Saturday, April 30, 2011

Get Involved

This weekend is graduation. Four years of hard work coming to an end, well hopefully. I just checked my status and it says I am missing two classes, but I am pretty sure it is just a paperwork error. It is sad that this period of my life is winding down, and I am about to leave most of what I know, but I am ready to become an occupational therapy student.

One of the saddest thing coming to an end is my sorority. I was involved in a community service sorority and it probably was one of the biggest factors to me becoming an occupational therapy student. When I came to college community service was not something I did a whole lot of, at least legit community service. I would help out with an event here or there for points for different organizations, but I never really learned the needs of my community. While the sorority had plenty of fun, fluffy projects; it also had some that really made me think. The fun, fluffy ones also introduced me to organizations that I would become more involved in and really learn about an issue facing the community. I have really become invested in education and more aware of health care issues. I went from community service being something people should do to something I passionately believe everybody should be actively doing on a regular basis.

I know it is hard to find time to volunteer. I find it to be a drag to get my butt out of bed in the morning and go, but it wakes you up and makes you feel like you have accomplished something, while sacrificing very little. It also made me aware and educated of some very important issues. I have become a huge supporter of education reform, and I am doing more than just spitting out facts that my morning news is feeding me. I really believe it is part of my duty as a citizen to not know everything, but be informed on at least a few major issues affecting the society.

Ok, I promise I am about to get off my high horse, but before I do the two take-away messages of today are volunteer and get involved in something, you never know how it is going to change your viewpoint. Hopefully, my case of senioritis will disappear enough for me to make it through finals and graduate.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Praise Whores

As I mentioned earlier, I work in a pre-school. During training in my first year, my boss talked about praise whores. Ok, I'm pretty sure that's not what he called him, but it stuck in my mind that way. Praise whores are people who only perform the correct behavior because they want you to tell them what a great job they are doing. For example, one child on the swim team I help out with after each lap asks if she did a good job. This means the person is searching for external rewards instead of intrinsic rewards.

That is one of my biggest worries of becoming a therapist. I don't want people to do things just because other people want them to. I want people to become independent because they want to, not because it is easier for their family or someone else. How do you develop self-worth and desire to become independent within someone? Or do you just not continue therapy?

On another note it is Dead Week at school. Dead week is the week before finals where no assignments or tests should happen. Professors always find ways around the regulations though. It is a strange feeling that I will no longer be an undergraduate. So many of my friends have jobs lined up and adult lives planned. I feel like a weird intermediate adult, since I am still going to be a student, but I am also going to be on my own.

It is good that the United States is increasing the number of people achieving education, but it is really changing some of the definitions in our world. One being what is an independent adult. We talked about it in my Human Development class. It used to be defined by marriage, but now it is determined by a combination of moving away from home, getting a career, and being financially dependent according to my class. I should probably go do work now, since tornados are heading our way and I may be without internet for a while.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Professional Organizations

So as I spend my time on the internet researching occupational therapy instead of writing my animal behavior paper, I am seeing a huge push to join AOTA for students.

Sidenote: I told one of the moms of a child I work with in an occupational therapy setting that my favorite class was animal behavior. She was like you should be a vet, even though 5 minutes ago I told her I was going to school for occupational therapy. Humans are animals too. It is not my fault that my undergraduate institution does not offer occupational therapy classes. It really doesn't. I still have to take a pre-req this summer. She is the ultimate helicopter parent. She annoys all the volunteers and aggravates the OT.

Back to scheduled programming. Part of push is because it helps with networking and seminars. In the bigger picture though is the idea that the public does not fully understand what occupational therapy is. Hopefully, the organization can gather people together to publicize what occupational therapy is and advocate for proper laws and procedures. For a student though, the main reasons are networking and having another resource of great information. What I am really debating is when I should join the professional organizations. Membership lasts a year and costs $75. My state's student membership cost $25 per a year. Both of those costs seem reasonable to me for what I hope to get out. I just can't decide if I should join over the summer or wait until I start taking classes. I guess it is not that big of a deal either way.

On a similar note, should I start to subscribe to professional journals? It costs $114 for the seven issues that come out in a year. My main concern is that the material may be to far over my head as a student. On the other hand, you don't learn anything if you do not push yourself. My undergraduate program really promotes using scientific journals to further one's learning, so I am actually fairly proficient in reading scientific journals. I think I will take the plunge, but I will probably wait until I move into my housing by school.

