As an occupational therapist, one of the things we are best at is being able to capture the details of any given occupation. We are trained to develop this skill, because we are constantly breaking down activities into components to find out where our clients/patients may experience challenges or successes during a given occupation. From there on, we have a better idea of where our treatment efforts should be focused. With that said, during the course of the program, I’ve gotten better at developing this skill – almost to the point in which I can’t turn it off. Here are some examples of what I would like to call the “OT lens.”
This one time, I was hiking with Leila and her sister at a pretty challenging course. I remember for one of the pathways, the hill incline grade was ridiculously steep (almost 45 degrees.) I remember Leila’s sister was wearing one of those drawstring backpacks, in which she had only one strap over her shoulder. Almost automatically, I found the following words coming out of my mouth: “It may be easier if you put on both straps of your backpack on so that way there’s no muscle imbalance. Also, get down more towards the floor to lower your center of gravity, and spread out your feet to increase you base of support; it may be easier to get up the hill.” I remember Leila smirking, and I found myself laughing as well, because I totally OT-geeked out. Best believe we got up that mountain, here’s a pic from the top!
This other time, I was on my way to a concert with some friends from the program. I remember being in the backseat of a full car, faced with a dilemma I’m sure you’ve all been through: trying to find your seatbelt buckle between the tiny crevice between you and your friend, without looking. I remember saying to my friends, wow, the stereognosis demand on this task is through the roof! For those of you that don’t know, stereognosis is defined as the ability to perceive the form of an object utilizing the sense of touch. I debated with my OT homies and they just laughed, saying “Jon, can we not talk about anything school related right now!?” I responded by saying “I’m sorry, I can’t help it! I can’t turn it off!”
To preface these last examples, I’ll give you a little background about my family: it is currently being overran by numerous cute babies. It’s straight up baby land at my family parties. With that said, I find myself sort of becoming the baby guru of my family. I remember one of my cousins was mentioning that her daughter loves to wash her hands. I then asked, “Does she like to do anything regarding water?” She immediately replied, “Yeah. She loves the water.” I replied with, “Well, she may be sensory seeking towards anything that involves water, much alike me.” It’s important to note that during any family party, I will take my niece an average of 4-5 times to wash her hands (even if her hands are clean,) and every time I do take her, all I can think to myself is…. “I feel you girl, I feel you!” Haha lastly, during a recent Superbowl family party I was hanging out with my 9 month nephew and I was rocking him side to side as he rested in my arms. In 5 minutes, he was sleeping… a friend called me the baby whisperer, to which I replied “I can’t take the credit… it’s the vestibular input magic at work.”
Yeah, sometimes the OT geeking out can get a little crazy and out of control. The fact is, once you’re an OT, you can’t really turn it off. Call it what it is, but it’s one of the things that comes with being an OT: we are trained to analyze people in the context of their meaningful activities; the occupations that are embedded in everyday life. The lens never really comes off, even if you try. I guess idealistically, I would like to compartmentalize school, work, and my personal life, but the fact is, having an OT lens doesn’t feel like work… at this point in time, it’s second nature, and it’s something that I love to do. I guess Confucius said it best: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” For me, that’s what occupational therapy is.
It’s an age old question: what is occupational therapy? Funny enough, I ran across this on facebook the other day:
Point being, occupational therapy is a vast field with many faces. An occupational therapist can work with a variety of individuals across a number of diverse settings. With that said, I think it’s because of this reason that it’s a challenge to find an all-encompassing definition of exactly what it is that we do. In my own experiences, my definition of OT is constantly evolving the more I am exposed to the different things that an occupational therapist can do. Just to give you a better idea of the many hats that OT’s can wear, I will talk about some of my own experiences regarding occupational therapy and the various outlets I’ve had the privilege of applying my passion towards.
My first level I fieldwork was at City of Hope. Oncology is an emerging field in occupational therapy, and this was something I’ve always wanted to explore because I’ve always had a passion for working with individuals who have cancer. Over at City of Hope, I was doing a number of different OT interventions, such as mirror therapy, ADL/IADL training, therapeutic exercise, and energy conservation techniques. I remember one of my patients was a Mother. I remember her telling me during our sessions together that it was not the cancer itself that was the most challenging aspect, it was more so her frustrations of feeling that she was not able to engage in the roles and occupations that were meaningful to her. Specifically, she felt like she could not be the Mother she wanted to be, and she could not live the active lifestyle she had desired, because she did not the same energy she once had to undertake these ventures. Thus, in her therapy sessions we would work on energy conservation techniques and we would find ways to build her activity tolerance, so that way she felt more connected to who she was while battling her cancer. The context of occupation engaged her in therapy, and I really enjoyed my time working with her. Here’s a picture of my favorite place at City of Hope, the Golter Gate.
