How did you first hear about occupational therapy?
When I was about 10 years old, I went to my little sister's occupational therapy session. At the time, I became mesmerized by the swings, toys, therapy balls, and the exciting and playful atmosphere her therapist cultivated. Her therapist included me in some of the session, and I am forever grateful because that was the moment I realized I wanted to be an OT! That dream never really changed throughout the rest of grade school and high school, so I officially began my first steps into OT at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a freshman in their entry-level program.
What influenced you to become and occupational therapist?
Initially, it was witnessing how it impacted my sister and our family's life in such a positive way. While I was young at the time, I could see first-hand the changes, impacts, struggles, and concerns the OT would work through with my family and parents. Additionally throughout high school, I completed many volunteer hours at a Children's hospital. I was drawn to the diversity, fun, and client-centered (not knowing that term at the time) OT session, while all being rooted in science.
What type of setting do you work in, and what does a typical day look like for you?
Currently, I work as an independent contractor in outpatient pediatrics. My favorite thing about being an independent contractor is the diversity it allows in my schedule, so it changes daily! However, it typically starts early morning with my morning routine then a workout at home or at a gym (I teach group fitness classes a few days a week). From there, I travel to daycare's or private schools to see a few kiddos, then finish my afternoon at a clinic or traveling to client's homes! Other days I am teaching for an OTA program at a local university, spending time building my own business, or taking hip hop dance classes :)
You have a strong social media presence sharing about occupational therapy. How did you get started?
Since I was young, I always found joy in creating videos, taking pictures, making slideshows and more. I began building a side online business focused on health and wellness - which truly gave me my initial jolt on creating online content. I quickly realized that I wanted to integrate my passion for health and wellness and OT because life has taught me the importance of filling your own cup before you can pour for others. That is how LG:thefitot was started!
What advice would you give someone looking to start and occupational therapy related Instagram or blog?
Just start! You don't need to have a logo, the best name, or even the best ideas to begin because - I promise you - it is going to change. As you go through life and your career, your content, focus, and ideas will change, and your brand will change with you. Don't let fear or the idea that there are so many other OTs out there stop you - I truly believe there is space and room for all! Also, there are a TON of (free) online brand building, content creation, and business workshops out there - take advantage of them!
What is your favorite thing about being an OT? What do you find most challenging?
My favorite thing about OT is working with the families. Families often come into OT exhausted and feeling out of options because no one can give them answers. It is incredible to work with the families and kids to develop a sense of peace and calmness in the journey and begin to shift their perspective while facilitating growth and development in the child. I would say that this is also the most challenging! OT includes such a diverse range of topics, intervention strategies, theories, and information, that it can often be challenging to discern which path or area to focus on first when a family comes in with a variety of concerns. However, it's all a learning process and I love the challenge.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Professionally, I would love to continue to contribute to this profession in a variety of ways. Whether it is continuing to treat kiddos, teaching, running online programs, researching, mentoring, public speaking, or running my own clinic (or all of the above :) ), I'm open to where this journey leads me!
Quote to live by?
"Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It's your masterpiece after all."
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Last week the tickets went on sale for AOTA 2019. It will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana and it is exciting! I have had the pleasure to attend two AOTA conferences in the past (Baltimore 2014, Chicago 2016), and can honestly recommend the experience. Not only is it a great way to complete the majority of your continuing education units (CEUs) but, it is a great environment to meet new people, get inspired, and hear the latest on occupational therapy.
The conference is quite big with approx. 1,600 occupational therapists expected to attend. It can easily become overwhelming, especially if it is your first time attending- but please don't stress! If you are planning on attending this year you have come to the right place. Below I share several tips that will help you make the most out of your time at the conference.
Plan ahead: Picking your educational sessions ahead of time is crucial if you want to make sure you attend the courses you are interested in. At the conference your days will go a lot smoother if you read through the catalog of educational sessions and pre-plan what session you would like to attend ahead of time. Each hour of the day has multiple sessions running simultaneously and it is easy to miss a topic you are interested in. Once you register for the conference you will receive a course catalog in the mail with the full schedule.
Download the app: In previous years AOTA had an app available that was easily downloadable to your phone. In the app you can customize your schedule and keep track of what sessions you have attended. It is also a useful tool to get notifications such as cancellations and changes in rooms.
