Date :- 18-7-2017
After completion of the first year in the EMOT program, my family and I traveled to the southern state of India known as Kerala to visit family and friends in mid-July. After attending the AOTA conference this past March, I was able to learn more about WFOT and wanted to learn more about Occupational Therapy in a global context. In addition, especially Amy Carroll’s lecture in Allison’s Health Administration Class inspired me to learn more OT in India. I was especially interested in pediatric neurodevelopmental disorders after completing a clinical rotation in a school for physical disabilities in the fall semester. Given that I am a first generation Indian living in the United States upon my parents’ immigration, I thought it would be very interesting to compare differences and similarities across cultures.
I had been contacting a few local clinics specifically in the city of Cochin in the state of Kerala. I was very interested in observing at a pediatric OT clinic during my stay and from my research I came to learn about Prayatna Centre for Child Development. I was informed that they did indeed provide opportunities for learning experiences in their department of occupational therapy. Prayatna is a multidisciplinary outpatient clinic consisting of OT, PT, Speech therapy, special education, counseling, etc for children with developmental delays.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my one day observation with Prayatna. All staff members were truly welcoming and I was given a gran introduction to each of the therapists. The senior director, Joseph Sunny initially oriented me and called a staff meeting with a formal introduction and I was asked to share about my OT education in the United States. It was especially interesting to learn that clinicians in India can practice with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree is pursed to gain further competency and skills in a desired area of practice. For example, many of the therapists had a (bachelor’s in occupational therapy (BOT) and a MOT in pediatrics. It was also very interesting to discover that the director knew of my family name and he grew up in the same town as my parents in India.
It found it very fascinating to have a similar cultural background with many of the patients and staff and I could see how this could be very beneficial in practice. It was also intriguing to compare cultural differences and similarities. Especially after being a Honickman GA, I have developed a concrete concept of culture after being familiarized with specific cultural literacy curricula. Therefore, observing OT in this context allowed me to experience cultural competency and sensitivity at the next dimension through direct immersion. For instance the therapists did not wear shoes in the building, most children and adults eat with their hands and many come to work dressed in traditional Indian clothing. Therefore, I was able to explicitly examine the importance of how values, beliefs and practices can directly impact ADLS and IADLS specific to one culture. I was also able observe and understand the Indian dialect Malayalam being spoken in a clinical setting. Malayalam is a common language spoken in the Southwestern Indian state of Kerala and it is my family’s first language. It’s one thing to see occupational therapy in a different country, but to experience it being delivered in your native tongue is extraordinary!
It was so interesting to observe and engage with treatment sessions across OT, PT and Speech therapy. There was a primary emphasis of sensory integration and Neurodevelopmental treatment in the interventions which was conducted very similarly as I’ve seen in the US. The equipment in the OT gym was quite similar and the environment was specially set up as sensory room with a ball pit, different tactile input, swings and yoga balls.
I also came with the objective of gaining an understanding of occupational therapy practice in India and that was completely satisfied as I was introduced to the Indian Journal of Occupational Therapy and All India Occupational Therapy Association (AIOTA). Through discussion with the director Joseph Sunny and during my stay in India, I’ve come to notice the stigma on disability and lack of awareness of occupational therapy in southern India. Therefore, this visit helped to further instill a passion for advocacy and I believe there is potential for program development and funding for further technology in India that I can see in my career trajectory in the future. I expressed my interest in assistive technology with the director there as well and he stated that this is something India is lacking in.
If all works out, I hope to return to India in the next few years! The director of Prayatna (pictured above) is also the president of the Kerala AIOTA branch and informed me that annual conference in the year 2020 will in fact take place in Cochin, Kerala, India. He stated that this would be a great opportunity to connect with exhibitors to be present as well to implement and educate current clinicians on the latest innovations. I attached a few pictures below from my visit. It was unfortunate that I could only attend for one day but I would definitely like to come again one day in the future! Overall, it was such a great experience that definitely exceeded my expectations.