My second level I fieldwork was at Project 180. It was over here that I was working with individuals who were incarcerated or who were at risk for incarceration. I remember watching a 30 days documentary by Morgan Spurlock, and he mentioned a statistic that 2 out of every 3 individuals who are incarcerated will be readmitted back into prison. Thus, Project 180 aims to help these individuals who are at risk for incarceration develop the skills that they need in order to successfully reintegrate into the community. The interventions I was doing consisted of a number of things, including helping an individual find a job, develop a skill set for maintaining a job, helping an individual reconnect to their family, and basically supporting these individuals to turn the chapter and recreate a new life story that they could be proud of. Here I am with my friend Amy, on our last day at Project 180.
I’ve mentioned my time at the Honolulu VA in my previous blogs. It was over here that I was able to work with the heroes who have served our country in inpatient, outpatient, and home based primary care settings. Over here, I was able to help veterans rehabilitate injuries utilizing the occupations that they loved to do. Last semester, I did my level I FW in Pediatrics at NJA therapy services, where I was helping children with special needs in both school based and outpatient settings. Over here, I was utilizing interventions such as fine motor exercises, sensory integration, and ADL training to help these children live a life to their fullest potential. This semester, I’m working with individuals who have multiple sclerosis utilizing a lifestyle redesign model. In doing so, I’m putting in my 100% effort to help my participants reach their meaningful goals, and am supporting these individuals to connect to the occupations that provide them meaning.
Based on my experiences, here is my definition of OT: we are a health profession that helps an individual reach their meaningful goals and fullest potential utilizing meaningful activity. This can be through prevention or rehabilitation, but ultimately we use the context of occupation to help an individual get to where they want to be. We look at a number of factors, including social/physical environment, support systems, personal strengths, and participation patterns, to help an individual overcome the challenges that prevent them from doing what they would like to do. We utilize our skill set to help the people we work with, and put forth our efforts to empower these individuals to live a life engaged in the occupations that give them meaning.
With that said, I pose this question to you: What’s your personal definition of OT?
Greetings everyone! Hope you all had an amazing holiday season and have gotten 2015 started on the right note! As for me, my break went by super fast… but I guess that’s how you know it was time well spent! I did choose to stay local over the break, since I had a bunch of family and friends in town, but it was nice to just be home and relax/recharge in preparation for what will be my final semester in the master’s program!
With that said, I am feeling rejuvenated to finish off this last semester strong mainly because I got to engage in some of my favorite occupations over the break, such as hiking, running, playing music, and of course hanging with my friends and family. In addition, I also had the opportunity to experience some pretty amazing moments over break. My 9 month old nephew took his first steps! I like to think (emphasis on like to think) that I may have had something to do with his developmental milestone, since he was pretty much my practice subject for all that I was learning in the pediatrics immersion I also had the opportunity to see Conan O’ Brien (who I happen to think is the funniest man on the planet) at one of his TV show tapings, courtesy of my friend Brian, who’s also in the program.
Lastly, one of the most heartfelt moments of the break was when I had the opportunity to deliver donated toys to some children who needed it the most. Every year during the holiday season, my sisters and I have a tradition of donating toys to the children of Los Angeles County USC hospital. This year, as the USC Occupational Therapy and Science Council Philanthropy Chair, I chose to open up this donation project to the faculty, staff, and my fellow students of the program. The donation project was also expanded to benefit the children of the VIP (Violence Intervention Program,) a wellness center down the street from our campus that provides support and advocacy services for children who are victims of abuse, neglect, domestic violence, sexual assault, and children who are placed in the foster-care system. The response was nothing short of amazing! As I was putting the toys together, I could not help but be overcome with joy because my colleagues, teachers, and co-workers’ generosity served as a reminder of what the holiday season is truly about: spreading a positive impact to bring joy into the lives of others. All together, we collected over 100 toys that were donated to the well deserving children of the Violence Intervention Program, creating some priceless holiday memories for these families. Here’s a snapshot of the donations!
Shoutout to the person who donated the doggy! Ha I kidd, that’s my dogggg.
As I embark on my final semester of the program, please tune in for more blog updates from my fellow ambassadors and I! There’s a lot to look forward to this semester, including electives, OT month, my leadership capstone externship in the Philippines, and of course, graduation! As for now though, I will enjoy the ride while I can, and I’ll be sure to document these experiences so that way you’re riding shotgun with me
Until next time,
Hello there everyone! Hope that you’re all doing great!
