Author Archive for: eridpath


How Kids Can Continue to Learn Over the Summer

How do we, as parents and caregivers, make sure our kids don’t suffer summer “brain drain,” while ensuring they get the break and vacation they need?  Check out the following infographic for ideas to keep kids brains sharp while having fun this summer vacation:

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule.  We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.


Getting around: Transportation Made Easier

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

Have you ever wondered why the design of the objects we use and spaces around us are getting better and seem to relate to our bodies or the way we do things in a much more obvious way than ever before?

Barrier-Free Design allows the greatest majority of people equal access to the private and public spaces of our built environment. The aim is to minimize or eliminate physical, cognitive, and sensory barriers in our homes, businesses, and public spaces and even our streets.  

Consider the front entrance of a building. Sidewalk curbs, uneven walkways, multiple stairs, heavy doors, and lack of handrails. All these can prevent access because they can create barriers for individuals.

Universal design methods such as curb cuts, level and slip-resistant walkway surfaces, properly designed ramps, accessible washrooms, automatic doors, lifts, and colour-contrasted handrails are all examples of ways to support increased and barrier-free access not just for folks with a physical disability but for all of us, including children, the elderly, parents with strollers and many others.

Occupational Therapy promotes a wide range of barrier-free design and universal design principles that have helped to make better buildings and spaces in our communities.

There is a greater awareness in society that our buildings and spaces must be more accessible to the greatest majority of people. There are far more products and methods for creating barrier-free environments today than ever before which can be great for finding the right product or design solution for an individual. On the other hand, the vast and ever-growing range of products and design solutions can also be confusing, making choosing the right product a difficult one.  Occupational Therapists have the knowledge and experience to help facilitate the right approach by drawing on current research and best practices for creating barrier-free spaces.

Occupational Therapists provide helpful information and design advice to architects, designers, and contractors when it comes to creating barrier-free spaces inside homes, businesses, gardens, and even public spaces. And since there is a wide range of barriers that can contribute to preventing an individual from completing an activity such as reaching or bending, OTs help by determining what the barriers are for an individual and facilitating products and design strategies that can help surmount these barriers.

As OTs, we have the privilege to serve the needs of many people in the community and using our skills and practices to help people meet their individual needs of daily living and have productive and rewarding life experiences. For many, this may only be accomplished by implementing a barrier-free experience in their homes, businesses, and places they like to visit.

For example:

  • For individuals with visual impairments, spaces should have adequate lighting, colour contrasting surfaces where appropriate, tactile cueing and signage as well as audible alarm systems. For individuals with auditory impairments, visual signage and alarm systems (for example, flashing lights) are necessary.
  • For someone in a wheelchair, a barrier-free experience may include modifications to their workplace kitchens and washrooms. Fixtures such as light switches, sinks, paper towel dispensers, toilet paper dispensers and grab bars must be installed at a height that can be reached from a seated position.

Ultimately, the goal of barrier-free design is to promote equal access and participation for everyone. There have been many steps taken toward ensuring this type of design prevails in our communities. There are new laws supporting improved accessibility within Ontario as of January of 2015.  Is your building up to code? Consulting an occupational therapist can help to ensure your space meets the new criteria.



Making Groceries Easier – New Services Help People with All Abilities

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

The major grocery stores in Ontario have been increasingly focusing their efforts on offering free or low-cost online shopping and pick up or delivery for customers.  Thought to be a result of Millennial overscheduling and impatience, this trend can provide life-changing services for persons with disabilities.  Whether a disability is physical, cognitive, mental or behavioural, public places can be extremely stressful and difficult for some people to navigate.  With online ordering and pick up, shoppers simply need to select items and pay online, arrange a pick-up time, park in a designated spot, call to state their arrival and wait until the purchases are loaded into their vehicle.

This can help to not only improve the ease of shopping but also varies the level of participation which can benefit some people.  For example, instead of sending a caregiver to the store with a list, if someone can use a computer, they can order the items they want independently and just leave the caregiver to do the pick-up.  No more problems with getting that wrong type of pasta sauce!

This is also actually more cost-effective, even considering the fees.  For example, if a caregiver is $25 per hour, then having them do shopping may cost $25-$50 in their hourly fee alone.  With the pick-up option, the fees may be minimal (or “free” depending on the size of the order) and the caregiver can just spend 10-15 minutes doing the pick-up (or unpacking items if they are delivered) versus taking an hour or more to shop.