I really think it is important to stay on top of the top technology and research that is being used in the field. Especially in occupational therapy, since the field is seeing soaring growth. One of my questions that I asked the schools was how they integrated new technology. That question really seemed to impress. I'll try to update on how these investments go in a few months.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Above are pictures of the miniature pony pony Munchkin from the barn. How adorable!

Last summer I volunteered at a special needs camp in the Atlanta area. I am sure you will be hearing more about the camps since I am planning on doing four over the summer. When I was there I asked to be in a group with an occupational therapist. At the end of the week of camp I asked if I could shadow her sometime. She actually needed volunteers for hippotherapy. Hippotherapy is therapy on horses for patients. For the longest time my dad said I was giving the horses therapy. Patients will groom the horse, steer the horse, and complete activities on the horse such as puzzles and putting beads on a necklace.

I try to go once a week, but often patients will cancel or the weather will not cooperate. I usually end up going a few times a month though. I know most of the kids that receive hippotherapy through her now. She also practices in a local children's hospital as well as some home visits. I like talking to her because I will hear about these other aspects of her career. I like the idea of not always being in the same environment. One of the reason I chose OT is because of the variety.

Therapy on a horse is very interesting. Many of the kids have weak grasps and/or coordination, so many of the toys end up falling on the ground or thrown at me as was the case today. Apparently, I look just like a basketball hoop. Also, many of the children have allergies or asthma so the horse dander and dust really take a toll on them. My job as a volunteer is to anchor the child onto the horse. For most of the children, I just hold their ankles in case they lose control. For the kids with weak trunk support, I actually have to help support them. Since the horses are usually taller then me it is quite the arm workout.

While I am not a huge fan of the horses (they smell and sometimes listen worse than the kids); I really enjoy helping out with hippotherapy. First, I get to be outside (sometimes a downside). I also get to see the pride on these kids faces when they learn to do something new such as guiding the horse or even brushing it. These kids are so excited to see "their" horse. They even bring treats for their horses. I have been volunteering at this location for about 10 months now. Seeing the kids go from a therapeutic saddle and being tired halfway through the session to riding on a full blown children's saddle for the entire is amazing. Even these kids' families are jealous of what the kid can do.

The kids I worked with today had the cutest giggles. They both love to ham it up. There is this one kid who goes to lala land during most of the session. Today though the therapist had him run back and forth to hide the bean-bags for later because the horse was being a pain and did not want to come out of the pasture. He was so much more alert today, and actually spoke to us. It is amazing what a little activity beforehand can do for concentration later.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Well, I don't have many occupational therapy items to write about yet. A student from my OT program has created a Facebook group for us to start communicating. I am always surprised by how many people my age are married. It is fun to see what schools everybody is coming from. I can't wait to meet them.

Today I am going to write about Jumpstart, which is not directly related to occupational therapy, but I think the program really helped me develop some skills and awareness that will be instrumental in becoming a occupational therapist. I found out about the program through a recruiter on campus and I wanted to work with children, so it seemed like an ideal fit. Jumpstart is an AmeriCorps program (Think PeaceCorps, but in the States) that promotes literacy skills in pre-school children that come from areas with low education. I have held a variety of positions in the organization, which has given me a well-rounded sense of community. When I joined the program, I had no sense of community other than I lived in a particular city and people like me lived there. I came from an affluent area and had no sense of the disparity around me.

My first year with the program my schedule did not work out so that I could go to the preschools. Instead, I became the volunteer coordinator. I planned major events for one-time volunteers to complete. I would explain to them what the program was about, and sometimes fundraise materials for these events. I was not very good at it. I had a hard time explaining the mission of an organization that I had not participated in intimately. I did get all the necessary volunteers for the year and I was the first one to stick out the position for the entire year at our location.

My second year with the program I was a team-leader for one of the groups that went into the classroom. We would go to a classroom twice a week and implement a lesson plan that Jumpstart provided us. We would do reading, circle time (with games and singing), center time, and sharing and goodbye. I had a great team and a great classroom to be in. The kids would tell me funny and heartbreaking stories. Many times I became aware of the fact they knew more about jail, strippers, and drugs as a four year old than I knew as a college student. I also found out they would go home and just sit in front of the tv or have an older sibling loosely monitor them. It was this year I realized how desperately equal education needed. These kids were already behind at age 4/5. It might seem unrealistic to say that, but compared to where the kids in my area were academically they were. At this age, the love for learning and the foundation for learning are created. Without those elements, no one will want to continue education and better themselves through it.

