“Touro’s Mission is About Giving Back”

SHS Occupational Therapy Professor Alex Lopez Runs Camp for Developmentally Delayed Children

March 29, 2017
ALEX LOPEZ: The mission of Touro college. It's about making a difference in the community and giving back. I think that's an important aspect of being a practitioner-educator here. There is an understanding within the Touro College that we are going to contribute to community and we're going to do something greater. That has inspired me to do more.

Inclusive Sports and Fitness is an evidence-based scientific program looking at neuroscientific principles on addressing brain behavior and abilities. We use sports as a therapeutic medium. The children that are in that program generally have autism spectrum disorder. Others have Down syndrome and perhaps other neurological conditions. They're kids that don't socialize well and they have problems with connecting with others. What we do is teach them how to move their bodies effectively. How to communicate and socialize effectively. Help develop their cognitive skills. We refer to them as athletes. We push them like athletes. We've seen a remarkable change.

We have one child. When I met him, he would move like a robot. Now, he's transformed. He can drive a ball 160 yards or come up to you and introduce himself. He had an increase in his IQ scores by 20 points. His mother and father have said that they had to rethink his whole life plan. To know that I was part of that change has really been an inspiration to me. Touro College has been one of the supporting forces here that has made me able to do what I'm doing. I hope to inspire my students to see occupational therapy more than a profession or career. That it's more than just a nine-to-five job and every interaction that you have can make a difference in somebody's life.

Professor Alex Lopez said Touro’s mission inspired him. 

“There is an understanding at Touro that we’re going to contribute to community and do something greater,” said Lopez, a professor in Touro’s School of Health Sciences (SHS) Occupational Therapy program. “Touro’s mission is about giving back.”

That’s one of the reasons why Lopez, an army veteran who is an occupational therapist, started Inclusive Sports and Fitness. The summer program takes children with developmental disabilities, like autism spectrum disorder, and pairs them with Touro occupational therapy students and their typically developmentally peers. Each camper receives specialized occupational therapy and physical therapy and the latest evidence-based treatments.

“These are children who have problems socializing,” explained Lopez, who pursued a law career before becoming an occupational therapist. “We teach these children how to move their bodies effectively, how to communicate and socialize effectively and help develop their cognitive abilities.”  

Describing one child, Lopez explained that at the beginning of the summer, the child “moved like a robot.” After the summer, he was able to drive a ball 160 yards. Even his IQ scores improved.

“I hope to inspire my students to see OT as more than a profession or a career,” concluded Lopez.  “It’s more than a 9-5 job.  Every interaction you have can make a difference in someone’s life.”