Archive for category: Original Posts


Yoga for the Healing Brain

Guest Blogger Samantha Hunt, Student Occupational Therapist

In celebration of Brain Injury month in June, we wanted to highlight the benefits of yoga and mindfulness meditation as a solution for living with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

What is Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation?

While there are many different types of yoga practices, in general yoga involves physical movement, breathing exercises, meditation, and moral observations in a set period of time, with the goal of connecting the mind and body. Likewise, mindfulness meditation is described as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”, in order to help train us in awareness, concentration, and acceptance. Yoga can be practiced with one-on-one instruction, or in a wheelchair or sitting down as well, through adapted yoga.

Yoga, Mindfulness Meditation and TBI

After experiencing physical trauma, there is a severe body and mind separation that impacts the abilities of the nervous system and alters the pattern of the body, breath, and mind structure. This is where the practice of yoga and mindfulness meditation can assist the recovery. By consciously and consistently focusing the mind, we are reprogramming the neuropathways in the brain that have been impacted. By quieting the mind and focusing on building strength and flexibility, practicing yoga can also assist with the mental distractions and stressors that commonly occur after TBI, such as over excitement and anxiety.

Benefits of Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation for TBI

·       Improved concentration

·       Decreased stress, anxiety, and depression

·       Better sleep

·       Improved attention abilities

·       Improved working memory

·       Reduced mental fatigue

·       Improved strength, balance, endurance, and flexibility

Where to Begin

There are several simple ways to start incorporating yoga and mindfulness into your life. Some suggestions include:

·       Reading for inspiration (mindfulness books, yoga books)

·       Joining a group or taking a class

·       Free apps (such as “Headspace” or “Happify”)

·       Practicing 4-8 minutes of mindfulness breath each day

·       One-on-one adapted yoga with an instructor, such as (in the Hamilton Ontario area):

o   Christina Versteeg, Paradigm Rehabilitation (

·       Following yoga practice videos online, such as:






Tips for Communicating with Brain Injury Survivors

A brain injury can cause many physical, emotional and cognitive challenges.  Due to memory issues, fatigue and emotional stress communication challenges may exist.  Understandably, it can also be difficult for family, friends, and co-workers to learn ways to effectively communicate with their loved one who suffered a brain injury.  The following article care of Michelle Munt of My Jumbled Brain gives some wonderful insight on how to communicate with brain injury survivors.  Michelle, a brain injury survivor herself, has created a fantastic blog filled with articles and insight for brain injury survivors, caregivers, and healthcare professionals.

My Jumbled Brain:  Understanding how to communicate with brain injury survivors


O-Tip of the Week: Break it Down

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

Occupational Therapists are a vital part of a team of professionals that assist with the rehabilitation from brain injury.  For the month of June, Brain Injury Awareness Month, our series will be providing solutions to assist with some of the many symptoms of brain injury. 

With a brain injury, many will have symptoms that include lack of focus, fatigue, poor concentration, forgetfulness and more.  These symptoms make it difficult for someone to complete daily tasks whether big or small.  It is often beneficial to have someone, like an OT, work with you to help break down tasks into smaller more manageable parts allowing for rest and providing multiple opportunities for accomplishment! 


Reporting Unsafe Drivers: The New Role of Occupational Therapists in Ontario

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

Co-written with Samantha Hunt, Student Occupational Therapist

My father-in-law was terminally ill and suffered from dementia.  Eventually, his decline became significant and his doctor filed a mandatory report with the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) to suspend his license pending a driver’s exam.  He refused to attend the exam yet continued to drive even without a valid license.  He still paid for car insurance because he knew this was important but was not well enough to connect his own disabilities to his safety and the safety of others.  The family planned to remove his vehicle from his possession but before we could he ventured out one night, got lost, and the police found him 8 hours later driving in a farmer’s field.  The good news was that no one got hurt and his car was beyond repair.  Now, he could no longer drive even if he wanted to.

