS (2019). Mission & FAQ. Retrieved from

Submitted By Alexa Trujillo, OTS; Sylver Agomoh, OTS; and Andrea Thinnes, OTR/L

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