My name is Nathalie and I currently live in the west coast of Florida with my husband and morkie Kensie. Heart of OT is an occupational therapy website dedicated to spreading awareness about the occupational therapy profession. On this site you will find resources for therapists, for students, and a discussion about all things occupational therapy.
You might know Lauren from her Tuesday talks on Instagram or Sunday email full of awesome resources. If you are not familiar, then you are in for a treat! Lauren is a pediatric therapist, content creator, health and wellness promoter, and of course and occupational therapy enthusiast. Below, Lauren shares more about her story, where she sees herself in 10 years, and how she became an occupational therapist
How did you first hear about occupational therapy? When I was about 10 years old, I went to my little sister's occupational therapy session. At the time, I became mesmerized by the swings, toys, therapy balls, and the exciting and playful atmosphere her therapist cultivated. Her therapist included me in some of the session, and I am forever grateful because that was the moment I realized I wanted to be an OT! That dream never really changed throughout the rest of grade school and high school, so I officially began my first steps into OT at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a freshman in their entry-level program.
What influenced you to become and occupational therapist? Initially, it was witnessing how it impacted my sister and our family's life in such a positive way. While I was young at the time, I could see first-hand the changes, impacts, struggles, and concerns the OT would work through with my family and parents. Additionally throughout high school, I completed many volunteer hours at a Children's hospital. I was drawn to the diversity, fun, and client-centered (not knowing that term at the time) OT session, while all being rooted in science.
What type of setting do you work in, and what does a typical day look like for you? Currently, I work as an independent contractor in outpatient pediatrics. My favorite thing about being an independent contractor is the diversity it allows in my schedule, so it changes daily! However, it typically starts early morning with my morning routine then a workout at home or at a gym (I teach group fitness classes a few days a week). From there, I travel to daycare's or private schools to see a few kiddos, then finish my afternoon at a clinic or traveling to client's homes! Other days I am teaching for an OTA program at a local university, spending time building my own business, or taking hip hop dance classes :)
You have a strong social media presence sharing about occupational therapy. How did you get started? Since I was young, I always found joy in creating videos, taking pictures, making slideshows and more. I began building a side online business focused on health and wellness - which truly gave me my initial jolt on creating online content. I quickly realized that I wanted to integrate my passion for health and wellness and OT because life has taught me the importance of filling your own cup before you can pour for others. That is how LG:thefitot was started!
What advice would you give someone looking to start and occupational therapy related Instagram or blog? Just start! You don't need to have a logo, the best name, or even the best ideas to begin because - I promise you - it is going to change. As you go through life and your career, your content, focus, and ideas will change, and your brand will change with you. Don't let fear or the idea that there are so many other OTs out there stop you - I truly believe there is space and room for all! Also, there are a TON of (free) online brand building, content creation, and business workshops out there - take advantage of them!
What is your favorite thing about being an OT? What do you find most challenging? My favorite thing about OT is working with the families. Families often come into OT exhausted and feeling out of options because no one can give them answers. It is incredible to work with the families and kids to develop a sense of peace and calmness in the journey and begin to shift their perspective while facilitating growth and development in the child. I would say that this is also the most challenging! OT includes such a diverse range of topics, intervention strategies, theories, and information, that it can often be challenging to discern which path or area to focus on first when a family comes in with a variety of concerns. However, it's all a learning process and I love the challenge.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Professionally, I would love to continue to contribute to this profession in a variety of ways. Whether it is continuing to treat kiddos, teaching, running online programs, researching, mentoring, public speaking, or running my own clinic (or all of the above :) ), I'm open to where this journey leads me!
Quote to live by? "Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It's your masterpiece after all."
Last week the tickets went on sale for AOTA 2019. It will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana and it is exciting! I have had the pleasure to attend two AOTA conferences in the past (Baltimore 2014, Chicago 2016), and can honestly recommend the experience. Not only is it a great way to complete the majority of your continuing education units (CEUs) but, it is a great environment to meet new people, get inspired, and hear the latest on occupational therapy.
