The Lived Experience ⟩
March 2, 2010, by Myka
In OT school, we don’t focus on the diagnosis or the lesion, we focus on the client’s goals and dreams — and help them make stories to succeed!
During undergrad, majoring in neuroscience, I didn’t think too much about the lived experience of what I was learning about. I was too busy figuring out where the lesion in the brain was, or discussing the philosophy of mind, or understanding abnormal psychology. The first summer of the Master’s program here at USC we take a neuroscience foundation course, and I thought I would be an expert and be familiar with all the material. I was excited to learn that many guest speakers had been invited to really talk to us about their lived experience with different neurological disorders or injuries. This was an aspect I had missed out on during undergrad. I learned that in OT, we don’t focus on the diagnosis or the location of the lesion or injury — we look at function and goals. When our clients are having difficulty doing the things they need and want to do, we work with them to fulfill their goals and live their lives to the fullest!
One of my favorite speakers was a girl not much younger than me, Allison, who has cerebral palsy. She talked to us about living with this disability which looks different on the outside, but she is a typical college student. Well, I shouldn’t say typical. She writes screenplays and is hoping to transfer to USC. She is also a stand-up comic, performing all around Los Angeles. She actually just won first place in the qualifying round at a comedy contest! I’m friends with her on Facebook, so can keep up with her there. I thought of her today because I met with the current neuroscience professor for the undergraduate OT program and told her about our guest speakers, and got in touch with Allison so that she could come speak to that class. She replied that she would love to come. When Allison spoke to us, she had good advice for us future OTs. She told us to assume competence, and that OTs need to work with their clients’ goals in mind, not their own goals for the clients.
Having these guest speakers in our neuroscience class really opened my eyes to what I would do as a future OT. I had thought about going to medical school, and enjoyed taking tests in college that were very clinical and diagnostic. But what I really wanted to do was help people individually, and understand each person as a unique individual with goals and dreams. Elizabeth Yerxa, one of the founders of Occupational Science and former chair of USC OT, said: “Medicine is concerned with preserving life; occupational therapy is concerned with the quality of the life preserved.” I know that in this profession I will be able to change lives for the better and am so excited for my future career!
Check out this link to see Allison’s live performance! Allison Cameron Gray performing stand up comedy
Why I Am In OT School ⟩
January 6, 2010, by Myka
It took me some research and experience to figure out what I wanted to do for a career.
When I was an undergraduate at USC, I was always asked how I would combine my two majors of creative writing and neuroscience. “Are you going to write childrens’ books about brains?” people would eagerly ask. Honestly, that didn’t sound half bad! However, I had always had a passion for working with people and wanted to do something with healthcare. I was half-heartedly considering medical school (as my father had always wanted me to be a pediatrician) but it just didn’t feel right (and I have an irrational fear of vomiting and can’t handle blood). I really wanted to merge my creative side with the scientific knowledge I had accumulated. When I was a sophomore in college, I was co-president of the Neuroscience Honors Society and hosted a meeting to discuss healthcare careers. My gerontology professor came to speak and he told us about careers such as physical therapy, audiology, and occupational therapy.
Occupational therapy sounded perfect as it used narrative theory to understand people’s life stories, creativity in therapy, and science-based practice. I researched the profession for awhile and read the Eleanor Clark Slagle lectures (lectures given every year at the annual OT conference) from the past 50 years or so in a book to understand the profession more. I loved what I read and felt that I would be a great fit in the profession. I would be able to work individually with clients to effect change in their lives while being creative and scientific! I started working at a local pediatric clinic and really enjoyed the work I did there with the OTs while gaining experience in the field. Now that I am in the Master’s program and learning even more, I am only more excited to contribute to the future of the profession!