Celebrating Occupational Therapist Month

e.jpgIn honor of occupational therapy month in April, OT Shannon Daly (second from left, with some of CTC’s Tacoma-based OTs) shares some insight into what she loves most about her work.

How did you decide to get into the field of pediatric occupational therapy?

“I have a sister who is 10 years younger than me. She was born premature and saw an occupational therapist for her sensory issues. I would go with my mom and sister to the appointments, and as soon as I saw the OT and what she did, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I found it just fascinating!”

Describe how you work with therapists from other disciplines to help a child.

Our work environment really lends itself to collaboration and CTC really encourages it. As an OT, I work with the other disciplines a lot – both PT and SLP. Right now, I’m running a social skills group with a speech-language pathologist.  It’s a fun group of 12 year old boys.  One of the projects we worked on recently was building a catapult for launching things. We’ve only used small balls in it so far, and only within the safety of the therapy room! The project has allowed the boys to work on executive function, planning, working together, and developing their social skills.

What do you love about working at CTC with children?

What I love most about working with kids is that occupational therapy looks like play. Kids don’t even know how hard they are working!

I’ve been with CTC nearly nine years. I really like that we are so family centered.  We’ve grown a lot as an organization, and although we continue to grow, we still put families first. Families are at the core and center of everything we do. CTC also really values us as employees and individuals. I appreciate that.

If you were going to a deserted island and you could only bring one thing to use for therapy, what would you bring? 

It would have to be some suspension equipment.  Anything else could be recreated pretty easily on an island.  We are well set up here in the center with it, and that’s the one thing I’d really miss. I can only spin around in circles so many times myself!

“One of the most important things I’ve learned from the families I’ve served is that every family is different. I have my own ideas about what might work, but I let the family be my guide.”

amanda2.jpgOT Amanda Panotes shares some insight into what she loves most about her work.

How did you decide to get into the field of pediatric occupational therapy?

“I always wanted to go into the healthcare field. In high school, I shadowed a physical therapist at a children’s clinic. During that rotation, I happened to see an occupational therapist working with a kid on identifying facial expressions, and another one working with a child on swing, and it looked like fun!”

What led you to come to work for CTC?

“I volunteered at CTC’s aquatic therapy program in Kent for two years while I was doing my undergraduate work. That’s where I learned about the relationships therapists could build with families and parents. Therapists were always inviting parents to join their children in the pool for their sessions, or finding ways to involve them even if they were just watching from the side of the pool. I saw how fun it was to talk, share, and celebrate progress together.”

What do you enjoy most about working in our Early Intervention program?

 “What I specifically love about our Early Intervention program is being a part of the progress kids can make in just a couple weeks or a month. At that age, they make progress so quickly that it’s instant gratification! I love visiting a family’s home to bring therapy to them. I also love being creative and finding things around the house to use for therapy – everyday things the family uses – and then making the kid excited about it. It’s a fun challenge to ‘MacGyver’ everyday things into therapy tools. Just about anything can be used for therapy!”

Describe how you work with therapists from other disciplines to help a child.

“I typically work a lot with speech therapists because a lot of my specialty knowledge is in Sensory Integration. When we co-treat, my role is to help a child maintain regulation (keep them calm). I get their body in a ‘ready to learn’ state so they can focus and pay attention to what the speech-language pathologist is working on with them. For example, I might set up an obstacle course, or have the child pulling and pushing on an object. Doing those focused activities can help them remain calm and be less distracted. It helps to increases attention levels so that then we can focus on the communication piece.  As we go along, the child has to be able communicate what they want, so I eventually become more of a prop or ‘dangling carrot’ to motivate them to communicate what they want. For example if I’m jumping, and then I stop, the child has to communicate in some manner to me that they want me to keep jumping.”

“I’m still learning a lot from the other disciplines.  It’s so nice to have a team to draw on for expertise, and it’s so nice that we are encouraged to learn from each other through collaboration.”

What do you love most about CTC?

“I love the ‘servant’s heart’ that everyone has at CTC. We are all so passionate about what we do. It goes beyond a typical workday. In our Burien center, for example, we host a Parents Night Out event regularly throughout the year and therapists and staff volunteer to take care of the kids we see while their parents get some time off to themselves. Recently, we hosted a Heritage Night where we celebrated different cultures. We wanted to reassure our parents that everyone feels welcome here.  We think about all the ways that we can care about the whole family. We all try to support the families so they can be their best in taking care of their kids.”

What makes therapy successful?

“I recently worked with a little girl whose mom was so hungry to learn and be involved. It was an amazing partnership and it was wonderful to be a coach for her. She took my suggestions, tried them throughout the week at home with her daughter, and reported back. It was an ideal therapeutic relationship! We were able to make such great progress working together.  We all celebrated the small successes and shared in the fun.  It’s amazing what you can do when you all participate actively and work as equal partners.  The parents are the true experts, and we need them as much as they need us.”

“I think occupational therapy is a perfect combination of art and science.  Occupational therapists have the skills and liberty to customize therapy to fit the people we serve.”
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