Experiencing a day in the life of an occupational therapist
After finding out April is Occupational Therapy (OT) Month, I wrote a story about the difference between OT and physical therapy (PT), and I ended up getting a much more interesting look than I ever thought.
Occupational therapist Sara Stern invited me to take a glimpse into what a typical day is like for her.
Sara works at the Good Samaritan Health and Wellness Center in Downers Grove, Ill., where she specializes in pediatric occupational therapy.
With more than 30 years of experience, she’s worked in almost every pediatric environment such as schools, clinics, home-based and also in adult residential development centers. She brings a unique perspective to OT, as she herself is a mother to a son with autism.
Sara says that pediatric occupational therapy involves creating strategies to help kids with special needs function as independently as they can.
“At Good Samaritan, we see all kinds of kids and people come from far away to see us,” she says.
She explained that many times children will have unique cases in which the OTs work together or ‘co-treat’ with speech therapists or physical therapists to address the individual needs of the child.
This was exactly the case for the session she allowed me to observe. The child she was treating had a unique set of challenges (which Sara was more than happy to face) with speech and maintaining eye contact.
To treat the child, Sara worked alongside the speech therapist. While the speech therapist focused on playing a matching game and asking for a spoken response, Sara supported the child’s core. She explained that this combination helps facilitate deep breathing or ‘tummy breathing’ that is needed to produce relaxed sound through the vocal chords.
Though what they were doing was a medical practice, the child was smiling wide and having fun. Through their efforts, many sounds were released from the child’s voice, which was exciting progress for all.
Throughout the session, I thought to myself, these women are creating miracles! The ability to witness their work was inspiring and heartwarming. They are truly making a difference in these kids’ lives, as well as the parents.
Sara and the team of therapists at Good Samaritan express that the patients’ families welcome them as part of their family: “We’re treating more than just the patient; we’re treating the family.”
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