Posts Tagged ‘Occupational Therapy’

After many months of thinking, planning, conducting focus groups, and writing articles, I am excited to announce the launch of my new blog, Mama OT: Tips and Tricks for Those Who Care for Children.

You can check it out by going to www.MamaOT.com.

Though this means the end of OT Journey — a project that saw me through OT school — it does not mean my journey as an OT is over. In fact, it has only just begun.

So hop on over to Mama OT, a fun new place to share kid-related ideas based on experience as a mama and an OT.

Thanks so much for reading OT Journey, and I hope to see you over on Mama OT!


Read Full Post »

This week I started my first job as a licensed occupational therapist! Since part of my job will be to provide OT services to children in their home (if they are between the ages of 0-3 and are funded by Regional Center), I am responsible for toting around therapy supplies in the trunk of my car everywhere I go. One staple? Playdough.

Playdough is great for so many reasons when it comes to therapy, but it can get expensive, especially if your kiddos decide to mix together several of your colors before putting them back into those tiny plastic pop-top containers. So why not just make it yourself?

It’s so easy, uses regular ingredients you’d have in your cupboard (with the exception of cream of tarter) and takes no more than 10 minutes. Here’s how:

Ingredients for homemade playdough:

2 cups water

10-20 drops food coloring (I used 10 drops and wish I would have used more)

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon oil (vegetable, olive, canola…whatever you’ve got in your cupboard)

1 teaspoon cream of tartar (you can find it in the spices aisle at the store)

1 cup salt


In a large pot, mix water and food coloring. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Cook over medium-high heat and stir with a wooden spoon (not a spatula, too flimsy) for about 5 minutes until the consistency is thick like…well…playdough.

toss 'em all in there...

...and then mix 'em all up.

The playdough will be hot, so don’t just pull it out bare handed.

warm playdough is one of life's simple pleasures...trust me.

Once your playdough has been cooked and has cooled off a little, it’s time to play!

a birthday cake?

a silly face?

Once you’re ready to put the delightful batch of dough away, you can store it either in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or simply stuff it all into a gallon-size ziploc bag at room temperature. This way it’s easy to take it along with you.

zip it up and take it on the road.

Good luck!

Read Full Post »

When I graduated from OT school this past May, my Dad offered to buy me an iPad2 as a graduation gift. He thought that maybe I would be able to use it in my work with kids with special needs as I drove to and from clients’ homes and saw them in the clinic. I decided it would be a good investment, so a few hours after I received my Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy, we headed over to the Apple store and picked out my shiny new toy.

In the months since that purchase, I’ve thought to myself that one of the many things I could do with the iPad is use it in therapy. Pediatric Occupational Therapists often work with children with limitations in the areas of fine motor skills, problem solving, cognition, motor planning, handwriting, body awareness, self-care, feeding, sensory processing, and more; all of these areas can be addressed in part or whole through the use of the iPad.

As I’ve been getting ready to go back to work in a few weeks (I recently had a baby), I’ve started downloading tons of apps on my iPad that I think could be useful with my pediatric clients. I downloaded 20 or so apps and then, wouldn’t you know it, I heard that 60-Minutes was going to be airing a special on how the iPad and its apps have revolutionized the lives of people with autism. I guess I’ve been on the right track!

You can click here to watch the 13-minute piece that encouraged millions as it aired last night (October 23rd), titled, “Apps for Autism.”

I thought it might be helpful if I posted a list of useful links for tracking down apps that can help people with autism. If you’re like me, you probably want your library of information to be organized so that, in the future, you can easily find what you’re looking for. So here I present to you The List. It’s long, but I’m sure there are lots of links out there that I don’t know about (and perhaps there will be even more added to the world wide web now that 60 Minutes has put autism and the iPad in the spotlight). If you know of other links, apps, or research being done to enhance the usability of apps for people with autism, please make your contribution in the comment box below! (And since I’m a Pediatric OT, I’m very interested in apps that would be great for kids!)

*Please note that I am not endorsing the following links; I am simply sharing them. If you have positive or negative things to say about any of them, please respectfully share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

. . .

Sue’s Favorite Autism Apps: http://independentclinician.com/autism-apps/

Apps for Children with Special Needs: http://a4cwsn.com/

Proloquo2Go: http://www.proloquo2go.com/

Alphabet Zoo: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/alphabet-zoo/id416075232?mt=8

iPad Apps for Autism: A Spreadsheet of Reviews and Recommendations (VERY comprehensive, organized, and consistently updated): http://www.squidalicious.com/2011/01/ipad-apps-for-autism-spreadsheet-of.html

Inov8: There’s a Special App for That: http://www.inov8-ed.com/category/special-app-for-that/

Autism and the iPad: http://autismandtheipad.blogspot.com/

Evolve iPad Enclosure (makes your iPad nearly indestructible and allows you to lock the app you’re in so a client can’t go into and out of programs willy nilly): http://www.ipadenclosures.com/ipad_kiosk_enclosure/ipad_enclosures/evolve

SpeakinMotion: http://www.speakinmotion.com/

iTherapy: Speech Therapy for Autism: http://www.proactivespeechtherapy.com/

Smurks (expressing emotions): http://smurks.net/

Verbally Premium (a text-t0-speech app reviewed by iAutism): http://www.iautism.info/en/2011/10/08/review-verbally-premium/

Let’s join together as we continue in our work to help people with autism grow in their independence and their ability to function and THRIVE in this world!

