Please tell us a little about the work of a Paediatric Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapy is concerned with promoting independence in activities of everyday life – or ‘occupations.’ Children’s occupations include: reaching developmental milestones, play, self care, education related tasks, socialising and playground ‘work.’ Paediatric OTs work with babies, very young children, and school aged kids, in collaboration with the child’s family, teachers, and other health professionals, in private practice clinic settings, and within the child’s home or school community, as well as acute (hospital) and specialist clinics.
What qualifications do you hold?
I completed a 4 year Bachelor of Occupational Therapy degree at LaTrobe University, Australia, back in 1997; then about 10 years later, I obtained a Graduate Certificate in Health Promotion. Health Promotion is all about population health, promoting health for all, and empowering communities to create their own futures, which actually fits really well with OT’s philosophy of encouraging individuals to reach their potential. In terms of paediatric OT specific training, I’m really excited to be doing some of the ‘power’ courses in sensory integration, including the “Alert Program: How Does My Engine Run” and the Wilbargers’ amazing Sensory Defensiveness training.
What sorts of conditions or problems do you help children with?
A really wide range! Kids (0-6 years of age) experiencing difficulties with fine and gross motor co-ordination, sensory processing and regulation, attention and social skills, play, handwriting and other education/classroom activities (drawing, gluing, cutting, puzzles…), self care tasks (sleeping, eating, dressing, being organised, toileting…). The children may have Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Down Syndrome, rare conditions or general developmental delay.
Could you please walk us through a typical work day
First up, a typical day will vary hugely depending on which setting a therapist is working within. I have just switched jobs and my routine today looks completely different to just a couple of weeks ago!
A typical day within the family centred, community (home visiting) service where I was working might involve driving to visit a few different families, and supporting them in achieving goals which not only relate specifically to their children’s development, but also, take into consideration, the whole family (such as sibling issues, parenting challenges, community access). Visits can last between 1-2 hours each, and are sometimes held at childcare/kinder/school/ playground settings.
In between appointments, or at the end of the day, there was always a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work to do: writing applications for funding support for equipment we have prescribed or services needed, consulting with other therapists/professionals on the team and in the community, preparing information and resources for families, interpreting assessment results and gathering recommendations to enable families to assist their children in the context of the family routine everyday. My car, along with my phone and email, was my mobile office!
Now that I am working in a private practice clinic, my day might look more like 5-6 hour-long individual appointments with children or a series of back-to-back social skills groups run jointly by occupational therapists and speech pathologists. This setting requires intensive therapy programs to be developed for each child’s specific needs. It supports a treatment approach influenced by the Developmental Individual Relationship based DIR®/Floortime™ Model, so children’s preferences, interests and relationships are all central to therapy. In short, you might think I play – intensively – all day!
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I am so passionate about OT, and paediatric OT has to be one of the best jobs in the world! I love seeing kids achieve their potential, and I love playing; what a perfect match! Following a child’s lead, and using their passions to motivate them to make gains is so rewarding.
One of the wonderful thing about being an OT is that there is never a dull moment, and often it’s about ‘going with the flow’, thinking on your feet! There is always so much learning to do! By it’s very nature, OT allows us to gain such personal insights into people’s lives and travel alongside them for a period of time through their challenges and triumphs. I am forever grateful for the people (professionals, clients, families) I have had the pleasure and honour to meet, work with and learn from.
Being an OT has also enabled me to travel the world, gaining experience in neurological, orthopaedic and general rehabilitation, palliative care, community and hospital settings, special schools and disability services. In fact, it was travelling the world, whilst working in the King Edward VII Hospital in the picturesque woodland area of West Sussex, England, some 14 years ago, that led me to the love of my life, my husband, who happened to be also working there … so what can I say? I think OT has become a part of who I am and all that I love in life!
What advice would you give to someone looking for a Paediatric Occupational Therapist for their child?
I would advise first checking out the OT association in your country for recommendations on how to find qualified/ registered OTs in your area. Secondly, given the many specialist areas of OT, I would advise making sure that you choose an OT with paediatric experience, and where possible, your specific area of need! It’s also important to check out the fees and funding options available, including if your health insurance can help out. And finally, if you are not happy with your OT for whatever reason, it’s OK to swap or find someone who is a better fit for your child and your family.
Can you tell us a little about your website/blog
At my blog: Kids Play Space, I think my paediatric OT and health promotion interests have collided with my role of being a mama! I believe in ‘play for all’; a world where every child has access to rich learning opportunities regardless of background or circumstance. I try to post ideas which are super quick, easy, cheap/free, sustainable, perfect for small space living, and which encourage learning through play in simple everyday activities.
Anna is a Melbourne (Australia) based paediatric occupational therapist, wife, mama to one gorgeous boy (3 years old), advocate for good old fashioned play-filled childhoods and blogger at Kids Play Space. You can also connect with Anna on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
Do you have any questions for Anna about the work of a paediatric occupational therapist?
See the other interviews in the series;
- About the Work of a Speech-Language Pathologist
- About the Work of a Child Psychologist
- About the Work of a Paediatric Physical Therapist
See the other interviews in the series;
– See more at: https://childhood101.com/2014/07/child-health-specialist-series-about-the-work-of-a-paediatric-physical-therapist/#sthash.kc6873cj.dpuf