This past Sunday, some of my fellow classmates and I had the opportunity to help out Pedal Pushers, a Los Angeles chapter of Ambucs Inc., a non-profit organization that helps to provide adaptive tricycles for children and adults through fundraising within the community! The opportunity to get involved with this awesome cause was wheely fun and wheely rewarding This amazing organization was brought to my attention by Sonserey, a member of Pedal Pushers, who I had the pleasure of meeting at OTAC. I SPOKE (hehe) with Sonserey and she told me all about Pedal Pushers and Ambucs, in addition to the story of what fuels their efforts. Sonserey is an occupational therapist who works in pediatrics. She told me that when she’s doing an evaluation, much alike most OT’s, we start off by trying to decipher what the client’s meaningful occupations are. A common response from the kids she works with is to “ride a bike.” However, for some children with special needs, a traditional bicycle may not be the most practical option. Thus, Amtryke therapeutic tricycles were created to offer an adaptable, universally designed option for children with varying levels of physical abilities! The Amtrykes can be custom made to have a number of features, based on the child’s abilities, safety, and family preference. These features include hand or foot operation, rear-assist steering, assistive pedals, in addition to other adaptations. The best part is, everything on the Amtryke can be adjusted, so the child can continue to use their Amtryke as they get bigger and grow older!
What my classmates and I had the opportunity to participate in on Sunday was actually the final phase of the Amtryke process. It all starts off first with raising enough funds to be able to purchase the Amtryke for the child. Committed families, friends, and communities focus their efforts in hopes that they can make the child’s dream come to fruition. Second, the child is then assessed and fitted for their very own Amtryke. Therapists will collaborate with the children and their families in designing a unique Amtryke that best fits the child’s abilities, function, and interests. The final stage in the process was what my classmates and I had the pleasure of participating in on Sunday! There’s a build an amtryke work shop in which therapists and volunteers will actually create the Amtrykes for the children. The children and their families then pick up the Amtrykes, give it a test drive, and then get to take their Amtryke home! The whole process requires a great deal of diligence on the child’s part, as they patiently wait for an Amtryke they can call their own.
The whole building process we engaged in on Sunday was fun, informative, and extremely rewarding. When the children and their families arrived, you could see the excitement on the children’s faces. To see how ecstatic they were when they first hopped on their Amtryke and propelled a couple feet forward was absolutely priceless! The genuine elation that consumed the kids was contagious, and you couldn’t help but feel the same happiness. Thank you so much to Pedal Pushers and Ambucs for letting us be part of this amazing cause! Here’s some pictures of the process, enjoy!
If you’d like to learn more and get involved with Pedal Pushers/Ambucs, please feel free to visit the following links:
Also feel free to like Pedal Pushers page on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PedalPushersLA
Thank you for reading! Have a great weekend, follow your passion, pedal on, but remember to not lose your balance
Hello everyone! Hope that you’re all doing great! Things have definitely been picking up as we’ve just reached the halfway point in the semester. From full time fieldwork, to the OTAC conference, to midterms, to planning events for OT Global Day of Service, and everything in between, I’ve definitely been keeping busy! With that said, it’s especially during times like these that I try to really focus on maintaining balance in my life, by making sure that I am making time for the things that are particularly meaningful for me. It’s funny, the other day while I was on a run, I was thinking about the things that I do in my life, and the commonality amongst my occupations. In doing so, it made me recollect to a self discovery I realized in my mental health Immersion - I engage in occupations that provide a lot of stimulation to my senses! A couple weeks ago, Brenda had walked into the office and told me that she had just completed the Adult Sensory Profile in her mental health immersion. For those of you that don’t know, the Adult Sensory Profile is a self questionnaire that uses Dunn’s Model of Sensory Processing to help you discover your own sensory profile, and how this processing pattern affects functional performance. Dunn’s model is divided into four sensory profiles: low registration, sensory seeking, sensory sensitivity, and sensation avoiding.
After Brenda had told me about that she had completed the profile, it made me reminisce about when I had completed the profile last spring semester during my mental health immersion. Based on the questionnaire, I ended up discovering that my profile is sensory seeking. The following are characteristics of someone who is sensation seeking: enjoys sensory rich environments, creates sensation, and has behavioral responses to counteract a high sensory threshold. All of a sudden, a lot of the things I do in my life made sense…
from my love of being in the water
to my obsession with food
to my passion for music
to how I run, mainly for own therapy
to being consumed by my own wanderlust
All these things and more are bounded by one commonality: I am constantly seeking sensation in my environment. It’s funny how the self-reflective nature of OT school brings so many things together in your own life. Which prompts the question… are your own occupations satisfying your sensory needs?
With that said, have a sensational weekend everyone