WMU News

CLIK program makes research a snap for health professionals

Sept. 23, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- A new program coordinated by the Western Michigan University Department of Occupational Therapy will make it easier for West Michigan OT and allied health clinicians to do collaborative research with University faculty.

Called Clinical Research Implementation in Kalamazoo, or CLIK for short, the new program started this summer and already has three projects either up and running or in the planning stages, says Dr. Stanley Paul, assistant professor of occupational therapy and CLIK program coordinator.

One project now underway is being conducted in cooperation with the WMU Center for Disability Services. It is testing ways to help people with developmental disabilities become better integrated into the community.

Center clients, working in day-activity groups, are learning skills that will help them when going to a restaurant, laundry, shopping or other destination in the community. Results will be presented in November at the national conference of the American Occupational Therapy Association in Reno, Nev.

A second project will test the effectiveness of a new eating utensil for people with Parkinson's disease developed by Partner's in Design Inc. of Harbor Springs. Unlike a fork or spoon, the "bilateral" eating utensil is held with both hands. University graduate students will conduct research on how well it works.

A third project will be undertaken in cooperation with the Ionia County Intermediate School District and test the effectiveness of sensory integration therapy on preschoolers classified as "pre-primarily impaired."

The children, who have a variety of disorders ranging from developmental disabilities to emotional problems, will work on such things as balance, posture, tactile sensitivity, fine motor skills and speech. Children who undergo the therapy then will be compared to other pre-primarily impaired students who engage in regular school activities to measure the new therapy's success. Occupational therapy graduate students will work on this research project as part of their thesis.

"Some teachers and OT clinicians are saying this therapy is working," Paul says. "We want to document whether it's working and, if it is, then the schools can use it on a larger scale."

Other plans for the CLIK program include a Web site and newsletter. Both should be in place by the end of the fall semester.

Paul, who also supervises occupational therapy students in their field work, got the idea for the program after visiting area clinics where students are placed.

"Talking to the clinicians is how I came up with it because they have a lot of ideas, but they don't have the research skills or the time to test how well things work," Paul says. "They seem pretty excited about it."

Paul is hoping the program will grow beyond occupational therapists to include physical therapists, speech pathologists and other allied health professionals. So far, he's pleased with the potential the program has shown in a short time.

"For just starting in the summer, it's gotten a pretty good response," Paul says. "We wanted to do something for the clinicians. A lot of them take our students in their practice, so we wanted to give something in return."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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