Dress for comfort: Business casual is always a good choice in case you are unsure of what to wear, just make sure your feet are protected. At AOTA the days are long, there is a lot of walking, and often times the seating is not the most comfortable. Wearing clothes that you feel comfortable in is crucial to ensure you make it through the day.
Bring a resume or personal information card: During the conference you will come across many individuals, schools, and companies that hire occupational therapists. It is the perfect place to network and explore options available in the world of occupational therapy. Having your resume or personal information card handy is a great way to leave others with your information for future inquiry. Also, I find it helpful to carry a small notebook to write down the contact information of individuals/companies I am interested in following up with. Of course, the notes app on your phone will do as well.
Pack lightly: This is something I learned the hard way. The Expo at AOTA is full of vendors passing out goodies and resources you will want to take home with you. It is a smart idea to double check that you leave some extra room in your luggage to fit such items in order to avoid paying an extra fee with your airline due to extra weight.
Hope these tips help you organize your conference experience, and if you have further questions please don't hesitate to reach out. Here are some personal photos from AOTA14 and AOTA16.
To register for AOTA 2019 visit: AOTA Annual Conference & Expo
Occupational therapy is a profession that constantly flies under the radar. Therefore, its benefits are largely understated. Most people don’t fully understand the scope of occupational therapy until they themselves or someone close to them works with a therapist. Occupational therapy can make such a huge impact on an individual’s life, it is important to understand it well.
Occupational therapists (OT’s) work with individuals who have been impacted by a medical condition or accident in order to help them achieve independence with their activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs are the every day occupations that a person engages in on the daily. OT’s can work in different settings such as schools, hospitals, home health, and skilled nursing facilities. OT’s can work with individuals from birth to old age but, for the purpose of this post lets focus on how OT’s can help your child.
OT’s work with children to provide skilled interventions that target skill areas that affect a child’s development. Skill areas such as: fine motor, gross motor, cognition, sensory processing, balance, and coordination. Children struggling with reaching developmental milestones can work with an OT in order to identify and target the skill areas that are affecting their developmental growth. In conclusion, OT’s work with children in order to strengthen the factors that lead to proper development. Below is a brief description often targeted by OT’s during intervention.
Fine motor skills are the ability to coordinate the smalls muscles that control the hands and fingers, also known as manual dexterity. Fine motor skills are needed every day to perform self-care tasks and manipulate objects. A child with decreased fine motor skills will demonstrate difficulties with tasks such as opening/closing clothing fasteners, using scissors, handling utensils for eating, and even handwriting. Factors that affect fine motor skills in children often include limited range of motion, muscle weakness, and decreased coordination. For school age children poor fine motor skills can also affect their self-esteem as they can struggle with classroom related tasks.
Gross motor skills are the ability to use the large muscles of the body to perform tasks such as running, walking, and jumping. These core muscles provide you the ability to complete tasks such as sitting upright, catching and kicking a ball, and dancing. Children with poor gross motor skills can struggle to reach developmental milestones leading them to demonstrate effects in other areas such as poor balance, lack of coordination, increased clumsiness or fatigue, and generalized weakness.
Sensory processing is the ability to efficiently integrate the information provided to you by your environment. Children with sensory processing difficulties can often over-react, or under-react to the sensory stimuli around them. Sensory areas include oral, olfactory, visual, tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive. Difficulties with sensory processing can lead to a child’s ability to function in different environments such as the mall (very noisy), classroom (many distractions), or the beach (different tactile inputs). Sensory processing can also lead to issues with feeding and every day tasks such as bathing, and the ability to tolerate different clothing textures.
OT’s can also work with children to develop social skills and appropriate behavior. For example: tolerating loosing, improving attention, and sharing.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING YOUR FIRST VISIT
When meeting with an OT for the first time be prepared to answer questions about your child’s behavior, habits, routines, and pertaining medical history. This will help the therapist gain an understanding of your concerns and what areas the child might be having difficulty with. From here, therapists will often perform a screening which is an informal observation of your child in order to determine if they will benefit from a formal in-depth evaluation. In some cases, this step may be skipped and a formal evaluation will be completed as the first choice. Once the evaluation is performed, scored, and skill areas requiring intervention are identified. Your therapist will provide you with a plan of care detailing what therapy will focus on. An occupational therapy plan of care should include areas of deficits, therapeutic goals, frequency and duration of therapy sessions. An occupational therapist uses play during their sessions in order to help the child achieve their therapeutic goals.
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