The Help Group – USC Occupational Science Initiative

Develops Virtual Supports for Students, Families and Teachers


The Help Group and USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy are collaborating on an exciting new project that will benefit our students, teachers, and families while providing an educational training experience for USC graduate students. Thirteen of USC’s occupational therapy graduate students have been working with The Help Group staff of occupational therapists, teachers, and psychologists to create a virtual library to support our students’ needs in the areas of fine motor skills, sensory regulation, and social skills. These additive resources will include activities, lessons, exercises, and more, for various ages and developmental levels. Topics will range from establishing routines and schedules to creating social stories and ways to take sensory friendly breaks.

This is particularly exciting given the worldwide changes in therapeutic interventions to an online platform — not only can our teachers and therapists use these resources within their classrooms, but parents can also access them within the home environment to ensure continued gains. To enhance ongoing training, USC’s graduate students will also have the opportunity to observe our virtual classrooms, camp activities and other therapeutic interventions – providing an excellent opportunity to learn about the potential needs of individuals with developmental disabilities.

“Since 2013, our partnership with the USC Chan Division has provided many wonderful opportunities to develop enriching and engaging projects to benefit our young people,” said Dr. Barbara Firestone, President and CEO.

“The Chan Division is prioritizing the health and wellbeing of our communities during this pandemic by supporting people’s engagement in the ordinary and extraordinary activities of daily life,” said Grace Baranek, PhD., OTR/L, FAOTA, who is Associate Dean and Chair, and the Mrs. T. H. Chan Professor of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at USC. “We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to partner our faculty and OT fieldwork students with The Help Group this summer. They have been developing virtual supports and resources that can be utilized by families and teachers to promote students’ engagement, social participation and development of important life skills now and in the future.”

Jamie Barstein, PhD, Clinical Psychologist at The Help Group, is leading this project with support from Julie Peterson, MA, OTR/L, Help Group Language, Speech, and Occupational Therapy Supervisor, in coordination with USC’s Chan Division, Jesus Diaz, OTD, OTR/L, and Associate Professor of Research.

The Help Group is proud to collaborate with USC for yet another innovative and valuable project!