Occupational Therapy Month: Just-Right Challenge

Occupational Therapy Month: Just-Right Challenge

Letter “j” is for the just-right challenge!

Occupational therapists are apparently masters of just-right challenges. A just-right challenge is exactly what it sounds like. It’s something that’s not too easy, nor too hard. The purpose of the just-right challenge is to give clients something that is within their current ability level. If the activity is too easy, they’ll assume we think they are incompetent and they’ll become bored and/or offended. If the activity is too hard, they may feel degraded, losing their belief in themselves to achieve what is meaningful to them.

With that in mind, it’s important to provide a just-right challenge. Not too easy. Not too hard. Somewhere in the middle. Somewhere where we can provide just enough challenge to promote continued growth in their ability.

Occupational Therapy Month: Independence

Occupational Therapy Month: Independence

Today is letter “I”. One of the most important “I” occupational therapy words is INDEPENDENCE!

OTs strive for client independence. This profession promotes independence in all areas of life. For the pediatric population, this might mean helping a child reach their developmental milestones so that they can move independently to explore and play. For the adult population, this might mean provide environmental control adaptations to spinal cord injury clients so that they can independently scroll through TV channels with their voice rather than using a remote. Car adaptations can be made so that an individual with double below-the-knee amputations can independently drive themselves to church, the grocery store, or a loved one’s house. An older adult recovering from total hip replacement may be taught how to use a sock donner so they can independently dress themselves. The list could go on forever, trust me.

Independence is the ultimate goal!

Occupational Therapy Month: Fieldwork

Occupational Therapy Month: Fieldwork

Conveniently, letter “f” falls on the last day of my first Level I fieldwork placement. To celebrate, I’m posting that “f” is for fieldwork!

“Fieldwork” is the OT school term for internship, clinical, or rotation. All graduate OT programs require completion of fieldwork placements in compliance with ACOTE (Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education). Fieldwork placements provide students with the opportunity to go out into the a variety of settings to work with or alongside a fieldwork educator to apply what is being taught in the classroom. Fieldwork grants students the opportunity to experience application of occupational therapy in real life settings with clients.

Over the course of my time in the Master’s program at my grad school, I must complete four Level I placements and two Level II placements. For my Level I placements, I will have the opportunity to see occupational therapy practice with pediatrics, adults, older adults, and the mental health population. Level I placements, at my grad school specifically, take place in my second, third and fourth semesters once per week for 10 weeks (disclaimer: every OT program does their scheduling differently). As a student, Level I fieldwork placements involve a lot of observation and trying to connect what was taught in the classroom with what is seen in practice. During these placements, very little, if any, hands-on practice occurs because we are still in the process of learning everything we need to know.

After my academic classes are done (spring 2020), I will begin my Level II fieldwork placements. Level II placements take place five days per week for 12 weeks. For my graduate program, my first Level II placement will occur in the summer (of 2020), followed by my second Level II placement in the fall (of 2020). Level II placements can occur with any population within any setting. At this time, students are expected to competent in completing evaluations, creating interventions, and implementing clinical reasoning skills; therefore, hands-on practice occurs throughout the entire placement. Additionally, we are technically working under our fieldwork educator’s license.

In some instances, emerging fieldwork placements can occur. Just as the term depicts, “emerging” means that these placements are at locations that don’t yet have an OT but would benefit from having an OT hopefully in the future. With emerging placements, fieldwork educators could be facility directors, teachers, or other health professionals. Emerging placements help to advocate for our role in non-traditional OT settings.

I have just completed my first Level I fieldwork placement in a pediatric setting. I feel like the past 10 weeks have flown by and I have most definitely learned a lot from my experiences and opportunities. I am excited to learn where my next placement will be as I am most interested in working with adults or older adults in the future.

Occupational Therapy Month: Empathy

Occupational Therapy Month: Empathy

“E” is for empathy – an essential characteristic of occupational therapists.

Empathy is the ability to understand and/or share what others are going through or feeling. The ability to be empathetic is a key characteristic for OTs in order to develop rapport with clients. Actively listening to an individual’s worries about their current level of function or their sudden loss of independence is a distinguishable aspect of OT practice.

OTs often see clients in some of the scariest times of their lives. Sudden injuries, trauma, and functional changes, among other things, become the forefront of stress and worry for both the individual impacted and their loved ones. Recognizing these stressors and worries allows us to develop trust with our clients and their families so that we can work diligently to help them regain independence.

Often OTs use what is known as “therapeutic use of self” which is synonymous with empathy in some instances. OTs can provide therapy just being themselves by simply taking the time to fully understand and listen to what someone is going through.

