I met Marjie during our time at NYU. She is an amazing person and therapist. Her advice to OT students is rock solid. I hope this interview will serve as a resource for occupational therapists interested in school-based OT, Brain Gym, OT as a second career or just being excellent.
Primary Practice Area: Pediatrics
Years in Practice: 3.5
One piece of advice to OT students:
I believe that the most important thing in any practice area is your relationship with your clients/patients/students. No technique is more powerful than really showing up with another human being in a genuine and present way. And be generous with well-deserved, positive feedback. Don't be fake, but genuinely acknowledging something well done, no matter how small, goes a long way in helping with self-esteem and motivation, and in establishing a trusting relationship.
How did you become interested in OT?
I had a first career after college as a modern dancer and choreographer. That led me to become interested in bodywork, and to go to massage school where I became a licensed massage therapist. Then a few years later I was introduced to Brain Gym® and Educational Kinesiology, a system of using simple movement based activities and techniques to enhance learning. Over time I became licensed to teach Brain Gym. In my courses I started to meet occupational therapists, and discovered how well the two types of work fit together. I ended up returning to graduate school, and received my MS in occupational therapy from NYU in 2011.
Tell us about your career path, thus far.
I was part of a scholarship program through New York City where I agreed to work in public schools in a high-need area in exchange for tuition for grad school. I am now in my fourth year as a pediatric occupational therapist at an elementary school in the South Bronx. I also pick up additional cases after school with children who have qualified for services but for some reason do not have a therapist available to them during the school day. At my school I do a combination of push-in work in classrooms, where I help to identify and implement strategies to help children in areas of challenge, and also pull-out sessions which generally focus more on skill remediation. I integrate Brain Gym and other movement based techniques into my sessions, and I help teachers to incorporate movement and sensory activities into their classroom routines.
What is your favorite part of your workday?
I love the conversations I get to have with children while we’re working. Kids are just so real and authentic. Some of those moments when I know a child is getting to know him or herself a little better and beginning to realize just how fabulous he/she really is – those makes me happy.
What is the biggest challenge of your workday?
Well I have to admit I don't love the paperwork. Have to do it, but not my favorite part of the job.
I know you are trained in Brain Gym, how does this intersect with your practice?
My experience with Brain Gym, both as a client and as an instructor, is that it helps almost any activity feel easier to accomplish. So when I incorporate Brain Gym activities into my sessions with children, I find that they improve a lot faster than if I just have them practice challenging skills, or if I only adapt tasks or change the environment. I do that too, but I have observed over and over that following Brain Gym activities, individuals appear to have more resources on board – both eyes, both ears, both hands, both sides of the body all seem to work together better, and they appear calmer, more organized, and more present. That is a much more optimal state for learning than when they feel stressed out and overwhelmed. I observe this with individuals of all ages, and definitely with the children at my school.
What research or new knowledge has been impacting your practice lately?
I have a special area of interest in developmental movement, and how our movement experiences when we are very young will impact our success in all sorts of areas later on in life, including with academic skills like reading and writing. I've recently been studying methods of early childhood reflex integration, which help to identify areas where development may have been incomplete, and offer tools and techniques to put those delayed processes back into motion. It's fascinating and powerful.
If someone were interested in pursuing work in your practice area, how would you recommend they proceed?
Learn as much about development as you can. And then allow yourself to learn from the children. More often than not if you really pay attention, they can show or tell you exactly what they need. Listen, look, and follow their lead. Children learn best when they are relaxed and in a state of authentic play. So don't be afraid to have fun - It's a big perk of the job!
Note: Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym® International, Ventura, California. For more information about Brain Gym, please visit www.braingym.org. For more information about Marjie please visit www.marjiecitron.com.