In honor of occupational therapy month in April, OT Amanda Panotes shares some insight into what she loves most about her work.
“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. “
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.”