WMU News

WMU professor helps professionals get a grip on hands

Nov. 21, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Where would we be without hands?

That's a question Sandra Edwards, professor of occupational therapy at Western Michigan University, tackles in her new book, "Developmental and Functional Hand Grasps."

To find the answer, Edwards enlisted the aid of two former WMU graduate students, who are now successful clinicians. What resulted is one of the most comprehensive studies to date in the world of occupational therapy on the human hand's grasping functions.

Published by SLACK Inc., the book began as a study in which Edwards involved occupational therapy graduate students Donna Buckland and Jenna McCoy-Powlen in researching hand functions. As the study developed, Buckland and McCoy-Powlen graduated, became fully licensed OTs, and then traveled with Edwards to Stockholm, Sweden, this past summer. There the three gave a related presentation titled "Get a Grip on Grasps" at the World Congress of Occupational Therapists.

The book, which arrived in stores in September, has been receiving enthusiastic reviews from colleagues in the field both across the country and closer to home.

"No other text covers this information in a comprehensive way," writes Dr. Jane Case-Smith, an associate professor in the Ohio State University Department of Occupational Therapy.

"I know of no other text to be so comprehensive and specifically detailed," adds Susan Amundson, executive director of O.T. Kids Inc.

Closer to home, Dr. Mary Sydlick, a research associate in the WMU College of Health and Human Services and a biologist who has taught human anatomy, describes it as "exquisite, concise and clear."

Edwards explains that the purpose of the text is to clarify the confusion, eliminate the discrepancies, and put definitive labels on hand grasps so that physicians, therapists, teachers and other health professionals have a common source and common definitions of hand grasps that will be useful in evaluation, treatment and research.

"The book focuses on one aspect of the typical hand--its grasp," Edwards says. "To develop the text of this book, we completed a thorough, in-depth review of the literature ranging from 1831 to 2002. We also consulted with an orthopedic surgeon, certified hand therapists, school-based therapists, academicians and scholars."

Photographs of different hand grasps are featured throughout the book, and those grasps are then analyzed and named. The photographs were taken of each grasp to give an accurate visual portrayal of the hand as well as to show the grasp in the context of functional activities. The hands that appear in the book belong to infants and adults ages 2 weeks to 80 years and represent diverse cultures and ethnicities.

Edwards is pleased by the spirit and the manner in which the work was completed.

"Our team had terrific organization, communication and interpersonal skills as well as a spirit of respect," she says, "and these attributes are reflected in the quality of the book."

In fact, Edwards' editor at SLACK Inc. commented that Edwards, McCoy-Powlen and Buckland were the most well-coordinated team with which they had ever worked.

"These students evolved into clinicians and developed into authors," Edwards says. "They were hard working, intelligent, resourceful, had the utmost integrity and met deadlines. Their experience says a lot about Western Michigan University as a student-centered research institution."

"Developmental and Functional Hand Grasps" can be purchased at major bookstores, online at <amazon.com> or directly from SLACK Inc.'s Web site at <slackbooks.com>.

For more information, call Sandra Edwards at (269) 387-7238.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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