Driving is an important daily activity for many and provides drivers with an independent means to get around and to manage our own needs outside of the home.  It reduces our reliance on others and provides us with freedom and control.  But it is a privilege, not a right, and sometimes people reach a point where driving is no longer safe, but yet they don’t voluntarily stop.

Up until recently, the ownness to report unsafe drivers has fallen to the legal responsibility of doctors, nurse practitioners and optometrists.  However, on July 1, 2018 the legislation will change to add a new class of “discretionary” reporting, and occupational therapists will be included in the list of professionals that can submit these “discretionary” reports. 

Considering this major change to the Highway Traffic Act (HTA), and the significance of this on OT practice in Ontario, we wanted to provide a brief overview of the key facts and guidelines for the OT’s that this may impact.

Background on Medical Reporting Legislation

Mandatory medical reporting for physicians and optometrists in Ontario has been in place since 1968 and was enacted to help protect the public from drivers diagnosed with certain medical conditions or impairments that made it dangerous for them to drive. Mandatory reporting is a legal requirement to report that pertains to physicians, nurse practitioners, and optometrists, outlined in the HTA. The legislation states that every prescribed person shall report to the MTO “any person who is at least 16 years old who, in the opinion of the prescribed person, has or appears to have a prescribed medical condition, functional impairment or visual impairment that may impair driving ability.”

What’s New

In 2015, amendments were passed that allowed for a new reporting model to be introduced in Ontario and were approved in February 2018. These include:

·       A combination of mandatory and discretionary reporting

·       Authority to add additional healthcare professionals

·       Specific requirements regarding what must be reported

Resulting from these amendments, the MTO regulations state that as of July 1, 2018, occupational therapists are identified as discretionary reporters. Discretionary reporting is not a legal requirement but gives authority for reporting to occupational therapists, physicians, nurse practitioners and optometrists for: “any person who is at least 16 years old who, in the opinion of the prescribed person, has, or appears to have, a medical condition, functional impairment or visual impairment that may make it dangerous for the person to operate a motor vehicle”. Discretionary reporting therefore allows OTs to report concerns about a client’s fitness to drive if they choose.

With respect to consent and confidentiality, OTs are protected from legal action for breaking confidentiality when making a discretionary report; the HTA states that the authority of a prescribed medical professional making a report to the MTO overrides the duty of that professional to maintain a client’s confidentiality. Nevertheless, an OT making a report would be expected to advise the client of this decision.

Summary of Discretionary Reporting Rules for OTs

·       OTs can report concerns about a client’s fitness to drive directly to the MTO.  There will be a standard MTO form to be used for this purpose.

·       OTS may report a driver but are not legally required to do so.

·       OTs can make a report without client consent to prevent or reduce risk of harm.

·       OTs can only make a report if they have met the client for assessment or service delivery.

·       OTs can report on both prescribed conditions and any other medical conditions, functional impairments or visual impairment that may make it dangerous for a client to drive.

Prescribed medical conditions include the following:

1.     Cognitive Impairment: a disorder resulting in cognitive impairment that,

                 i.      Affects attention, judgment and problem solving, planning and sequencing, memory, insight, reaction time or visuospatial perception, and,

                 ii.     Results in substantial limitation of the person’s ability to perform activities of daily living.

2.     Sudden incapacitation: a disorder that has a moderate or high risk of sudden incapacitation, or that has resulted in sudden incapacitation and that has a moderate or high risk of recurrence.

3.     Motor or sensory impairment: a condition or disorder resulting in severe motor impairment that affects co-ordination, muscle strength and control, flexibility, motor planning, touch or positional sense.

4.     Visual impairment:

                 i.      A best corrected visual acuity that is below 20/50 with both eyes open and examined together.

                  ii.     A visual field that is less than 120 continuous degrees along the horizontal meridian, or less than 15 continuous degrees above and below fixation, or less than 60 degrees to either side of the vertical midline, including hemianopia.

                 iii.    Diplopia that is within 40 degrees of fixation point (in all directions) of primary position, that cannot be corrected using prism lenses or patching.