Read Full Post »

Congratulations to Cheryl Crow, an OT student at Samuel Merritt University in the Bay Area! Her video was played in front of 6,000 people at the 2011 AOTA Conference in Philadelphia. It was chosen out of several videos promoting the field of occupational therapy that were submitted by OT and OTA programs across the country.

As you watch this video, imagine what it would be like to watch it in a room with 5,999 other people who are pumped about your profession as the images flash across a giant screen and the sound booms over the entire room.

It gave me chills.

Read Full Post »

Before I applied to OT school, I was a therapy aide at a pediatric clinic in Carlsbad. In the course of working with various therapists, one OT told me something that has since stuck with me: When you start having kids of your own, it can make you a better pediatric therapist.

As someone who wants to be able to give my full effort and attention to the things that I do, this made me feel a lot better about going into OT school at the age of 25. I knew that I wanted to start having kids in my late 20s, but I was afraid that by me going to grad school, I was essentially acknowledging the fact that I wouldn’t be able to start having kids until I got into my 30s. It only seemed logical that if I started grad school at age 25, then I would finish at age 27 and work for a few years before having kids so that I could earn some money and get used to the whole new career thing. Right? But when this OT — who has 2 young boys of her own — told me in 2008 that you don’t necessarily have to put off starting a family in order to still be a good therapist…that totally changed my perspective. And, clearly, I have come to embrace this perspective, as my husband and I will be welcoming our first baby into the world just 3 months after I graduate from OT school.

Why might having kids of my own actually help me become a better pediatric therapist? When the OT first mentioned this concept to me, she said that she found that she could relate better to the parents (a HUGE part of working in pediatric OT) and seemed to develop this uncanny ability to somehow understand her pediatric clients in a more complete way. It seems that, once you have kids of your own, you can more fully understand the realities of living with and raising children. While every family’s situation and experience is different, having kids of your own gives you the ability to be more realistic in the things that you ask of your kiddos’ parents. Things like home programs, community outings, and environmental modifications.

And not only may having kids of my own improve the technical aspects of my pediatric practice, it may also boost the potential for parent-therapist rapport. One of the things I’ve always fixated on when working with kids is my ability to gain respect from parents because, well, I look like I’m 14 years old even though I’m in my late 20s. That doesn’t mean that parents don’t come to respect me through the work that I do with their kids. But I sometimes envy those who don’t have to work to gain parents’ respect — they just have that look about them that says, Don’t worry, I’m old enough to handle this.Issues…

I should also add that just because you don’t have kids of your own, it doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t be a good pediatric therapist. And just because you do have kids of your own, it doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically become a superstar therapist either. It’s just another dimension of life that has the potential to improve your practice. I hope people don’t think I’m saying that my situation is the best, because it certainly isn’t. I mean, who really wants to have to worry about pumping schedules, how long your milk will last on ice during the workday, and the potential for leakage while working with crying children, all while looking for a first job as a pediatric OT? Not many people, I’d imagine. It’s a whole new set of factors to consider.


I bring this all up now because as I’ve been looking through potential pediatricians in the Santa Barbara area, I have found myself drawn to those doctors who have kids of their own. And, specifically, who have boys of their own. Maybe it’s a petty factor to consider, but I’m finding that it really does make a big difference to me. It sets those doctors apart because, whether they are male or female, I know that they’ve been through this before.

That being said, I’m excited about the pediatrician that we’re scheduled to meet with at the end of May. Not only is he a Bruin (!!!!!) who’s a strong advocate of breastfeeding and has 2 boys of his own, but he’s also a Santa Barbara native who is super involved in the community, both locally and nationally. He writes a healthcare column in the local newspaper as well as in national publications, is involved with the local AYSO soccer league and Little League, is a distance runner, and is a medical consultant for the show Burn Notice. And although he does all of that stuff and provides a ton of parent resources on his website, my favorite thing about him (without having actually met him yet) is the fact that he has an entire page of his site devoted to kid-related things that his 2 boys and his wife enjoy in Santa Barbara. From local activities to baby accessories/toys to wife-recommended breastfeeding supplies, he really seems to understand the need to be able to relate to the parents of the kids he works with. It appears that he recognizes the fact that the kids and families he treats are more than just his patients. They are people. And although it’s nice to put together a list of local resources and recommendations (something we’ve done as an assignment for one of our pediatrics classes in OT school), it means a lot more when the person making the recommendations has some personal experience with them rather than simply looking things up online and throwing together a list of resources.

