Earning the ATP

Integrating People & Places

Consider this our initial descent toward the ATP exam that we’ve been preparing for in this column for just over a year.

What I mean by that is I’m now starting my “beginning of the end” review, and in doing so, I read over the brochure on RESNA’s Assistive Technology Professional Certification to see what else I’ll need to know to do well on the practice exam. The brochure explains that certification is attained in part through a written exam that “tests the candidate’s knowledge of assistive technology, concepts, tools and code of ethics. The exam covers basic principles on 10 main areas.”

We’ve already covered many of the topics — such as human anatomy, pathologies, professional ethics, and design & product knowledge — in previous columns. (Go to mobilitymgmt.com if you need to catch up.) But one of the brochure topics we haven’t yet covered is “Integration of Person, Technology and the Environment.”

We re-enlisted Cody Verrett, ATP, national sales director for Quantum Rehab, as this month’s mentor. Cody not only has taken and passed the ATP exam, but has also taught preparatory courses to exam candidates.

Integration as A Global Theme

“Integration of Person, Technology and the Environment” sounds like a pretty heady topic.

But Cody assured me, “It’s actually really simple. What it means is that the technology is not individually looked at, nor is the individual, but the complete picture. I think the way that the test is given and the way that the questions are asked is in a very ideal-world perspective. This whole concept is really about making sure that all three pieces are ideally matched.”

In other words, ideally the environmental assessments of a client’s home and main daytime environments — school, work, what have you — would be considered right alongside the clinical components of a seating system and the diagnosis/prognosis/needs/wants of the client when the complex rehab team is making its technology decisions...?

“Yes, absolutely,” Cody says.

But don’t expect test questions to specifically include the words “integration” or “environment.” Rather, Cody says, expect that this integration concept will be implied in many different kinds of questions.

“It’s more of a global kind of overall theme, not about one specific item or question you may see in the test,” he says, adding that RESNA wants “to be sure the person providing assistive technology equipment has really considered the entire picture and doesn’t miss anything, doesn’t forget about the fact that (the client) takes public transportation and the equipment needs to have certain features to accommodate that.”

Other test questions may incorporate the theme of integration by asking about the need for more than one type of assistive technology. For instance, a question about power mobility might ask about possible augmentative communication or computer access for that client as well. “It’s important that the whole picture is observed, accounted for and weighs heavy on the decision-making process,” Cody explains.

He suggests thinking of this topic as one that is “really pulling it all together. Where is (the assistive technology) going to be used; what do clients want to do with it? Does it fit into their life, and are they prepared for the fact that there are areas that might not be 100-percent be like it always was? The goal is to make sure the whole picture is observed, not just one particular area or subject.”

Test-Taking Under “Ideal Circumstances”

Although our integration theme this month tests our knowledge of the “big picture,” Cody reminds us that we’ll want to be more focused when taking the exam itself.

The reason? Especially among veteran rehab providers, it can be tempting to second-guess a test question by remembering all the “exceptions to the rule” that they’ve seen in their careers. Do that on the exam, and you’re liable to find yourself thinking in circles.

“You have to sort of ask yourself at times, ‘What would RESNA do in that situation?’” Cody says. “‘What would be the most ideal circumstance for this to play out?’ That’s tricky, and many times, I think it’s one of the stumbling blocks for folks who take this test multiple times. I’ve seen those individuals really struggle with this, because they’ve been doing this so long that it’s hard for them to take 25 years of experience and set it aside for just the exam, for just that moment in time, and really separate the two.”

It might help to think of taking a standardized test — like this one — as a completely separate skill to master, with its own requirements and rules. It’s not as if the folks who wrote RESNA’s test want candidates to throw away everything they’ve seen, heard and experienced on the job. But this is a standardized test — it’s NOT the same thing as doing a real-world seating & mobility evaluation complete with noncompliant caregivers, evasive payors and referral sources who don’t complete justification documents on time.

Instead, think of the test-taking facility as a “clean room,” a sterile environment in which RESNA “is looking for what would be an ideal situation, an ideal circumstance,” Cody suggests. “Not what you’ve seen dozens of times because that’s the way the situation plays out.”

Cody says that when he talks to people who are prepping for this exam, he tries to emphasize that there’s “a specific strategy to passing this exam, and you have to go into it with the mindset of ‘What would RESNA do? I’m not going to overthink it. I’m not going to bring in every extraneous experience I’ve had to twist and turn this in my head. I’m going to weed out the wrong answers, and I’m going to select the best, most correct answer I can find.’”

Make sense? Great! Whew, I’m getting excited. You?

This article originally appeared in the Seating & Positioning Handbook: March 2010 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

Upcoming Webcast

ALS: Progressive Thinking for a Progressive Disease

Lois Brown, MPT, ATP/SMS, discusses the many challenges of working with patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (PALS) and seating & mobility options available to support their independence and quality of life as ALS progresses.

Live event: Sept. 16

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