5.     Substance use disorder: a diagnosis of an uncontrolled substance use disorder, excluding caffeine and nicotine, and the person is non-compliant with treatment recommendations.

6.     Psychiatric illness: a condition or disorder that currently involves acute psychosis or severe abnormalities of perception such as those present in schizophrenia or in other psychotic disorders, bipolar disorders, trauma or stressor-related disorders, dissociative disorders or neurocognitive disorders, or the person has a suicidal plan involving a vehicle or an intent to use a vehicle to harm others.

·       OTs who make a report in good faith are protected from legal action but failing to report when they should have could be a breach of professional obligations.

OTs are NOT expected to report on conditions that, in their opinion, are of:

·       A transient or non-recurrent nature

·       Modest or incremental changes in ability

Lastly, although OTs are not legally required to make discretionary reports, a professional obligation to identify a potential safety issue with a client (such as a concern about fitness to drive) and, taking action to address this concern, is expected of the OT. Taking action may or may not include making a discretionary report to the MTO.

Next Steps

Reporting, Intake, and Review Process

The three types of approaches for assessing fitness to drive include a General Functional Assessment, Driving Specific Functional Assessment, and/or a Comprehensive Driving Evaluation (more information can be found in the resources below). Once an assessment has been completed or a concern has been identified, an OT may fill out a report. A new standardized form that OTs (along with physicians and nurse practitioners) must use when making a report has been approved and will be available online as of July 1, 2018. Once reports are received by the ministry, they will be reviewed and the MTO is to take appropriate action following within 30 business days.  When an OT is reporting to the ministry, this does not mean the OT is taking the person’s license away. The licensing body has the responsibility to make this decision or to decide if more information is required.

For more information and resources, the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario has created an Interim Guide to Discretionary Reporting of Fitness to Drive, which can be found at:



O-Tip of the Week: Try the ’10 Minute Rule’

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

Occupational Therapists are a vital part of a team of professionals that assist with the rehabilitation from brain injury.  For the month of June, Brain Injury Awareness Month, our series will be providing solutions to assist with some of the many symptoms of brain injury. 

Struggling to complete a daunting task?  Continuously pushing it to tomorrows to do list?  Try the 10 Minute Rule Instead of trying to complete this task all at once, set a timer and spend just 10 minutes a day on this task until you are able to finish it.


Concussion Recovery: An OT Can Help!

If you ask a crowd of people if they have ever had a concussion, about 1/3 will raise their hand. Direct hits to the head and closed head injuries are not uncommon in children and young adults, decrease in frequency in adulthood, but increase again in seniors.

Symptoms of concussion range and some can dramatically impact someone’s ability to work, drive, go to school, manage daily routines, or even participate in social or leisure activities.  Occupational Therapists can help those who have suffered a concussion manage symptoms and for those who are struggling to participate in important life roles, we can help them to return to work / home / school / fun! 

Learn more about Occupational Therapy’s vital role in our OT-V Episode:  Managing a Concussion


Computerized Cognitive Training – Does it Help?

How do you stay “mentally fit?”  In our previous post, Working up a Cognitive Sweat, we suggested some online ways to provide a “workout” for your brain through computer “brain training” programs or computerized cognitive training.  The following care of the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal discusses research which confirms that these training programs do provide benefit, even to those who with mild cognitive impairment.   Learn more about this research below and take a look at our OT-V episode, Cognition and Aging — Keeping the Mind Sharp, for more ways to keep your brain cognitively fit!

The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal:  Computer brain games for treating cognitive impairment



O-Tip of the Week: Plan Your Weeks and Days

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

Occupational Therapists are a vital part of a team of professionals that assist with the rehabilitation from brain injury.  For the month of June, Brain Injury Awareness Month, our series will be providing solutions to assist with some of the many symptoms of brain injury. 

Brain injuries may result in cognitive deficits which can affect memory and concentration.  Additionally, a brain injury often affects energy levels, leaving many fatigued by completing daily tasks.  Spreading activities throughout the week and thoroughly planning each day will go a long way to help someone with a brain injury accomplish more and feel more in control.  An OT can help!