I am very happy to introduce a new series, Occupational Profiles, with a guest post from Meredith Daly. The hope of the series is to expose readers to different occupational therapy settings, perhaps to spark interest in pursing a specific speciality or perhaps to find commonalities between seemingly very different practice ares. Afterall, as Meredith writes below, we are all working to give clients as much control over their lives as possible.
Q&A with Meredith
What is your
current practice setting?
I work at the Massachusetts Hospital School in Canton, MA,
which is a long term & residential pediatric care facility. It’s a really
unique model in that a majority of the patients live on campus for a
traditional school week; they go home to their families on Friday afternoon and
return on Sunday evenings. I work
on the hospital side of the facility (vs the school side) and so get to focus
on pediatric physical disabilities without being bound by IEP goals. It’s the
best of both worlds!
Who is your
MHS services children aged 8-22 years old with multiple
physical & cognitive disabilities. There are 5 OTRs on site and we each
have our own unit. We have 2
COTA/Ls that share responsibilities across units as well! My unit is home to 19
patients aged 14-21 who have severe cerebral palsy, spina bifida, seizure
disorders, mitochondrial disorders, various chromosomal abnormalities and/or
genetic conditions. All but two are non-verbal and five are AAC device users!
How did you
land in this practice area?
I have always loved working with
kids. For a long time I thought I’d be a teacher, but I always had an interest
in physical disabilities & rehabilitation. I ended up volunteering at MHS
as a high school student in the therapeutic recreation department. Once I was in, I never left (even while
in NYC for grad school!).
How are you
specifically poised, as an OT, to help clients in your practice area?
these kids want to do is have as much control over their lives as possible…
luckily that is something that we, as occupational therapists, specialize in
(not to mention get joy & satisfaction out of)! Simple things like choosing
which book to read next, participating in turning the page, and choosing nail
polish colors are a HUGE deal! The training that we got at NYU with focus on
client-centered practice, activity analysis, & assistive devices/tech has
prepared me with the foundation & confidence I need to help these little
OT is such a great profession because it allows you to
collaborate with your patient to find areas that are motivating & special
to each individual. Since these kids really just want to
do “typical things” my goal is to create opportunities for them to make choices
& direct their care as often as possible. Obviously as an OT in a hospital
setting, many interventions are centered around ADLs & grooming. One of my
favorite activities with one of my favorite little chickies is having her use
her Dynavox to direct a grooming task. Without doubt she always chooses “paint
my nails” or “pick out clothing”. These tasks allow her to work on finger &
wrist extension without the use of her
very stylish black & hot pink Beniks splints, so while she feels great
& proud of herself, she is simultaneously (and secretly!) refining communication skills, directing care,
establishing a sense of self/personal style, AND working on upper extremity
would you give to someone interested in your practice area?
familiar with wheelchair seating, assistive tech, and AAC devices! When working with kids with severe
physical disabilities, it’s important to be educated on current assistive
technology approaches! Become as comfortable and familiar as you can with these
devices, and then remember that the kids are just kids!
What areas of
growth would like to see in the profession, with regards to your practice
Many standardized assessments are motor based & difficult to administer to students who are wheelchair users, particularly
those with all limb involvement. Some of the motor free assessments are
difficult due to the communication skills require. I would also love to see
more advanced course training for assistive technology as it relates to access
& participation in daily life especially at group homes or day programs!
Tools for transition preparation & assessment!