OS&OT alumna Tina Singh draws on her graduate studies to create helmet for Sikh kidsFor years, occupational therapist Tina Singh felt frustrated when trying to find helmets that would fit her three active young sons – they wear a patka, or cloth head covering, that is smaller than a turban but still covers their long hair – as they began to ride bicycles and play team sports such as hockey.
“As an occupational therapist, of course it was important that my kids had to have a helmet,” Singh says. “But when I tried to put helmets on them and they didn’t fit, my husband and I tried to tie their hair a different way – we tried a bunch of things and still nothing quite fit right.”
An occupational therapist whose work focused on patients with acquired brain injuries, Singh dove into the process of designing a proper helmet that includes a small domed section on the top to accommodate a child’s hair – and found herself thinking back to her master’s studies in the department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy. She says the program’s holistic, comprehensive approach made her realize she could use her skills in many different ways.
“I felt there was a lot of practical application in everything we were studying,” Singh says from her home in Brampton, Ont. “Occupational therapy is such a broad area and we got a little taste of everything in the program. I knew that I would always have the opportunity to do different things within the field, such as universal design, product development and business – all of which I ended up doing for my current project.”
After having an engineer produce renderings of her design, Singh found a manufacturer to produce a prototype that could be tested. A few iterations later, the helmet – which is designed for kids aged five and up and can be used for skateboarding, kick-scootering or rollerblading – passed the required safety testing and is now available for pre-orders in Canada.
Singh, who worked as a rehab coach during her undergraduate years, says she chose to do a master’s degree at U of T after deciding to become an occupational therapist. “The program really felt like the ideal fit. It’s the foundational skills I still find useful to this day, such as looking at the whole person and how we look at everyday life. That way of thinking just sticks with you – and it doesn’t just apply to your work, but to everything around you,” she says.
“Andrea Duncan really helped guide me and it felt like I always had someone to look to when I needed advice on how to move forward. I feel like even if I saw her today, I could have those same open conversations with her about my career.”
Duncan, an assistant professor in the department of occupational science and occupational therapy, says she’s delighted to have made an impact on one of her former students – and to hear how Singh used her learnings in the program to innovate.
“Tina took my professional practice course, which is dedicated to developing systems thinking and business skills for occupational therapy students. Tina definitely stood out amongst her peers, and I am not surprised that she has gone on to become an ‘OTpreneur,’” Duncan says. “We are very proud of her and all her endeavours.”Excerpt of story by Tabassum Siddiqui, U of T News, published February 6, 2023. Read the full story