Written by Allison Bruntz, OTR/L.
I’ve had the extreme fortune of practicing as an occupational therapist for the past sixteen years, with nearly the past five of those years with Infant-Toddler Services (Sedgwick County). One of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way is to never stop learning.
When I or another member of my team goes on a home visit, it can look a little different than a “typical” therapy session. As an occupational therapist who has worked in other settings, such as serving adult patients in a hospital or residents of a nursing home, I greeted my client, worked on their concerns within what I was expected to, left some follow-up instructions for the “patient” to do until our next visit, and then went on my way. This usually meant working on whatever the patient wanted, so long as it pertained to activities of daily living – things like dressing, bathing, toileting, and grooming. And while I agree these things are important and a current effective method of adult rehabilitation, activities of daily living may not have been the patient’s primary focus during their hospital treatment and recovery. I’ve taught patients how to put socks on without bending over, and I’ve baked lots of muffins in therapy kitchens! While putting on socks and baking muffins are important, they may not have been THE MOST important part of my client’s recovery!
Serving families at Rainbows allows me to teach the child’s most important teacher – the parent. I get to be the “expert” on development, but more important is what the family brings to the visit – they are the expert on their child. And I’m not necessarily limited to working on a specific set of goals. I get to help families with whatever is a priority to them for their child! We get to play with blocks, play-doh, puzzles and go outside and swing – whatever the child wants to do! The teaching and the learning goes in several wonderful directions. First, I have the pleasure of helping the parents understand how to advance their child’s development, and they teach me about their amazing kids. NEXT…I get the opportunity to be taught by my co-workers through joint visits, team meetings, and informal contacts how to be a more well-rounded therapist and a better steward to those who trust me to help their child. And I get to pass that information onto families, or have my co-workers come deliver that message themselves.
More traditional delivery methods of therapy continue to be effective ways of helping therapy clients gain or regain their skills. However, coaching a parent of an infant or toddler to teach their child new skills though daily play, diaper changes, mealtimes or grocery store outings allows children to learn from their parents – the child’s favorite teacher!