It doesn’t take much to be empathetic but it sure can mean a lot to someone when they need it most.

Occupational Therapy Month: Developmental Milestones

Occupational Therapy Month: Developmental Milestones

Now that half of the OTs in America are done at conference in New Orleans, ABCs of OT are back in full swing!

Letter “d” is for developmental milestones.

Let me tell you something…. my ENTIRE spring semester has revolved around developmental milestones. For the pediatric population, accomplishment of developmental milestones provides opportunities for growth, exploration, and learning. Occupational therapists work to promote these milestones by recognizing delays and using interventions.

For example, for a baby who is hasn’t learned to sit unsupported yet, an OT will provide interventions to strengthen the core. The ability to sit unsupported promotes play and learning opportunities. For a school-aged child who uses a palmar grasp instead of mature tripod grasp when holding their pencil, an OT could enhance development of this grasp by providing a smaller sized pencil or unique pencil grip that naturally puts a child into a mature tripod position.

Developmental milestones are all-encompassing for development including primitive reflexes, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, feeding/eating, social-emotional, communication, play behaviors, ADLs, and cognition. The ability to recognize/evaluate developmental delays is imperative when working with the pediatric population so that an OT can provide interventions to augment development.

For more information about developmental milestones check out this resource here!

Occupational Therapy Month: Client-Centered

Occupational Therapy Month: Client-Centered

It’s day 3 of the ABCs of OT challenge! “C” stands for client-centered!

It is my duty as an aspiring occupational therapist to make evaluations, plans, and interventions based around what my clients want to do and need to do. That is called client-centered practice. While focusing on the client, OTs recognize that each individual has their own unique set of roles in life. Parent. Sibling. Friend. Student. Volunteer. Athlete. Employee. Care-taker. Grandparent. Dog mom. Cat mom. The list goes on! Client-centered interventions led by an occupational therapist help individuals engage fully in the roles that are meaningful to them.

Consider an individual who just had an upper extremity amputation. This individual is a mom to a toddler, a wife to a loving husband, and a volunteer at her church. Because of the recent amputation, occupational therapists can teach her how to hold her toddler and how to change his/her diaper using just one hand. Adaptive dressing techniques can be taught so that she can dress independently prior to heading out the door for her volunteer shift at her church. An occupational therapist can provide her with an adapted cutting board so that she can still independently cook up a date-night dinner for her husband.  If all of these occupations and roles are important to her, it becomes the occupational therapist’s responsibility to teach her how to do these things successfully.

OT practice is completely client-centered. We focus on what’s meaningful for you. We give you the tools, strategies, and education so that you can live life to its fullest capacity.

I leave you today with a picture of me with my parents and boyfriend out mountain biking on a beautiful spring day last year. Some of my roles include: daughter, sister, girlfriend, grandchild, graduate student, pet owner, friend, runner, and cyclist. Some of my most meaningful occupations include: spending time with Josh, family, friends, and my dogs; enjoying fresh air while running or biking; cooking healthy meals; attending grad school; and, (the reason why you are reading this), blogging.


Occupational Therapy Month: Balance

Occupational Therapy Month: Balance

Today is Day 2 of Occupational Therapy Month! To celebrate, today we will talk about BALANCE!

OTs emphasize occupational balance in practice regularly. Occupational balance involves balancing occupations in one’s life that an individual wants and needs to engage in.

To put occupational balance into a real-life example, let’s consider the life of a graduate student (like me!). Days are often consumed by long classes, assignments, papers, and group projects. Far more time is spent studying than engaging in self-care and leisure time. In this case, occupational balance does not exist.

To promote occupational balance, OTs can provide tools and strategies to clients who have difficulty engaging in activities that they both want and need to engage in. Tools and strategies can be as simple as teaching individuals how to organize a planner to schedule time for self-care or leisure activities.

OTs strive for occupational balance for themselves as clinicians, in addition to, teaching clients how to achieve balance in their own lives. Simply put, occupational balance can augment quality of life!

So, as you try to balance all the things in life, take a step back to determine how balanced you are. Are you getting done what needs to be done while still being able to participate in the things that bring you joy? Or are you like me in the picture below – still striving to balance school assignments, professional development, and leisure engagement?

Strive for occupational BALANCE. You’ll thank yourself for it!