I am now in my third year with the program in a different classroom and I'm lovin' it (yes I love McDonald's too). This program was instrumental in me learning leaderships and working with peers from different walks of life. This program installed a sense of community into me that I will not forget. I believe experiences not directly related to occupational therapy can be incredibly useful and eye-opening and create an advantage in applying to occupational therapy schools. In fact this was the one experience the interviewers asked me about and seemed most impressed with.

Check out if you have a chance!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What Differentiates Occupational Therapy

My first experience with occupational therapy came to me through a high-school internship. I was assigned to shadow professionals in an outpatient facility that focused on children. The location had speech, physical, and occupational therapist, and also an audiologist. I worked with all of them on a regular basis, but only one of these professions spoke to me. That was occupational therapy. What I would do to thank those professionals know, but my high school self threw away those business cards a long time ago.

Why did this profession mesmerize me? First, there was such a variety in what they did everyday. I worked with different professionals, but I saw the same patients over the semester. Every session with the patient was unique from the week before. It could because the patient's attitude was different than the week before, new skills were being worked on, someone else was using the equipment we used the week before, or a new treatment was tested. There was consistency in the way I was seeing the same patients and for the most part working on the same skill sets, but every session offered unique challenges to overcome and new successes to be proud about. I also enjoyed the community involvement seen in occupational therapy. The therapist did not focus strictly on the patient's needs. The therapist also involved other therapists, doctors, and professionals that work with the patient, the family of the patient, and what they patient wanted to achieve or enjoyed in life. Often the therapist would send the patient and their family to other resources in the community. Many of the occupational therapists I have met volunteer their time in the community also. The mindset of putting the patient in realistic settings in the community intrigued me. Heavens knows I hate classes that I see no realistic purpose for other than increasing my problem solving skills. Finally, the sheer enjoyment of helping someone achieve a goal in their life is incredible rewarding. Seeing the smiles and hearing the joy and thanks makes the hardest day so much better. What else could I want for a career? Maybe a seven figure salary, but we will work on that.

Physical and speech therapy have many of these aspects, but what I feel like they are missing is the variety, easy application to the community, and community involvement. This is just my personal opinion. Not everybody will agree. That is okay. Speech and physical therapists are desperately needed in our society. If everybody wanted to be an occupational therapist, there would be no room for me. This is just what I personally was looking for in a career. It is not the same for everybody, but hopefully it is perfect for me.

I have had a few affirmations that this is the right career for me. The first affirmation was when my father set up a "tea party" with an occupational therapist in our neighborhood. She said speech therapists' desks are always clean and organized, physical therapists' desks are always a mess, and occupational therapists' desks are messy, but they can always find everything. As if the desk is organized into messy piles. I have yet to learn if these generalizations are actually true, but if they are then I am definitely an occupational therapist. The other affirmations have come recently. I was exploring some of the older blog posts on Belong OT and I read two phrases she discovered earlier about OT. One was "Putting the fun in functional". Who does not like having fun while getting work done? It is something I strive for everyday. A personal goal I have is to make someone laugh everyday. The other phrase was "Making everyday independence day". One of my favorite attributes about myself is that I am incredibly independent. Nothing better than giving that opportunity to all. Hopefully, I will have a lot more affirmations to come.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Now It Starts

A while ago I was accepted to an occupational therapy school in the south. I am so excited and nervous at the same time. A few days ago the program sent out a list of who is in the program this year. Of course of being of the internet era a facebook group has been created by one of the students. It has been interesting to see who is in the program. There are quite a few from my rival undergraduate college. I think we will make it work though. I go to a large university now, and while I am not moving to a small school, I am moving into a very small, close program. There will be nowhere to run. Everybody seems kind and they seem to have experience in the field. It is a little intimidating.

I am more excited about the program though. I have wanted to be an occupational therapist since high school. I went to an outstanding high school, which had an internship program. My first internship was with an oncologist. I hated it mostly because the would only let me do paperwork and not actually meet any of the patients. I knew all their information, but I did not know them. The next semester they did not have what I wanted, so they were like why don't you try this outpatient facility with occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech therapists. I was involved with therapists from all three fields, but I fell in love with occupational therapy. I thank the stars that I was put in that internship. I wish I could go back and tell those occupational therapists how they affected me.

Throughout college I started exploring the career more, but not really until my junior and senior year. The experiences I got were very valuable, not only for getting into the master's program, but for growing me as a person to. I will try to highlight some of those experiences throughout the month. The next few months are going to be filled with anticipation and anxiety, but I am going to try and blog about it all because the student blogs I have been scouring for hours have really had an impact on me. I only hope my blog will have some impact.