So even though I am sort of (sort of???) terrified of the idea of having my first baby and then immediately starting a new career, I know that it has the potential to make me better at what I do, both as a new parent and a new therapist. It’s a lot to handle, I know. I realize that being a new mom and a new therapist will be anything but a cakewalk. But I truly believe that God will be able to use each of my new roles to strengthen each other, as well as to draw me closer to him. Praying for peace and encouragement as each of these milestones quickly approach!

Read Full Post »

In OT, we talk about occupations as activities that are personally meaningful to an individual. While it would make sense to say that pregnancy is a time that is rich with meaning, I never really would have thought to label it as an occupation.

Until now.

Now that I myself am pregnant, I am finding that it is the most meaningful occupation in which I have ever participated. It’s kind of like being pregnant is an occupation in and of itself, and then there are all sorts of occupations related to being pregnant that also qualify.

I am at the 13-week mark (due August 7th) and have already collected three strips of ultrasound photos, so I decided to buy a baby book — one of the most exciting purchases I’ve ever made! The occupation of “baby booking” will soon occupy some of the time that I should probably spend studying. Oh well.

In addition to getting a baby book in which to store memories, I have acquired a couple of baby-related books. One is the good ol’ What to expect when you’re expecting. The other is a book on natural childbirth (Ina May’s book on childbirth), something that terrifies yet lures me all at the same time. This occupation of reading also occupies some of my free time, and I’m sure will crank up a notch as the big day gets closer.

Being pregnant has also fast become a popular topic of conversation. As a 2nd year OT student in her last semester of school, I am constantly surrounded by awesome girls who have yet to experience this roller coaster of an occupation. Every day they ask me questions: what is it like? how do you feel? what are you craving? how big is the baby now? Those questions and conversations have almost become an occupation in and of themselves! But it’s great, because I love to teach people and I love to share information, and this is such a great and natural way to be able to do that.

I look forward to the adventures that are sure to lie in front of me!


Read Full Post »

For the past 5 months, I have been doing a 3-day-a-week internship at a fantastic pediatric therapy clinic in Pasadena as I finish up my last year of OT school. This clinic has around 30 amazing therapists on staff — occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech therapists. I have had the opportunity to observe a multitude of clinicians, from newbies to veterans, as they demonstrate to me what it means to be a good pediatric therapist. I have watched training videos, read articles, and written papers so that, someday, I can become a good pediatric OT too.

The only problem is that, in the process of learning from all these other therapists’ styles, I have forgotten what my style is. I have realized that I’ve tried so hard to take on their identity that I have lost my own when it comes to interacting therapeutically with the kids.

I suppose this is part of the learning curve. You start with a natural talent and intuition for working with kids, so you’re drawn to a field that will educate you on how to be even better with them. Then, in the process of learning, you are removed from your kid-filled environment (i.e., work or volunteer positions) as you saturate your brain with new information about theories, techniques, and research related to working with kids. As you drift away from your passion, you lose a little bit of that natural pizazz that you once possessed when you’re around kids because, well, you’ve grown a little rusty. Then, as you are reintroduced to the kid-filled environment, you are no longer that fun kid magnet that you once were. You are a person who loves kids but is weighed down and — sometimes — paralyzed by a truckload of new knowledge that you must now integrate into your interactions with those little people who were never that intimidating to you but, now, seem to be much more difficult to engage and motivate.

This is what happened to me.

About 3 weeks ago, I realized that I just wasn’t fun anymore. I used to be (and have) lots and lots of fun when I was around kids, even when it was all day long. But now? Now that I have all this “education” to use as part of my practice? Now that there is more of a “right” and a “wrong” to what I choose to do in terms of helping them reach their goals? Well, I think I became a bit of a robot, processing frames of reference and creating data sheets of approved treatment strategies for different kids. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things. But somewhere along the way, I stopped being fun. I forgot that my clients are kids who like to play, and I treated them like clients. I mean, I was maybe a little fun. But not that much.

So, I’ve decided that I’m going to be fun. And I’m going to have fun. Because how can therapy be play-based if you’re not actually playing?

Ever since I resolved to be more fun (since about 1 1/2 weeks ago), things have been so much better at fieldwork. Yeah, I still have to use my clinical reasoning and make sure that I’m having fun with the kids in a way that will bring them closer to meeting their official goals. But it’s way more fun for me and for the kids, and I can tell just by looking at their smiles and paying attention to the buzz that I feel when we’re finished with our sessions.

I’m so glad I realized this now, before I finished my fieldwork and left feeling like I wasn’t as good a pediatric  OT as I once thought I could be. So every day as I drive to fieldwork, I am happy to remind myself of my new motto:

I’m going to be fun today.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »