Workshop Will Benefit the Memorial Christine E. Busher Occupational Therapy Award Fund

News Story: August 1, 2011
Christine E. Busher

A daylong workshop scheduled for November not only will provide invaluable education for pediatric occupational and physical therapists, teachers, and parents but also will raise money to benefit the Memorial Christine E. Busher Occupational Therapy Award Fund.

Christine Busher, 49 of Shelton, was an alumna and adjunct faculty member at Sacred Heart University and an executive board member and secretary for the Connecticut Occupational Therapy Association. Christine also worked as an occupational therapist for Constellation Health Services specializing in pediatric occupational therapy practice.  Following her death in 2009, her friends and colleagues at SHU created an award to assist occupational therapy students. The award recipients, very much like Ms. Busher, will be those pursuing occupational therapy as a second career.

The fundraising workshop will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, November 5 at the Norwalk Inn and Conference Center. The cost is $189, which includes materials, continental breakfast, lunch and snacks. Registration can be completed by visiting, by calling 203-365-4771 or by mailing a check to the Sacred Heart University Occupational Therapy Department (Attn: Ivy Sailer) at 5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield, CT 06825. The registration deadline is October 14. Additionally, attendees will receive six contact hours toward their National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy and continued Connecticut state licensure.

The workshop’s focus of “Applying Sensory Integration Principles for Diverse Populations” will give participants an overview of Ayres Sensory Integration® theory, assessment and intervention. Examples of applications in various populations and age groups, such as early intervention, autism and learning disabilities, will be provided. The sensory integration principles also will be discussed in regards to occupational performance across the lifespan. The use of clinical reasoning when applying the sensory integrative approach during evaluation and intervention with clients will be emphasized. Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist, developmental psychologist and scholar, developed the approach in the 1960s.

The workshop is geared toward pediatric occupational therapists, said Jody Bortone Ed.D., OTR/L, the chairwoman and director of the Graduate Program in Occupational Therapy at SHU, but pediatric physical therapists or parents also may be interested in attending. Pediatric OT, said Dr. Bortone, is a large practice area.

In explaining the Ayres approach, Dr. Bortone said, “We work with children in hopes of presenting them with opportunities to engage in certain sensory experiences where they themselves will have an adaptive response.”

Occupational therapists use swings, climbing apparatus and unstable surfaces so that the children learn to adapt. “Sensory Integration is active not passive. They do it. They are the ones who are active. They are the ones who are problem solving. The therapist is really a guide and a constant observer on seeing what might be too much, what might not have been enough. Ayres calls that the ‘just right challenge.’” For children, occupational therapy assists them with play, school and daily living.

Headlining the workshop is Susanne Smith Roley, an occupational therapist with more than 30 years of experience in pediatrics who also is an author, lecturer and researcher. She is on staff at the University of Southern California, Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy as the project director for the USC/WPS Comprehensive Program in Sensory Integration. She also is the director of education and research at the Pediatric Therapy Network and has a private practice. She is a fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association and the recipient of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation’s Virginia Scardina Award of Excellence and A. Jean Ayres Award. 

Dr. Bortone acknowledged that having an internationally known practitioner like Ms. Smith Roley as the keynote speaker will be a “big draw” for workshop attendees. Her appearance at the workshop is made possible through Heather Miller Kuhaneck, a clinical assistant professor in the SHU occupational therapy program, who knows Ms. Smith Roley very well. Dr. Bortone added that she is discounting her usual lecture fee because the workshop is a fundraiser for the Busher award. “It was very gracious and lovely of her to do that.”

While the workshop will provide valuable tools for occupational therapists’ assessment and care of their young clients, raising money to support the memorial fund is as important.

Working with the Sacred Heart University’s Office of Institutional Advancement, the award fund will help students entering OT as a second career with books, lab coats and field costs and other incidentals. The goal, she said, is to raise $10,000 from the workshop. The College of Health Professions provided some seed money toward the planning of the workshop to help defray costs and the Montano Assistive Technology Center of Bridgeport, which aids children and adults with physical and cognitive impairments, provided the first donation to the award fund. Later, a committee will be formed to designate the award recipients.

Ms. Busher was a “conscientious student, who was soft spoken and assumed leadership roles early in her career, which is unusual. Christine really got involved right away as a student,” said Dr. Bortone, who has been with the University since 1999 and started the graduate program in OT in 2000. Ms. Busher earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from the University of Connecticut and her master’s in OT from SHU. In addition to teaching OT at SHU, she was employed as an occupational therapist for the Constellation Service of Norwalk and worked in the New Canaan and Monroe school systems. She also was a problem-based learning facilitator.

“She was dedicated to her students,” said Dr. Bortone, who learned that Ms. Busher’s colleagues also “were impressed with her dedication to her students and to their families. The teachers at the schools where she worked said the kids loved her. It was a tremendous loss when she passed away.

“I am glad we can do this award fund to honor her and keep her memory alive in some way.”

Constellation Health Services is the lead sponsor for this event.  For additional information on making a donation to the Christine M. Busher Memorial Fund or serving as a sponsor for the event, please contact Greg Bastek in Institutional Advancement at