Occupational Therapy Month: ABC’s of OT

Occupational Therapy Month: ABC’s of OT

Happy Occupational Therapy Month! To celebrate this AWESOME month, I’ve decided to participate in shannenmarie_ot’s ABC’s of OT Instagram challenge! However, instead of posting on Instagram I’ve decided to transform the ABC’s of OT challenge into blog posts to provide you in-depth insight to the occupational therapy scope of practice and to advocate for my future profession. Stay all month long for 26 letters + bonus days of occupational therapy advocacy or just read a post here and there. I hope that through this I can teach at least a few people something new about occupational therapy! Enjoy!

Letter A: Activities of Daily Living (also known as ADLs!)

All the things you engage in on a daily basis to take care of your body for basic survival and well-being are considered ADLs. ADLs include bathing/showering, toileting, dressing, swallowing/eating, feeding, functional mobility, personal device care (i.e. hearing aids, prosthetics, glasses), personal hygiene/grooming, and sexual activity.

So how do OTs address ADLs in practice? We can teach safe transfer techniques from wheelchair to shower bench for an individual recovering from hip replacement. We can teach dressing strategies for an individual who has hemiplegia after a stroke. We can provide a buttonhook to a child who has poor fine motor coordination. We can teach parents feeding techniques so that they can feed their child who has cerebral palsy. We can help to augment confidence for sexual activity for an individual with a spinal cord injury. We can make home modifications using visual cues on stairs for individuals with low vision. The list goes on.

I hope you’ve been enlightened on day 1! Feel free to post below with any questions/comments. For now, I’ll leave you with this picture of my friend, Jess, feeding me during our pediatrics feeding lab!


OT Chronicles Chapter 8: First Semester

OT Chronicles Chapter 8: First Semester

Winter break has arrived!  In retrospect, the first semester of grad school was a whirlwind.  It FLEW by, just like we were told it would.  I’m not quite sure how to begin this post or how to dive into reflecting on my first semester because there was so much, yet so little, jammed into three months…

I feel like September and October were the awkward months for my cohort.  We didn’t really know each other and we were all trying adjust to the new demands and stressors of grad school.  I know personally that I felt like I was kind of just doing my own thing.

Doing my own thing was fine until we got assigned a bunch of different group projects. At one point in time, I remember being on five different Google docs with five different groups of varying size.  It was extremely difficult trying to keep track of who was in which group and when due dates were for each project.  This is where I began to fully depend on my planner for EVERYTHING.  If it wasn’t written down, there was a good chance I would forget to do it.  My planner organized my life!

One by one, projects were submitted and crossed off the to-do list.  Each project came with its own personal bundle of stress.  The Colombia project still makes my blood boil.  Don’t even get me started on the Lifespan Task Analysis project!  I never ever ever want to spend hours trying to analyze someone clicking a computer mouse ever again.  Never.  On a brighter note, I enjoyed our health literacy project and occupational profile project.  Those were manageable.

The exams required dedicated studying.  Even though I often went into each exam nervous, I always left feeling confident…. except that time I got a 78% on a group process exam because half the material on the exam we never even covered.  That time I was pissed.

By November and the beginning of December, I had found my niche of friends.  United spontaneously by a 28-page paper on obesity, I can truly call Michelle and Jess my confidants.  Becoming friends with them opened up another door to become friends with friends they were friends with (so much usage of the word “friends” in one sentence). Finals week we were gathering for study groups, just trying to survive together.  On our last day of our first semester a group of us went out to IHOP to celebrate!


The hardest transition for me to make wasn’t the 55 minute commute to/from school everyday (although the morning my car got flooded out by a puddle I drove through was one of the most stressful mornings of my semester).  The hardest transition for me to make wasn’t the “lack of sleep” (pretty sure the littlest amount of sleep I got all semester was 7 hours because I am a nervous wreck as a sleepy driver).

There have been three really hard transitions for me to make since starting grad school.  The first two are sitting for long durations of time and sacrificing a normal running routine.  My core, back, and leg muscles have atrophied.  This is due to sitting for 85% of the day (between studying, 4+ hour classes, and driving 2 hours/day) and not having time to get out for runs to move those muscles.  These two things have crushed me time and time again the past 3 months.  My back hurts all the time.  I don’t feel confident in my body like I did before. My ankles are weak (hence why I sprained my ankle a few weeks ago).  I miss running so very much.  I am working on coming up with solutions to these two challenges so that I can strengthen my back/core/ankles and maintain my sanity through running.  It’s just been a really challenging transition for me to make.

