There are many rewarding careers in the field of therapy. BY YOUR SIDE has several disciplines of therapy services, which help children in various ways, to address their specific needs. Therapists are incredibly busy working with kiddos in different environments such as our two centers and in schools, doing what they love. Each type of therapist makes up an equally important part of the team, to help our clients. Occupational therapists play a very impactful role in the success of our clients.
What is an Occupational Therapist?
An Occupational Therapist focuses on teaching skills to individuals so they can effectively participate in activities of their daily life (home, school, work, play). Services provided by occupational therapists include help with writing, gross/fine motor skills, coordination, learning, utilizing calming strategies and more. Occupational therapists (OT) work at BY YOUR SIDE as part of a team that often includes other therapists, parents, and teachers. The therapists that work with the OT team include Speech Language Pathologists, Applied Behavior Analysis therapists, and Board Certified Behavior Analysts. The OT team helps children on the autism spectrum set specific goals to help improve their quality of life and learn practical skills.
Path to becoming an Occupational Therapist
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, Occupational Therapists typically have a master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. Additionally, therapists must pass a certifying exam that is given by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. Occupational Therapists must also become licensed in the state they are practicing.
Highlights of being an Occupational Therapist
Samantha Mitchell, an Occupational Therapist who joined BY YOUR SIDE in March of 2015, says she would not want to do anything else for a living! The moment Sam shadowed another OT at a previous employer, she knew immediately that she wanted to do this. Sam said, "I finally found a job that encompassed everything that I was meant to do and enjoy. It is better than I ever thought! OT has endless possibilities." Sam has already made a dynamic impact with BYS children and families. The energy and passion she has for her job shines brightly each day.
Here are Sam's top 3 reasons why she loves being an Occupational Therapist!
1.) I love the ability to be creative by creating an individualized plan for each child. I like to find new and fun ways to make activities functional. Every day is different. Every child is different. We can tailor a plan based on the type of day they are having or the mood they are in to fit their needs. For example, I was working on a puzzle with a non-verbal kiddo and they had no interest in the puzzle and threw one of the pieces on the floor. I decided to change the activity to throwing balls through a hula-hoop, which was 100% more successful. The throwing became something positive and functional, while also accomplishing his goals. Our holistic approach allows us to be extremely creative.
2.) I love seeing children progress in their goals. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a child get excited for accomplishing a task that used to be difficult. For example, a particular kiddo was struggling with one of the physical obstacles in our gym. He was adamant he couldn’t do it and insisted that I help. After a lot of positive talk and encouragement he got through the obstacle on his own. He screamed because he was so excited, and so did I! He yelled, "I did it!" all day! I may have given him a slight push, but he did it all on his own. He was so proud of accomplishing that obstacle and for me, that is what being an OT is all about!
3.) I love how Occupational Therapy focuses on the abilities of children rather than on their weaknesses. We build on their strengths, which in turn builds trust and confidence leading to skill acquisition. We find out what their motivation and strengths are and capitalize on them. For example, I have a kiddo who is amazing at art. She is so talented; her work is astounding. In therapy we use her art skills as an outlet to express herself and gain confidence. I pair difficult activities with art components to make the process more enjoyable for her and also more successful. Once we build trust, and learn a child’s talents, then we can work on their challenges.
Sam added a bonus reason why she loves her OT work, "I love connecting with children and their families. That is what BY YOUR SIDE is all about."
If you would like to learn more about a career as an Occupational Therapist, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.