About the Occupational Therapy Support

Campanile TCD

History of the Occupational Therapy Support

Occupational Therapy Support within the Disability Service in Trinity was 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.  The Occupational Therapy Support within Trinity has been well recognised nationally and internationally, as a model of best practice for supporting students experiencing mental health and physical and sensory difficulties within third level education. 

Philosophy of the Occupational Therapy Support

The Occupational Therapy Support 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.