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About the Occupational Therapy Service?Image of the camponile in TCD


History of the Occupational Therapy Service


Occupational Therapy Servicewas established in 2004 by Dr. Clodagh Nolan, a lecturer in the Discipline of Occupational Therapy in Trinity College in response to a growing number of students requiring practical support to help manage the demands of college life.  Dr. Nolan found that more and more students were entering into higher education with a registered disability; however they were experiencing greater difficulty in managing their day to day activities compared to their peers, especially those with mental health and physical and sensory difficulties. 

The Discipline of Occupational Therapy undertook an evaluation of the needs of these groups and identified the following as important to establish:

  1. A practical occupation focused service.
  2. A support service that was easily accessible by students.
  3. Flexibility in both the time allocated to the student, the number of appointments offered and the timing of these appointments.
  4. Ability to work collaboratively with students in a student-centred way catering for their needs.
  5. A community-oriented service where students needs are addressed in an environment of their choice.

In response to the findings from the evaluation, the Discipline of Occupational Therapy in partnership with Trinity College Disability Service developed a pilot service that used a ‘practical and occupation focused approach’ to supporting and working with students. This reflects the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) directive on enhancing participation and quality of life for those with enduring mental health and/or physical/sensory disabilities (WHO, 2001).  Since the service was established in 2004, there has been a steady increase in the number of students accessing the service; the number of students availing of Unilink has increased from 30 students in 2004 to over 300 students today.  Unilink is the only service of its kind in Ireland and has been well recognised nationally and internationally, as as a model of best practice for supporting students experiencing mental health and physical and sensory difficulties within third level education. 

For further information on the background to the development of the Unilink Service please click here to browse the Unilink Five Year Report (PDF 1.29MB)

Philosophy of the Occupational Therapy Service

The occupational therapy service is guided by models of practice in working collaboratively with students; these are the Person-Environment-Occupation Model (Law, Cooper, Strong, Stewart, Rigby & Letts, 1996) and Client Centred Practice (Law, 1998).  The service is also influenced by Karen Unger’s (1990) ‘onsite campus support’, as well as the Recovery Model (Anthony, 1993) and other occupational therapy theorists such as; Kielhofner (2008), Wilcock (2006), Townsend and Polatajko (2007) and Christiansen and Baum (1997). 

The occupational therapists in the service use these models in working with the students in the assessment, goal setting and intervention stages in order to support and enable the student to engage in their meaningful occupations as a student within college both academically and socially.   Students attending the service are viewed as adult learners who are empowered to take responsibility for their own student life.

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Publications

Recent Publications and Presentations

  • Gleeson, C.I., & Nolan, C., (2013). Supporting students with ASD at third level. Presentation at the Irish Society of Autism Conference. Dublin Convention Centre, April 2013.
  • Quinn, S., Gleeson, C. & Nolan, C. (2013). An occupational therapy service for university students with Asperger's Syndrome (AS). Occupational Therapy in Mental Health. (In press).
  • Gleeson, C., Quinn, S. & Nolan, C. Promoting and Enhancing College Participation and Inclusion: An occupational therapy support service for students with Asperger's Syndrome. World Congress of Learning Disabilities. Zurich, Switzerland. September 2011.
  • Gleeson, C. (2011). Transitioning to University Life with Asperger's Syndrome. Aspire Public Information Talks, Independent College, Dublin. 18 November 2011.
  • Nolan, C., Quinn, S., & MacCobb, S. (2011). The use of mobile phone technology, in particular text messaging, as a means of maintaining communication and developing relationships with third level students in the provision of a mental health service. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 27, (2), 2011, p103 - 125
  • Lewis, K., Nolan, C. & Treanor, D. (2011). Test Setting Accommodations for Students with Sensory Defensiveness. AHEAD Newsletter, Iss 3, September, 2011.
  • Gleeson, C., Treanor, D., Nolan, C., & Quinn, S. (2011). Enhancing College Participation: The Trinity College Dublin Model of support for students with Asperger’s Syndrome. Ambitious for all: Current research in Autism Spectrum Disorder and related disorders QUART Centre Conference, Queen’s University Belfast. 18 November 2011.
  • Gleeson, C. (2011). Transitioning to University Life with Asperger’s Syndrome. Aspire Public Information Talks, Independent College, Dublin. 18 November 2011.
  • Lewis, K., & Nolan, C. (2011). Supporting students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Dublin City University, 9 November 2011.
  • Gleeson, C., Quinn, S. & Nolan, C. (2011). Promoting and Enhancing College Participation and Inclusion: An occupational therapy support service for students with Asperger's Syndrome. World Congress of Learning Disabilities. Zurich, Switzerland, 10 September 2011.
  • Nolan, C. (2011).  Issues and Concerns of Students with Significant Mental Health Problems as measured by the Trinity Student Profile. Nordic Network on Disability Conference. Iceland, May 2011.
  • Nolan, C., Quinn, S., & Gleeson, C. (2009). Report on the unilink service – An occupational therapy mental health initiative. Five years on 2004 – 2009. Dublin: University of Dublin, Trinity College. http://www.tcd.ie/disability/docs/pdf/Unilink%20report.pdf