The third difficult transition has been sacrificing time with Josh & my family.  I used to be able to consistently spend the weekends with Josh spending time together or going out for runs/mountain bike rides.  With an excessive academic workload, I’ve sacrificed part of my weekends to study rather than spend time with loved ones.  I’ve politely declined invitations for socializing with others.  I’ve tried to balance socialization as much as possible by allotting at least one day each week to spending time with loved ones and that has helped keep my mind fresh and my stress in control.  There’s just days that I miss not having schoolwork always lurking in the back of my mind.  Days like that will pass though – these sacrifices are temporary and my support system knows that I just need to push through these next two years until I graduate.

This semester was primarily foundational classes that have prepared us for the next three academic semesters.  I finished my first semester with 4 A’s and an A-.  To say I’m ecstatic would be an understatement. I am proud of myself and my success proves that all my hard work paid off this semester.

Next semester we will be immersed in pediatric classes, my Level I fieldwork placement in a pediatric setting and…… *insert dramatic drumroll here*.. neuroscience.  Oh boy!

I am looking forward to enjoying this much deserved and hard-earned winter break before starting the daily grind again.  But for now, I will enjoy time with Josh, friends, and family, stress-free & guilt-free running, and maybe a few glasses of wine. Cheers to the first semester!

OT Chronicles Chapter 6: Week 1

OT Chronicles Chapter 6: Week 1

Our first full week was way more overwhelming than our half-week, rightfully so.  We had three more “1st days” which is probably why I’m feeling a little more overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done.  However, I am continually reminding myself to take it one day at a time.

One highlight of the week included having our first SOTA meeting where we discussed upcoming conferences, volunteer opportunities, fundraising ideas, and elections.  I decided to run for a position but I wasn’t elected.  The election did not include speeches or even introductions; therefore, most votes were based on first-impressions or a game of eenie-meenie-minnie-moe.  I’m ok honestly with not being elected.  I started this blog without being elected with the full intention of advocating for the OT field.  I will advocate on this blog, my social media pages, and to anyone that wants to listen to me talk about what I learned in class so far.  Here, I can voice my opinion on my own time, in my own way, and with intrinsic purpose to self-reflect and teach others.

This week I also attended an adult autism support group where I interacted and played board games with the attendees.  It was a very relaxed environment and I know that the individuals enjoyed seeing a new face in their group.  I plan on trying to volunteer at the support group 1-2 times per month because I know how much they enjoyed having new people to play board games with!

This week we were assigned an activity log in which we have to record every activity we do in a day and how much time we spend doing it.  We then categorize each activity into one of the eight occupations listed on The Framework.  Once they are categorized, we have to make a pie chart.  A lot of my time (obviously) is spent doing educational occupations.  This has been a tedious assignment but it’s helped me become more familiar with The Framework.

Also noteworthy is that our professors have forced us to change where we are sitting every class and who we are sitting next to.  They’re teaching us not to get comfortable all the time with routine and to get to know our classmates better.  I was a little hesitant at first because I liked sitting on the left side of the classroom, but after moving to the other side/middle, I’m ok with it!

We also had two guest speakers who worked at a community-based mental health organization nearby to the university.  We participated in a “Hearing Voices” activity for about one hour to gain a better understanding of what individuals with schizophrenia experience on a day to day basis.

For an hour, we all wore earbuds and listened to an audio recording of voices that individuals with schizophrenia have heard themselves.  The guest speakers rotated the class through three distinct activities – an individual 10-question test on a packet of information we were given on hurricane preparedness, a 20 minute game of Scrabble with four classmates, and an interactive task with someone on campus.

This experience resulted in empathy and a better understanding of what individuals with schizophrenia experience daily.  It was very eye-opening for me because it can be very hard to relate to someone who experiences auditory hallucinations.  This activity provided me with a hands-on learning opportunity to gain insight on how difficult it can be for individuals with schizophrenia to socially interact or complete necessary tasks on a day to day basis.  A few days later, I spent at least a half hour teaching Josh all about schizophrenia to bring better awareness and understanding of the disorder.  (If anyone is interested in learning more about “Hearing Voices” please reach out to me!)

This weekend I have been overwhelmed by readings to prepare for next week’s classes.  I have tried to find occupational balance by taking mental/social breaks.  I went for a bike ride today because I wanted to spend 30 minutes outside on a beautiful day.  I set aside time at the end of my day to write this blog.

Tomorrow I plan on going through the remainder of a Powerpoint recording I need to finish for Monday’s class, reading more for Monday’s Group Process class, going for a run/bike in the morning, and finishing all supplemental material for the beginning of the week.

My Friday & Saturday nights aren’t going to be very exciting for the next few weeks but I’m ok with that.  This aspiration of mine requires a lot of sacrifice, persistence, and determination and I’m fully committed to succeeding.  I’m living my dream.