Here is some information on the offerings by store that are now available in most major stores across Ontario and if not, will be soon:


Additional helpful services in major stores include the self-scan option.  For example, some Walmart locations offer self-scan in which you grab a scanner at the entrance and as you’re shopping you scan the items before putting them in your cart (and it’s pretty simple to remove items yourself if you change your mind).  When you are finished shopping head to the reserved self-scan checkout, scan the barcode on your scanner, and your whole order pops up – you pay and leave without having to wait in line or converse with a sales associate or cashier.  This option can be very helpful for people who may have social anxiety, limited tolerances for standing, walking, bending or reaching, have little time to do other responsibilities, or who are otherwise unable to tolerate the checkout part of shopping.

Overall, the possibilities and benefits are positive, and these services are proving very useful for people of all abilities.


Are You a Slave to Technology?

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

I don’t think I am alone when I say that I am becoming completely overwhelmed by technology.  Not being a techy person, it took me a while to warm up to email, then to the internet, cell phone use, texting and lastly social media.  Now I have two email accounts, three phone numbers, three websites, a cell, blog, and business and personal Twitter, Linked In, Google+, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts.  I bank online, shop online, do most of my communication by email, manage my business with my phone and computer, and even use an app to meditate.  My life is organized into files and folders that are populated with faxed, emailed or scanned documents that are backed-up, saved to disc, or exported to secure places.  My car can answer my calls, direct me to new places and even tell me when my favorite songs are playing.  My cat has an automatic feeder and my phone is accessed with my fingerprint or voice.  Sometimes people send me an email then text me to tell me they emailed me.  Or, they leave a voicemail then repeat the contents in an email or fax.  Or call me at home, then work, then on my cell. Craziness!

So how many people are ready to tech-out?  I know some days I dream of a home in the wilderness with no Wi-Fi, TV, computer, or cell service.

My love-hate relationship with technology has been an ongoing emotional versus productive battle inside my head for some time.  While I am trying to model appropriate technology behavior for my children, the pace at which the world seems to be operating, and the time-sensitive nature of my clinical work, requires me to work-from-home some nights, visit the office on a weekend, and respond to texts after hours.  I am not proud of this and feel that I failed miserably in the past to keep an appropriate balance.  So, I have decided to make some changes.  While I cannot change the pace at which people try to reach me, I can change the pace of my response and can learn to reduce the guilt I often feel when my response is delayed, or when a nice evening at home took priority over my inbox.

A recent survey conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has identified that 19% of adults in Ontario suffer from moderate to severe problematic use of electronic devices.  Something must be done to combat this problem.  In France, it is illegal for employers to email their employees after hours.  I am not sure such behavior needs to be “illegal” beyond ensuring that the employee cannot be fired or demoted if they don’t respond after-hours, but this law shows the extent to which people feel pressured to communicate at all times – whether it is the right time or not.

I had a comical interaction with a friend one night that highlights this.  Working late, I had sent him an email asking a question about a service they provided.  He responded quickly with a “yes,” while failing to answer my other questions.  I humorously responded with a “thanks for your wordy response” to which he added “considering that I am out with my wife for our anniversary I think I said too much”.  Agreed.

So in an effort to not repeat my mistakes of the past, I have set some firm tech boundaries for the year ahead.  Some of my strategies include:

  1.  Work at Work. I have an office at which I am extremely productive.  Lugging my computer back and forth from work to home is not good for it, my back, and tends to anchor my evenings to work when I have a list of other things I would like to be doing.   So, I plan to leave my computer at the office.  While I may become slightly behind on my emails and may not tackle as many things on my “to do list” my family will enjoy my presence and my evenings will be much less stressful.
  2.  Phone Off. In speaking with my techy husband, I asked about ways I could set some firm boundaries with my phone.  I wanted to limit texts from work contacts and stop my business email from surfacing on my phone after 5 pm and on weekends.  Low and behold with an iPhone you can’t do that. Sure I can use airplane mode or do not disturb, but this limits contacts from all people, and there are some people (my friends and family included) that I would like to be able to communicate with at any time.  So, I visited Roger’s and they too confirmed that I can’t be selective about who, how and when people can reach me.  My options then were just to behave differently (don’t check email or texts from work contacts), or to get an entirely different phone with a new number and “personal email only” set-up for after-hours.  While I still believe that one email or text can completely derail an evening or weekend, for now, I have decided that when home my phone will be anchored to a spot in the kitchen on airplane mode.  When out, I will do my best to not read or respond to work messages until the following business day.
  3.  Go Public. To get the support of my team, I told them my plans.  This included my work hours and desire to set firm boundaries around my technology time.  We realigned our operations to divide roles and duties to reduce the triplication of emails to multiple people, and to ensure that people had clear lines of accountability – instead of their habit of going to the person they thought would respond first (typically me).  My team was very supportive!  I also involved my family in my decision to leave my computer at the office and to limit after-hours phone time so that they too can encourage me along the way.

No, I am not perfect and will slide at times with the boundaries I am trying to set.  But even if I can accomplish half of my intention, I am 50% better than my experience of last year.  In the end, I guess I just want my enjoyable life to include a reasonable amount of technology, and not for technology to result in an unenjoyable life.


If you are having trouble getting your children to power down try our free printable Technology Pass (below)– it’s a game changer!


How to Achieve Your Goals — The Secret Sauce

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

What if I told you that there was one easy way to achieve the goals you have set for yourself?  Could it be that simple?  People are complicated creatures, true.  But if you have taken the time to set goals, are you measuring these and achieving them?  Are you working on your goals every day?

Here is the secret sauce…with every fork in the road, and there are tons of them, ask yourself: which decision aligns with my goals?

Let’s take health as an example.  Your goal is to lose weight, be more active, or be less breathless at the top of the stairs.  So you get to work and the first decision is: should I take the elevator or the stairs?  Then it is lunch and you have the option to work at your desk or go out for a short walk.  Or you don’t bring a lunch and need to decide if you should buy pop or water.  The salad or burger.  With each of these examples, one decision aligns with your goals and one does not. Yet if you continuously choose the option that aligns with your goals, results will follow.  This is true even if you make a small decision in the right direction – like taking the stairs for one flight then catching the elevator for the rest of the ride.  Or instead of ordering the salad, you just choose to not order the fries.

Using my life as an example, I have five key goal areas:  health, family, career, finances and personal growth.  Every evening I have the option of bringing my computer home to continue working into the night.  To do so may align with a financial goal of earning a suitable income, and a career goal to run a successful business, but it negates two other important goals of health (working means I will not exercise), and family (working means I won’t be spending time with my children).  So, I have a conundrum.  But in these cases, the reality is that my day at work has already been spent on my career and financial goals, while my other goals have taken a backburner to work time.  So, considering this, aligning my evening time with two different goals helps me to make the important decision to leave the computer at the office, minus the guilt that comes from leaving some work unfinished.

Yes, achieving goals takes discipline, but it is far easier to make small consistent choices, then to make a drastic change that might not be sustainable.  So, on the path to awesomeness that involves you setting goals and blowing these out of the water, just ask yourself daily, as you need to make decisions around your behavior and time, “which option here will help me to achieve my goal(s)?” Then, as you align your decisions with your top priorities, results will follow.


It is the New Year — a great time to set goals for the year ahead.  Take a look at our Goal Planning Guide to help you set and achieve your goals in 2019!



The A to Z of OT: W is For… Workplace Wellbeing

There are many ways that Occupational Therapists promote wellness and wellbeing for those in the workplace.  From ergonomics to accessibility; injury prevention to return to work programs, OTs assist in the workplaces in many facets.  We are going to focus on an important way that Occupational Therapists can assist employees and employers at work – by improving mental health.  Learn more about how OT’s can provide essential information and assistance to enable the support of mental wellness at work in our OT-V video below, or in our post,  Promoting Mental Wellness at Work.


October is Occupational Therapy Month and to celebrate we will be sharing a new series called the A to Z of OT.  In our attempts to further educate the public about what Occupational Therapists do we will be highlighting twenty-six of the awesome ways OTs provide Solutions for Living.  

We encourage you to follow along and to add to the discussion by highlighting other awesome things OTs help with for each corresponding letter!