The conference is quite big with approx. 1,600 occupational therapists expected to attend. It can easily become overwhelming, especially if it is your first time attending- but please don't stress! If you are planning on attending this year you have come to the right place. Below I share several tips that will help you make the most out of your time at the conference.
Plan ahead: Picking your educational sessions ahead of time is crucial if you want to make sure you attend the courses you are interested in. At the conference your days will go a lot smoother if you read through the catalog of educational sessions and pre-plan what session you would like to attend ahead of time. Each hour of the day has multiple sessions running simultaneously and it is easy to miss a topic you are interested in. Once you register for the conference you will receive a course catalog in the mail with the full schedule.
Download the app: In previous years AOTA had an app available that was easily downloadable to your phone. In the app you can customize your schedule and keep track of what sessions you have attended. It is also a useful tool to get notifications such as cancellations and changes in rooms.
Dress for comfort: Business casual is always a good choice in case you are unsure of what to wear, just make sure your feet are protected. At AOTA the days are long, there is a lot of walking, and often times the seating is not the most comfortable. Wearing clothes that you feel comfortable in is crucial to ensure you make it through the day.
Bring a resume or personal information card: During the conference you will come across many individuals, schools, and companies that hire occupational therapists. It is the perfect place to network and explore options available in the world of occupational therapy. Having your resume or personal information card handy is a great way to leave others with your information for future inquiry. Also, I find it helpful to carry a small notebook to write down the contact information of individuals/companies I am interested in following up with. Of course, the notes app on your phone will do as well.
Pack lightly: This is something I learned the hard way. The Expo at AOTA is full of vendors passing out goodies and resources you will want to take home with you. It is a smart idea to double check that you leave some extra room in your luggage to fit such items in order to avoid paying an extra fee with your airline due to extra weight.
Hope these tips help you organize your conference experience, and if you have further questions please don't hesitate to reach out. Here are some personal photos from AOTA14 and AOTA16.
The first day is always exciting. I remember being in awe of how many OT's were in attendance. I had never seen so many OT's!!
Make sure not to miss the opening ceremony. It showcases all the wonderful ways OT can help individuals live a fuller life. You will leave with a sense of pride and renewed inspiration to practice the profession.
The expo hall is a fun place to learn about what is new in OT, network, and play with the latest gadgets.
Checking out the poster presentations is a must, as you will learn about the latest research being conducted by fellow OT's. Very interesting conversations take place.
Lastly, AOTA is held in different cities across the U.S. so it is always a good idea to site see as much as possible. It is the best way to wind down after a long day of learning.
Occupational therapy is a profession that constantly flies under the radar. Therefore, its benefits are largely understated. Most people don’t fully understand the scope of occupational therapy until they themselves or someone close to them works with a therapist. Occupational therapy can make such a huge impact on an individual’s life, it is important to understand it well.
Occupational therapists (OT’s) work with individuals who have been impacted by a medical condition or accident in order to help them achieve independence with their activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs are the every day occupations that a person engages in on the daily. OT’s can work in different settings such as schools, hospitals, home health, and skilled nursing facilities. OT’s can work with individuals from birth to old age but, for the purpose of this post lets focus on how OT’s can help your child.
OT’s work with children to provide skilled interventions that target skill areas that affect a child’s development. Skill areas such as: fine motor, gross motor, cognition, sensory processing, balance, and coordination. Children struggling with reaching developmental milestones can work with an OT in order to identify and target the skill areas that are affecting their developmental growth. In conclusion, OT’s work with children in order to strengthen the factors that lead to proper development. Below is a brief description often targeted by OT’s during intervention.
