Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An OT's Perspective - Christie of Mama OT

OT Month is coming to an end, but I've got one more OT today stopping by to share her perspective.

Please welcome Christie of Mama OT! Christie is Mama to one precious kiddo (21 months old, plus one on the way this summer) and an occupational therapist to many. She has experience working in early intervention, clinic-based, and school-based settings, and she is passionate about educating and empowering those who work with kids. Her blog, Mama OT, is a place where she shares helpful tidbits learned from life both as a mom and a pediatric OT. 


My life as an occupational therapist in five words:

fun, creative, busy, challenging, educational

Four qualities every pediatric OT should have:

  • creativity
    His mama is definitely an OT!
  • empathy
  • the ability to "think on your feet"

Three resources I can’t live without:

  1. My OT colleagues
  2. The ZONES of Regulation book
  3. Pinterest 

Two words (or more!) of advice for the parents of a child who recently started receiving occupational therapy:

Be involved! Your ideal level of involvement will vary depending on your child's needs (and will even depend on the day). But don't feel like you have to be a by-stander in your child's therapy, and don't be afraid to ask questions about what the OT is doing. We LOVE it when parents want to know more about what we are doing and how you can carry it over into the home setting. Oftentimes, the kiddos who make the most progress are those whose families do their best to implement therapy ideas in the home and community settings. You can follow Kid Blogger Network on Pinterest for TONS of great sensory, fine motor, and gross motor play ideas.

A word of advice for someone who is considering a career in occupational therapy:

Be sure to observe or volunteer in one or more OT settings before you go to OT school, even if your program doesn't require it for admission. It's one thing to read about what OT is like on a website. It's often a completely different (and more exciting) thing to see what it looks like in real life. It may open your eyes to see that pediatrics isn't what you thought and isn't your gig. Or it may ignite your passion for working with families and kiddos and make you feel like your career as a pediatric OT can't start soon enough (that's what happened to me)!

One dream for the field of occupational therapy:

My dream is that more pediatric OTs could help educate and empower their communities (parents, teachers, coaches, doctors, psychologists, legislators, and beyond) in order to better serve the needs of children with and without special needs.

What I do to rest and relax. Or in OT terms, how I maintain occupational balance:

Crocheting. Blogging. Journaling. Being involved with my church. Trying new recipes. Going on weekly date nights with my awesome husband. Keeping up with my toddler son, who can practically outrun me by now. Following UCLA sports, especially gymnastics (Go Bruins!). Staying updated with my favorite shows such as Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, and Grey's Anatomy. And finding new toys and activities I can use with all the special kiddos in my life.
Even OT's have less than perfect pencil grasps :)

Christie, thanks so much for stopping by to share your perspective! Readers, please be sure to check out Mama OT for more of Christie's helpful tips. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter for more tips on how to promote your child's development and help them have fun along the way!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Honoring a superhero


As many of you in the special needs blogging world probably already know, Kate of Chasing Rainbows lost her son Gavin last week. Gavin was a true superhero who inspired so many. In my opinion, Kate is also a superhero. Her words have moved thousands of readers and she so eloquently and freely shares her story with the world.

Kate was kind enough to participate in my Parent's Perspective feature last fall where she shared her thoughts on therapy and raising a child with special needs. Kate went to the ends of the earth to provide for Gavin, and ultimately he was taken from her too soon. As she goes through this heartbreaking time, many are wondering what they can do to help.

Here's are some things you can do to honor Gavin:

Gavin, you are a true superhero! You've inspired countless families all over the world and your memory will carry on. Kate, thank you for opening your heart and sharing your story with the world. Gavin and his beautiful smile will not be forgotten.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

An OT's Perspective - Tonya of Therapy Fun Zone

 It's week three of OT Month and I'm back with another great OT's Perspective!

Please welcome Tonya of Therapy Fun Zone! Tonya has been an occupational therapist for 22 years and shares her ideas from years of OT experience on her website. She is also the creator of many fun therapy products, which you can purchase in her store. I'm so happy to have Tonya here today to share her perspective!

