Dream team: Ward and Pedersen

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Amber Ward and Jessica Presperin Pedersen were named to the AOTA’s Roster of Fellows in April. Here’s what they had to say about their work and passion for seating and wheeled mobility and assistive technology.

Reaping rewards from research

Both Ward and Pedersen are involved in research projects that will help to advance the field of seating and wheeled mobility and assistive technology. Ward is working on a project that will assess the ability of Permobil’s Virtual Seating Coach to prevent wounds in ALS patients who use wheelchairs.

“People with ALS get wounds even though they shouldn’t, because they can communicate and they can feel,” she said. “We’re going to use the coach to train people and to follow up with them every month on things like, I noticed you didn’t do a pressure release yesterday. We want to know why they still have wounds.”

Pedersen is working with a colleague on a research paper, funded by Motion Concepts, to outline the differences in outcome measurements for different back supports. They’re measuring, for example, how far a wheelchair user can move on a shag rug, and how fast they can go up and down a ramp.

“We were in D.C. advocating on the manual accessories issue and the feedback we got was, where’s the evidence that this expensive back is better than this inexpensive back?” she said. “We did a lit review and found only a few articles on this topic. It was scary.”

Cultivating their contributions

While their contributions to seating and wheeled mobility and assistive technology are too many to count, Ward says she’s particularly proud of her work elevating the status of the specialty within the AOTA. She put forth a motion at an AOTA representative assembly to acknowledge the importance of OTs that do seating and wheeled mobility and assistive technology.

“There was nothing in the books to make that part of the practice parameters,” she said. “Now there is.”

Pedersen says she’s particularly proud of her work developing a form that “goes through the flow” of how to do a wheelchair evaluation, including checklists for justifications.

“It was the first form that got rid of the letter of medical necessity—you didn’t have to write narratives anymore,” she said. “Its use was mandated in Illinois and then it travelled all over and Numotion is now using a revamped version. It was huge—it changed the way everyone did evals.”