Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Day in the Life | Telehealth

I am so excited to introduce you to today's guest! Katherine Collmer is an OT who specializes in handwriting AND she sees many of her clients via telehealth, an emerging niche of OT practice. I have long been curious about what telehealth services look like, and I'm so happy that Katherine is here to share!

A Day in the Life…of an OT who’s passionate about handwriting!

Occupational Therapy is my fourth career path, with secretary, Federal government employee, and teacher feeding the flow of energy behind it.  I began my journey as an OT working with adults in sub-acute and skilled nursing facilities.  I thoroughly enjoyed my work and was bitterly disappointed when the positions dried up and I found myself left out in the cold.  But, as cold as the upper regions of Maine are, that's where I found my true calling - school-based occupational therapy!  I was fortunate to have worked with a truly amazing group of professionals in the AroostooK County School System in my very first school-based OT position - and I have never looked back.

Fast forward to many years later when I discovered that Occupational Therapy was to be the venue within which I'd realize two of my dreams:  to make a difference through education and to own my own business.  Handwriting With Katherine rose out of the need to address the handwriting struggles that were preventing children from achieving their highest educational potential.  It was born with the encouragement of family and the support of my community.  So, let's see what an occupational therapist "does all day" when she helps children with their handwriting skills!  (I've chosen a day from my schedule this past summer.)

 Photo courtesy of Katherine Collmer

5:00 a.m.:  Rise and shine!  Let the dog out and turn on the coffee!  Lots to do before the first client shows up! 

6:00 a.m.:  Feed the dog before he and I "commute" downstairs to the Handwriting With Katherine clinic in the lower level of our home!  (With the coffee, of course!)

6:00-7:45 a.m.: 
(1) Complete the treatment record sheets for yesterday's clients and treatment plans for their next sessions.
(2) Complete e-mail "necessities" and shift through the social networks to gather interesting and helpful links and contacts.
(3) Gather materials for my community presentation this evening on "Seven Steps For Efficient Handwriting."

7:45 a.m.:  Shoo the dog upstairs and close the door to the rest of the house.  And we're open for business!

8:00-8:45 a.m.:  First Client:  An 8th-grade guy with symptoms of Dysgraphia who attends a private school that does not allow for accommodations.  (He is not allowed to utilize a computer to take notes during class or to complete tests.)  He is working on adaptive strategies for homework and school note taking, as well as cursive mastery to increase his speed and legibility.  He is an avid golfer and today we utilized a golf-related game that we've made up together, as well as vision warm-ups that include golf techniques.  This guy had been assessed by a developmental optometrist after my initial assessment and was prescribed reading glasses.

9:00-9:45 a.m.:  Second Client:  A 5th grade gal who experiences difficulties with speed, legibility, and written composition.  Her parents are most concerned about the latter skill.  She had been assessed by a developmental optometrist after my initial assessment last summer and vision therapy was recommended.  However, her parents have decided to have her continue with MD-directed vision activities as part of her therapy in my clinic.  In a previous session, we had decided upon a cross-stitch pattern for working on her close vision and she has been incorporating that work into her sessions.   Today she practiced note taking to outline the process (which was new to her) and to record our brainstorming ideas for a story based upon the picture in the pattern she had chosen.   We briefly discussed the creation of a poster board with crafts and handwritten work to display her knowledge of cross-stitching in a visual mode much like a science project in school. 

10:00-10:45 a.m.:  Third Client:  A 7-year-old guy who has recently undergone eye surgery and experiences visual perception and fine-motor challenges as a result of his life-long visual deficits.  We incorporate lots of play and movement activities in his "handwriting classes" (as he calls them) to encourage the development of those gross and fine-motor skills that have been affected by his impaired vision.  We worked on the lowest balance beam with his little brother holding his hand and crawling to find alphabet letters around the room.    He enjoys fine-motor sensory projects if he is allowed to watch first and test them out at home before he jumps in during his sessions.  Today I demonstrated "digging in the sand for treasures."

