OT Student Helps Special Needs Students in Stamford

Julea Jones, Karen Basset& MaryJo DiCrescenzo

Making the vests are, from left, Julea Jones, Karen Bassett and MaryJo DiCrescenzo.

News Story: March 1, 2012

Press Release courtesy of Constellation Health Services

Sacred Heart University OT Student Helps Special Needs Students in Stamford

Several Stamford elementary school classrooms will be seeing some unique vests appearing over the next few weeks.  Weighted vests and lap pads are being incorporated into classrooms for children who have a variety of sensory processing disorders.  Karen Bassett, a student in the entry-level Master’s Degree Program in Occupational Therapy (OT) at Sacred Heart University (SHU) began working in the Stamford schools in January 2012 as part of her fieldwork studies.  Karen saw the need for this type of intervention tool when she witnessed the limited availability of vests to try with students. 
Weighted vests are often used as part of an Occupational Therapy plan for children with a variety of diagnoses including sensory processing disorder, autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit disorder.  The concept is based on providing deep pressure input through wearing the weighted vests for different times during the day and that this input can help a child focus and pay attention to activities in class. These vests typically retail between $50 and $100. 
Bassett shared her idea to create weighted vests and lap pads (lap pads are utilized in similar ways while the child is seated) with her OT Supervisor in Stamford Adriana Jaramillo, OTR/L of Constellation School Based Therapy.  She then proposed her idea to the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) at SHU for funding as a community service project.  Once Bassett was granted approval of the project, the project has taken a life of its own: you can find Karen and eight of her fellow entry level OT students in SHU’s OT Department at their 4 sewing machines cutting, stitching and creating hand-crafted weighted vests and lap pads in multiple sizes and colors. 
Assistant Director of Constellation School-Based Therapy Joanne Drouillard, OTR/L expressed her admiration for Bassett’s “take-charge” nature, “Karen has really orchestrated something remarkable.  She brought the need to our attention and within weeks we see the finished product of determination and collaboration.” 
When asked about why Bassett has gone through such tremendous efforts to making this a successful project, she stated, “it really came full circle for me when I think back to how helpful this type of intervention could have been for my own son in kindergarten and first grade.  If it helps just one child function more successfully during his/her school day, then it’s a great step forward.”  

For more information on the Sacred Heart Occupational Therapy Program, contact Jody Bortone Ed.D., OT/L, associate dean of the Occupational Therapy and Health Sciences program at

For more information on Constellation School-Based Therapy, contact Assistant Director Joanne Drouillard, OTR/L at  For program information, visit
Constellation School Based Therapy provides pediatric physical and occupational therapy services to children in several Connecticut school districts.