My life as an occupational therapist in five words: 

Full of creativity and fun

Four qualities every pediatric OT should have: 

  • creative
  • open to listening to your clients
  • like to solve problems
  • able to be flexible

Three resources I can’t live without:  

schedule book, laminator, toys :)

Two words (or more!) of advice for the parents of a child who recently started receiving occupational therapy: 

Watch what the therapist does, and do similar things when they are not there. Ask questions of the therapist, don't just trust what you read on the internet.

A word of advice for someone who is considering a career in occupational therapy:  

Be flexible.

What I do to rest and relax. Or in OT terms, how I maintain occupational balance:

I don't feel like my day is complete until I lay down to read a fun book. I love to read almost anything, but prefer fantasy, especially child/young adult fantasy such as Harry Potter and Hunger Games. I also love the outdoors and camping, hiking, swimming in the ocean, and snorkeling. Before I became an OT, I was planning on becoming a marine biologist. Now it is better as a fun hobby.

Tonya, thanks so much for stopping by to share your perspective! Readers, be sure to check out Tonya's blog, Therapy Fun Zone, as well as her printables section and therapy store. You can also follow Tonya on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Teachers Pay Teachers.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Aimee's Babies

Aimee Ketchum, OTR/L, CNMI is a pediatric occupational therapist and the founder of Aimee's Babies, a child development company. Aimee is on a quest to provide parents with practical and easy to follow information and instructional tools regarding their children's development. Aimee is embarking on this journey with a series of educational DVDs and apps. 

When Aimee contacted me and asked if I'd like to check out her DVDs, I'll admit, I was a little skeptical. As a pediatric occupational therapist myself, I tend to encourage parents to throw all milestone books and charts out the window, since they seem to cause unnecessary anxiety and worry among parents of children with special needs. After watching Aimee's Babies First Year Milestones and Aimee's Babies Baby Massage DVDs, I still believe that it is important to not get too caught up in the milestone race, however these DVDs are a great resource for parents and therapists alike. Let me tell you why...

Aimee's Babies First Year Milestones

Aimee's Babies First Year Milestones contains four chapters, one on each of the following ages:
  • Newborn
  • Three - four months
  • Six - nine months
  • Twelve months

Each chapter demonstrates what typically developing babies are doing at that age, and then provides helpful tips and exercises to help babies reach important milestones. Each chapter contains the following sections:
  • Reflexes
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Touch
  • Movement and balance
  • Taste and smell
In addition, there are "Baby Boot Camp" exercises interspersed throughout the video. These are simple exercises that parents can do with their baby to promote development.

The most useful aspect of this DVD is being able to see what your baby's movement or reflexes should actually look like. I think one of the biggest downfalls milestone books and charts, is that they are just a bunch of words (and maybe some pictures), but it is hard to really understand what your child should be doing. The video clears up that confusion by showing what babies are doing.

In addition, there are several Aimee's Babies Apps (and most are free!) that complement the video. Below is a screenshot of the Aimee's Babies Newborn App.
iPhone Screenshot 1

Aimee's Babies Baby Massage DVD

I frequently used infant massage as an intervention technique when I worked in early intervention. Infant massage has many benefits including, increasing circulation, enhancing the immune system, improving sleep, relief of colic, improving digestion, and helping to develop coordination and motor skills.

This DVD begins with an overview of sensory development of babies, along with some simple exercises to promote the development of each sense. The DVD then provides some simple step by step baby massage instruction. Again, as with the milestone DVD, I think it is so much better to see baby massage in action, rather than try to read about it or look at some pictures. Aimee shows how simple it is for parents to massage their babies and to give them the best start possible!  

Who would benefit from Aimee's Babies DVDs and apps?

  • New parents - The videos and apps provide simple tips and exercises for parents to easily implement. They also provide an easy to understand guide to developmental milestones.
  • OT students - Being able to see typical baby development is so much better than just reading about it in a textbook.
  • New OT graduates -These serve as a great guide for therapists who are out on their own for the first time.
  • Early Intervention practitioners - Both the DVDs and the apps are a great resource to have on hand to share with parents. The apps would be great to pull out when explaining a reflex or exercise to a parent. It always helps to have a visual!

For more information, visit You can also follow Aimee's Babies on Facebook.
Click the image to the left to visit the iTunes app store to learn more about the Aimee's Babies apps!