FINE MOTOR Fine motor skills are the ability to coordinate the smalls muscles that control the hands and fingers, also known as manual dexterity. Fine motor skills are needed every day to perform self-care tasks and manipulate objects. A child with decreased fine motor skills will demonstrate difficulties with tasks such as opening/closing clothing fasteners, using scissors, handling utensils for eating, and even handwriting. Factors that affect fine motor skills in children often include limited range of motion, muscle weakness, and decreased coordination. For school age children poor fine motor skills can also affect their self-esteem as they can struggle with classroom related tasks.
GROSS MOTOR Gross motor skills are the ability to use the large muscles of the body to perform tasks such as running, walking, and jumping. These core muscles provide you the ability to complete tasks such as sitting upright, catching and kicking a ball, and dancing. Children with poor gross motor skills can struggle to reach developmental milestones leading them to demonstrate effects in other areas such as poor balance, lack of coordination, increased clumsiness or fatigue, and generalized weakness.
SENSORY PROCESSING Sensory processing is the ability to efficiently integrate the information provided to you by your environment. Children with sensory processing difficulties can often over-react, or under-react to the sensory stimuli around them. Sensory areas include oral, olfactory, visual, tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive. Difficulties with sensory processing can lead to a child’s ability to function in different environments such as the mall (very noisy), classroom (many distractions), or the beach (different tactile inputs). Sensory processing can also lead to issues with feeding and every day tasks such as bathing, and the ability to tolerate different clothing textures.
BEHAVIOR OT’s can also work with children to develop social skills and appropriate behavior. For example: tolerating loosing, improving attention, and sharing.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING YOUR FIRST VISIT When meeting with an OT for the first time be prepared to answer questions about your child’s behavior, habits, routines, and pertaining medical history. This will help the therapist gain an understanding of your concerns and what areas the child might be having difficulty with. From here, therapists will often perform a screening which is an informal observation of your child in order to determine if they will benefit from a formal in-depth evaluation. In some cases, this step may be skipped and a formal evaluation will be completed as the first choice. Once the evaluation is performed, scored, and skill areas requiring intervention are identified. Your therapist will provide you with a plan of care detailing what therapy will focus on. An occupational therapy plan of care should include areas of deficits, therapeutic goals, frequency and duration of therapy sessions. An occupational therapist uses play during their sessions in order to help the child achieve their therapeutic goals.
Amanda Tristan graduated with a Master’s of Science in occupational therapy from Florida International University. During her time as a student, Amanda strived for unique experiences that would expand her perspective of the world in order to become a well-rounded occupational therapist. In March of 2014, Amanda traveled to the old city of San Juan, Puerto Rico to complete her level I mental health fieldwork. In this interview, Amanda shares details about her trip and important lessons she learned during her time abroad.
"It is our responsibility to honor and be receptive to our patient's needs and wants."
What led you to pursue a fieldwork assignment abroad? I always knew I wanted to do an internship abroad. My biggest motivation was the desire to experience something different and memorable. Perhaps it was my curiosity, or my adventurous soul that lead me to this path. All I know, is that it was an incredible experience that I will forever remember.
In what type of setting did you complete your fieldwork? I was assigned to work in a public mental health institution named Dr. Ramon Fernandez Marina. This facility is one of the most famous public hospitals that treats patients with mental health disorders in the acute and sub-acute stage. It was within the walls of this hospital that for the first time I understood mental health disorders beyond the DSM 5.
Where did you live? Was the trip an expensive venture? I lived with two other friends from school who also completed their fieldworks in Puerto Rico. We lived in a hotel in Centro Medico, which is actually a hospital with a mini hotel within its own facility. It was great because we all shared the cost, and we were able to budget accordingly. My advice would be to look for an airbnb in the area, and find a roommate if possible. Your travel cost will vary according to the country you are visiting, your length of stay, as well as your travel expectations and activities. Also, have a budget in mind and stick to it. Despite the fact that an internship abroad could be very expensive, it should not be an excuse not to fulfill your dream.
Describe what your day to day looked like at the hospital. An occupational therapist in this setting is responsible for waking up the patients early in the morning for hygiene and grooming sessions, conducting a group therapy activity, assess a patient’s abilities and independence in ADL tasks, and most importantly instilling hope.
