Over the past several years, I’ve helped a lot of people overcome injuries a fractured elbow from a gymnastics accident, a wrist fracture from skiing, recovery after a joint replacement. Each time, the treatment begins with meeting a person who is trying to regain previous ability. We start slow and build during each session and end with the patient returning to pre-injury life, normal life. In these cases my role as a therapist is somewhat linear – there’s a fairly clear path between diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.
But I also have the unique opportunity of working with children, which is a bit more of a winding road. In these cases, I’m often not helping my pediatric patients recover from an injury, but to gain skills that most other children their age have mastered. These cases differ from my work with adults as we are focusing on learning new skills. Sometimes it’s helping a baby to roll, sit up, or reach for a toy or helping a child hold a crayon to color or write his name. So much of what a pediatric occupational therapist does is to make children more successful in their world, at the jobs (occupations) of childhood. These include being able to climb on the playground, throw and catch a ball, zip up their coat, attend a birthday party, and follow directions at school to name just a few. When children master a new challenge, they feel good about themselves which makes their parents feel good too. I am privileged to be a part of this process.
Creativity is essential in trying to embed these tasks in play that is meaningful and motivating. Having a playful nature and being able to meet a child on their level is critical to getting them to engage in therapy. I am always so inspired by how hard children are willing to work once they are engaged. Seeing a child succeed at reaching a goal and being able to witness their parents pride is what motivates me to push through the difficult stages and explore ways to increase their independence.
It’s amazing to be able to witness these successes and be with children when they master something new. I feel privileged to work with parents and share their children’s successes with them. Part of what is so different about working with the pediatric population is how the impact you have goes beyond the child and extends to their families. As the child’s abilities improve, the parents and family genuinely and often very noticeably share in those successes. These successes go beyond physical improvements they often help build a child’s confidence which lays the foundation for further achievements. That’s why I love all that I do I have the amazing opportunity to help adults to regain lost ability while also helping children reach their potential.