 *I received complimentary copies of the DVDs mentioned in this post for my review. However, all opinions are entirely my own. This post also contains iTunes Affiliate links.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An OT's Perspective - Cheryl of OT Notes

To celebrate OT Month, today I have another installment of An OT's Perspective to share with you. 

Please welcome Cheryl of OT Notes. Cheryl is possibly the original OT blogger. Cheryl received her Master's in OT from West Virginia University in 2007 and began blogging in 2008. She has worked in a variety of settings with clients across the lifespan, from one day old to 100+ years old. Cheryl is currently working in early intervention and outpatient pediatrics. Cheryl has presented at two state conferences, as well as the AOTA conference, on online and social media tools related to OT, and is the vice-president of advocacy relations for her state OT association. Cheryl is expecting her first child this spring and is working on balancing career, family, and everything in between!

My life as an occupational therapist in five words:

Busy, rewarding, educational, emotional, unplanned.

Four qualities every pediatric OT should have:

  1. Patience - self explanatory.
  2. Foolishness - a willingness to be a complete goofball will often endear you to a client
  3. Willingness to educate - everyone says they want to go into pediatrics, nobody says they want to go into parents. However, this is often the majority of your job’s focus, depending on the setting. So sharing your therapy knowledge with the family is the only way to make a lasting impact on the child.
  4. Willingness to listen/learn - the flip side to the above is that the parents know their child much better than you will at an hour a week. Listen to their concerns and tips about what is working. Learn from parents and the other people you work with. Remember that even if you have a bigger degree, there’s still plenty for you to learn from a layperson or aide.

Three resources I can’t live without:

  1. Apps that integrate between computer and phone: Most of these are Google products - gmail, Google voice, drive, calendar. I need to have everything updated and synced without me worrying over it so I can be confident that I am connected to important things when I need to be. I haven’t become a full-fledged Google+ user, but the instant photo backup and hangout features have been terrific. I use Pocket to save things from the computer to my phone and Google Reader to check blogs for me. This allows me to do my reading when it’s most convenient for me instead of spending tons of time on the computer. I also use a combination of ToodleDo and Due Today to coordinate a very detailed “Getting Things Done”-esque to-do list that can be broken down in many ways and stay updated.
  2. AOTA - So many great resources are provided by AOTA. Getting AJOT and access to international journals is great. I’ve gotten 3 jobs from OT Joblink. Discounts on continuing education. The advocacy resources are so easy to use to affect change nationally, everyone should use them. Chuck Wilmarth and Dan Brown have come to my rescue on state issues too many times to count and they are terrific at helping us stay on top of important legislation. Sam Gonzales and the online team are really starting to embrace social media and interact with us so quickly there, it’s great. My parents started my AOTA membership when I was in OT school as a Christmas present and it has been worth it.
  3. A third is hard to define, but I will go with organizational tools. I depend on spreadsheets, checklists, and coordinated file portfolios to stay ahead of deadlines. One of the best tools I have taken from Getting Things Done is to have a large folder with all the days of the month having separate folders (1-31) and then putting the papers I need that day in ahead of time. I also keep extra folders of important papers in my car and try to keep my thumb drive with me in case I forget things.

Two words (or more!) of advice for the parents of a child who recently started receiving occupational therapy:

  • Set goals - let the therapist know your goals, what will make life better and what kind of dreams you have for your child. Therapy needs to be moving you closer to your overall goals. If you don’t feel like the goals being set reflect what you really want, speak up! Ask what the motivation is for the goal, what approach the therapist has, and how you will know when the goal has been met. And no therapist has a magic ball to say what a child’s capability will be for the future- so don’t accept ultimatums or limits.
  • Be involved - the best therapist in the world is still going to leave your home or the clinic and you need to feel like when that happens that you have a concrete plan for how to keep moving forward. Ask questions and be prepared to carry out a plan at home. If the therapist is recommending something that isn’t going to work with your lifestyle, speak up ahead of time instead of avoiding the topic so that the overall plan can be modified.