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Other Publications, Presentations and Conference Proceedings

  • Nolan, C. , Quinn, S. & MacCobb, S. (2010) Using Mobile Phone Technology (text messaging) to Contact and Support Students with Mental Health Problems in Third Level Education. Poster Presentation at the World Federation of Occupational Therapy Conference, Chile, May 2010.
  • Nolan, C. & MacCobb, S. (2010) An Occupation Based Service for Third Level Students with Significant Mental Health Issues. Poster Presentation at the World Federation of Occupational Therapy Conference, Chile, May 2010.
  • Reilly, D., & Lewis, K. (2010). A Review of the needs of students with ADHD in Trinity College Dublin. June 2010. Disability Service 10th Anniversary Symposium.
  • Gleeson, C., Quinn, S. & Nolan, C. (2010). Managing Asperger’s Syndrome in University.  June 2010. Disability Service 10th Anniversary Symposium.
  • Quinn, S., Gleeson, C., & Nolan, C. (2009). Managing Asperger’s Syndrome in third level education – A service evaluation. Annual conference of Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland, Kilkenny. Dublin: AOTI.
  • Quinn, S., Gleeson, C., & Nolan, C. (2009). Managing Asperger’s Syndrome in third level education. Disability Advisors Network, Trinity College Dublin.
  • Nolan, C., & Quinn, S. (2009). Supporting students with mental health problems in the first year. CSSI Conference Proceedings. Sligo.
  • ASPIRE in association with Education Department Trinity College. (2009). DVD for parents and teachers on support services available to individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. Dublin.
  • Nolan, C., Quinn, S., & MacCobb, S. (2009). Unilink a mental health support service for students in Third Level. Presentation to OECD. Dublin.
  • Quinn, S. (2008). Support services for students with Asperger’s Syndrome at third level. ASPIRE Annual Conference St. Patrick’s College. Dublin.
  • Nolan, C., Quinn, S., & MacCobb, S. (2008). Managing Asperger’s Syndrome at Third Level. Presentation to National College of Art and Design. Dublin.
  • Nolan, C. (2008). Challenges in your 20’s. Presentation to Blackrock College Past Pupils Union. Dublin.
  • Dolan, C., Maye, F., & Monaghan, F. (2008). What are the main concerns experienced by university students at the University of Dublin, Trinity College? Undergraduate Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment for the requirement for the Bachelor of Science Degree in Occupational Therapy. Dublin: University of Dublin, Trinity College.
  • Nolan, C. (2008). unilink – Supporting students with mental health difficulties at third level. Continuing Education Workshops. Maynooth, Ireland: National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
  • Nolan, C. (2008). unilink – A mental health occupational therapy service for third level students. In Proceedings of 42nd Annual Conference of the Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland. Kilkenny, April 16th – 18th. Dublin: AOTI.
  • Nolan, C., & Lewis, K. (2007). Challenges in your 20’s. Presentation to Blackrock College Past Pupils Union. Dublin.
  • Nolan, C., & MacCobb, S. (2006). Uni-Link: A mental health service initiative for university students. WFOT Bulletin, 54, 53-59.
  • Nolan, C., & Collins, B. (2006). Information Booklet on the unilink Service. Dublin: University of Dublin, Trinity College.
  • Workshop. (2006). Exploring the model of unilink. Launch of the unilink Service by Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, Sile de Valera on 28th September 2006. Dublin.
  • Nolan, C. (2005). Supporting students with mental health difficulties. Presentation to Tutors Group University of Dublin, Trinity College. Dublin.
  • Nolan, C. (2004). unilink, a mental health initiative at the University of Dublin, Trinity College. CSSI Conference, Belfast

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Press Releases


As a service, Unilink endeavours to provide evidence based support for students in Trinity College, and also plays a role in promoting the service within the college community and nationally.  Please see below some events that the Unilink Service have been involved in:

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Last updated 21 July 2016 andrew.costello@tcd.ie (Email).