What was your biggest challenge while working at Dr. Ramon Fernandez Marina? My biggest challenge working in this setting was not being able to erase a patient’s past from their memories. It is imperative to remember that as an occupational therapist you might be the only support system the patient might perceive to have inside the walls of the hospital. It is our responsibility to honor and be receptive to our patient's needs and wants. By doing so we can provide them with the necessary tools to create a bright future beyond a world filled with hallucinations and delusions.
What lessons did you learn from your experience? My experience taught me not to define someone with a quick label (schizophrenic, bipolar, depressed) rather by his/her occupational identity (mother, sister, daughter, wife)- I quickly recognized that my patients were more than just a group of twenty-one women in the acute phase of their psychiatric disorder. These were women who had lost a great portion of their identities, who were often stigmatized by society, and sometimes even by their own family members.
My experience also taught me that mental health disorders do not discriminate against social class, political affiliations, educational or professional experience; they can affect anybody, including me. What did you do during your free time when you where not working? During my free time in Puerto Rico I had the opportunity to experience many outdoor activities, including Zip lining, hiking national parks, going to the beach, getting lost in Old San Juan, and learning Puerto Rican salsa. People in Puerto Rico are willing to go the extra mile to show you around, so you can learn more about their culture and traditions. My recommendation is to at least spend a week before, or after your internship living with the locals. Also, don't be afraid to visit new places, and getting lost in a new city.
In hindsight, is there anything you would do differently or change from your experience? To be honest, no. I believe that we learn from all the experiences that we encounter in life. This internship was not the exception. I learned from every mistake, and I am thankful for my journey.
What advice would you give a student who would like to complete their fieldwork abroad? First of all, if you are thinking about doing an internship abroad is because you are an adventurous person, and you want to make a difference in the world. I always ask people who ask me this one very important question... What is holding you back? Is it fear, is it money? What is it?
The truth is, that you might have to sacrifice many things to accomplish your career goals, but in the end everything will workout. You might have to convince your parents, your partner, have to work extra shifts at work, or reduce your budget to be able to afford your trip. You will also have to consider your travel destination, and how much you know, or not know about that specific country you have in mind.
My best advice, is to just do it! You will live an experience of a lifetime that will forever be in your memories. This experience will not only make you stronger, it will push you away from your comfort zone. Your internship abroad will teach you new skills that will in turn help your career development, and understanding of our profession. My recommendation... go buy that ticket, go plan that trip. What are you waiting for?
I received the Harkla weighted lap pad for free in exchange for a review.
Ever felt calm after a big hug with a loved one? That is because research has shown that applying gentle deep pressure to the body can result in a calming effect. It can help a person calm their body in order to sleep better or increase their focus/attention for participation in functional activities. Deep Pressure Therapy has demonstrated benefits for individuals suffering from disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and ADHD. With such benefits it is no wonder we have seen the rise in popularity of the weighted blanket. As of late, weighted blankets have been featured in gift catalogs, shopping guides, and in celebrity social media accounts. Even pet stores have begun carrying weighted items. There are many brands out there but, the Harkla family of products really stands out for their quality and affordability.
I received the 5 pound weighted lap pad in the mail and was instantly impressed with the quality and functionality of the product. The weighted lap pad is perfect for children living with Autism or diagnosed with sensory processing disorders. As it can help regulate their bodies in order to increase attention, improve sleep, and reduced self-stimulatory behaviors. The lap pad is machine washable, and can be easily transported making it perfect to use in the classroom.
Harkla is dedicated to making great products that will become a resource for families raising children living with special needs. 1% of every sale at Harkla goes to the University of Washington Autism Clinic to help fund research and therapy for local children. Head on over to their site right now to check out all of their amazing products and receive a digital copy of their guide “The 10 Best Ways To Improve Your Child’s Autistic Symptoms” with your purchase.