A word of advice for someone who is considering a career in occupational therapy:

  • Job shadow in several places to start to understand some of the broadness that is OT. Spending time observing, asking questions, and being generally helpful will pay dividends for you later. Your interviews for OT school will go well if you can draw on these experiences, and therapists will remember great students and write very nice recommendation letters.
  • Tour and interview at a few schools if you can. Though all schools have to follow the same ACOTE standards, every university has a different approach and focus. You may also want to ask at your job shadow sites about the reputation local schools have.
  • Learn what you can ahead of time and expect to learn more once you get the job.
  • Don’t lose your initial passion even if your focus changes. Many people (including myself) go into OT expecting that they will work in a given area and change their minds completely. But keep the passion that brought you to OT.
  • Also, you don’t have to be on a set time frame. I was very tunnel focused in getting my degree, but the field of OT benefits from nontraditional students and people who bring another background into the profession. I have a lot of student resources on the blog which may be helpful as well.

One dream for the field of occupational therapy:

I have a million ideas and worry that I won’t be able to achieve most of them. If I have to narrow it down to one dream, I’d like to see more OTs in nontraditional roles such as general education, wellness, and drug-addicted pregnancy. Obviously, there need to be changes at multiple levels to facilitate this- education, legislation, funding... but it can be done. 

What I do to rest and relax. (Or in OT terms, how I maintain occupational balance):

I’m really bad at balancing...
I rest and relax a lot at home, watch TV and read books. I’ve been reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time Series, watching Lost and Dexter. I  like to travel with my husband  to new places and go to the beach with my family. I love to see concerts and Broadway shows. I am an avid West Virginia football fan and grow African Violets. I love going out to eat with friends and taking a spoon to a jar of Nutella. I enjoyed doing the triathlon last year and hope that I will be able to return to this in the future. 

Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl! Readers, you can keep up with Cheryl on OT Notes, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and OT Connections. Also, if you're attending the AOTA Conference in San Diego later this month, Cheryl will be presenting via video on Saturday, April 27, during a short course titled, "What's new in Digital and Social Media for Occupational Therapy?"


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

An OT's Perspective - Dana of Embrace Your Chaos

In honor of OT Month, I am switching gears a bit with my Parent's Perspective series. Rather than sharing a parent's perspective on therapy and life with a child with a disability, I am going to bring you an OT's perspective each Wednesday this month.

Today I'd like to welcome Dana, of Embrace Your Chaos.
Dana has been practicing as a pediatric occupational therapist for 7 years.  She began blogging last year, with her focus being on simple ways to foster developmental skills every day. She lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband and two year old daughter and recently welcomed a baby boy into the world!  

My life as an occupational therapist in five words:

Never a Dull, Boring Moment  

Four qualities every pediatric OT should have:

Creative, Patient, Imaginative, Flexible

Three resources I can’t live without:

  • My co-workers who are always there to help me problem-solve
  • My heavy work lists for teachers and parents to help them understand how to provide their kids with the just right sensory input
  • My copy of Erna Blanche’s sensory integration observation cheat sheet for evaluations. 

Two words (or more!) of advice for the parents of a child who recently started receiving occupational therapy:

Ask Questions! Even if they seem silly, ask anyway. This will help you and your child get the most out of their treatment. And that’s what we are here for- to be a resource for you and your child.      

A word of advice for someone who is considering a career in occupational therapy:

If you love helping others then do it! OT is such a great field to get into because there are so many choices.  Between the hospitals, schools, community centers, skilled nursing facilities, and pediatric clinics, there are so many places to find your niche. When thinking about OT, be sure to check out all these options because you never know which one you may fall in love with!  

One dream for the field of occupational therapy:

To become a bigger part of preventative care and education for children and adults alike.  

What I do to rest and relax. (Or in OT terms, how I maintain occupational balance):

I don’t know that I ever rest or relax – ha ha- but I do find my balance by making sure I get enough quality family time. We try to get out as a family and do something outside every weekend. Our favorite thing to do is go up to the mountains and hike! I also find that my blogging helps to keep me balanced. It’s great for keeping up my creativity and fostering my love for helping others!

A glimpse into Dana's chaos. Her daughter's room after turning her back for 5 minutes!

Dana, thanks so much for taking time out of your chaos to share your perspective with us!
For more of Dana's simple tips on child development, be sure to check out her blog, Embrace Your Chaos. You can also follow Dana on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!  

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