11:00-11:45:  Fourth Client:  A 5th grade gal from the local school whose IEP includes OT during the summer months.  (Her school OT was not able to cover this and I was contracted to provide the service.)  She has been diagnosed with Autism and has no interest whatsoever in handwriting.  Her IEP goal is to write her name (manuscript or cursive).  This is also her parents' main goal for the summer.  As warm-ups to handwriting, we work on fine-motor games and visual activities, which she choses from two options I provide for each.  She enjoys these activities and they engage the underlying handwriting and attention skills we are working on.  After three warm-ups this day, she was amenable to standing at the board and creating a “lines and shapes drawing” that she felt described her self.  Dad was impressed when he returned to see that she had actually put "chalk to board!"

11:45-12:15:  Hubby brings me a fresh cup of java, a sandwich, and an apple for me to munch on while I set up for my teleconference session.  (Yes, it is good to have a retired husband!)

1:15-2:15 p.m.  Fifth Client:  A first grade gal who had been receiving services at my clinic during the school year but was not able to come during the summer due to parents' scheduling conflicts.  We continued working this day on her pencil pressure and grip skills, as well as her manuscript mastery.  As warm-ups, we played with putty and worked on vision activities - balloon toss and mazes.  (She had been assessed by a developmental optometrist after my initial assessment and was prescribed reading glasses and began vision therapy.)  We continued with our alphabet arts and crafts project from our Tuesday session to address fine-motor skills and letter recognition.  Finally, we copied the letters we are working on from the project onto a chalkboard then onto manuscript paper.  Mom and I spent 10 minutes discussing her homework, her progress, and her needs.

2:30-3:15:  Sixth Client:  A 5th grade guy who has been diagnosed with Asperger's (mild) and who is experiencing speed and legibility struggles with manuscript.  He and his mom wanted him to attempt cursive over the summer.  His vision had been assessed by a developmental optometrist after my initial assessment and he was prescribed reading glasses.  The OD also recommended vision exercises for his OT sessions.  This day, we begin our session with those exercises (tether ball, vision tube, and a wall activity for balance and peripheral vision).  We "played with the putty" to work on his hand and finger strength.  Then, we worked on his cursive during a word spy game where he wrote each word (on the board and on his paper) that was discovered during the game.

3:30-4:00 p.m.  Set up for Cursive Club (table and chairs, snacks, activities)

4:00-5:00 p.m.  Cursive Club:  This is a Master Group of 5th-7th graders who had been working with me during the school year.  (I had 2 other groups that were Manuscript Mastery and Cursive Beginners.)  This evening we worked on gross-motor warm-ups (3 Boot Camp Exercises), vision warm-ups (tether ball), and a sensory warm-up (hand and finger putty exercises).  For the handwriting activity this session, we worked on writing directions that are accurate for the production of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  As each student orally presented his/her written directions, another student would attempt to produce the sandwich (using actual materials) to see if it would "work!"  Lots of laughs here!  At the end of the session, they recorded their impressions in their handwriting journals.

5:00-5:30 p.m.:  Clean up after Cursive Club, gather materials for presentation, say goodbye to hubby and the dog - and off to my community presentation.
6:00-9:00 p.m.:  Community presentation, "Seven Steps for Efficient Handwriting", for the staff of a private elementary school.

9:00 p.m.:  Heading home!  See you tomorrow!

I hope that this “day in the life” helps to underscore both the importance of addressing handwriting skill needs and the vital role that occupational therapy plays in meeting those needs.  Thanks for “working” with me today!

Are you curious about what a telehealth OT session looks like? Check out the video below:

About Katherine:

Katherine Collmer, owner of Handwriting With Katherine, is a pediatric occupational therapist with a passion for handwriting!  She has dedicated her work to addressing the handwriting struggles that are preventing children from achieving their highest educational potential.  Katherine provides assessment and remediation services to students and professional handwriting assessment and remediation training to educational staff and therapists.  She can be contacted at - and would love to hear from you!

Connect with Katherine:

Handwriting With Katherine:

To learn more about telehealth practice in occupational therapy, please visit website of the American Occupational Therapy Association.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You might also enjoy: