Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Interview With an Occupational Therapist: Part 4 of the Blog Chronicles

Photo Credit: Starfish Therapy
April is OT month, so in honor of the wonderful men and women who are indispensable to so many, the next guest "blogger" is one of my favorite occupational therapists. What follows are some beautiful responses; grab a tissue!

How do you see a true multidisciplinary team functioning?
The true nature of a multidisciplinary team is a group of unique and specialized individuals that collaborate with one another, sharing their own distinct knowledge, experiences, and talents, in order to collaborate towards a common goal. When serving the best needs of students this approach is essential and includes many players, including teachers, specialists, and of course the student and family. This is a delicate balance that is often very challenging to achieve in an ideal sense due to current constraints of the system and society in general. Life is just so busy! The value of sharing ideas, knowledge, struggles, and successes as a team is one that simply cannot be lost or forgotten if we are to do our best work and to truly meet the needs of our students. We are all just one piece of a very big and complex picture.

What message do you have for the powers that be (administration, DOE, elected officials, etc. Your choice).
I like to think that no matter what our status or title we all started out on this journey for the goal of helping children and positively impacting the future of our society. Our career paths likely all started because we saw a need, felt a calling, or had a passion for developing young minds, supporting families, and celebrating the joy of helping others. Unfortunately the nature of implementing these supports is complex and becomes entangled with the dynamics of economics and politics, among other things. I think at the end of the day, particularly the challenging ones, we all need to step back from the craziness and remember that person we were when we started out on our journey. What inspired you then? What were you hoping to achieve and contribute? No matter if we are "in the trenches" or writing policy behind a desk, if we can try to reach that common place of inspiration and understanding maybe we can be at least one step closer to meeting the needs of today's students.

What do you see as the most pressing issue impacting our students today? Why?
Beyond the challenges of meeting their basic needs of food, shelter, safety, and love (which, sadly, can be a daily struggle for too many children today)...children need to move, play, and get messy!! Call me old fashioned, but I am so fearful that with the trend towards instant gratification, increased screen time, over-scheduling, and growing academic and social demands that we are forgetting what is vitally important to child development. Children need to be able to explore their world through movement and use their hands to build and create. They need to be safe, but still have the freedom to play imaginatively and to learn to solve problems through trial and error. These are skills that build a foundation for the rest of their lives.

What energizes you to come to work everyday? What keeps it "fresh" for you?

I gain energy and motivation from the little everyday successes with students, especially when I can find the "just right" challenge to engage and inspire children that can be more difficult to connect with. It is even better when you can see skills and learning transferred into the classroom or on the playground. I find so much value in connecting with colleagues on a personal and professional level, although I wish there were more hours and opportunities within the days to do so. When I feel like I am becoming stagnant in my treatment plans and overall practice, I love attending an engaging workshop or reading a good book to learn something new.

Describe your dream work environment? How does your dream compare with your reality?
How can you make it a reality?
A dream work environment would be one where time and funding are plentiful! I would love to be able to implement some dream accommodations and strategies to engage all students. This would include access to non-traditional tools for all students, not just for those that "need" them. How great would it be to walk into a classroom where a student could read in a hammock swing, while another sits on a therapy ball to take notes? Maybe a trampoline could be built into the floor in a corner of a kindergarten classroom and a zipline through the halls! Ok, that may be a bit over the top, but it is nice to dream. I would love to be able to work in each classroom to provide strategies and support through a truly inclusive model and also have time for regular collaboration and connections with my colleagues and the families of the children we support.

After reading this I sent the following reply, "I seem to cry at the drop of a hat these days, but your responses were so heartfelt, spot on, and professional I did just that. Absolutely beautiful. You are an amazing OT and a warm and generous person." What more needs to be said?

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