Going Beyond the Boxed Therapist

Going Beyond the Boxed Therapist

Suzanne Fullerton's picture

I have had many opportunities within my career as an occupational therapist to try many things. Working in many settings from a private outpatient clinic in which I worked with adults and pediatrics, doing hippo and aquatic therapy to home health and a little hospital work, but I have found my passion to be in the educational setting. Always knowing, that pediatrics was where my heart's desire was, I am blessed to have been positioned by God to be in a working environment where I can be both educator and occupational therapist. Though the blending of these two positions has not always been easy (in some instances), they are inseparable, even when I wasn't in a formal educational setting. To be an occupational therapist requires a bit of teaching, no matter what the setting (at least in my opinion).  

I have spent the majority of my professional career focusing on Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD) and the struggles these students have within all environments. This is still very much my expertise and desire of study for me. However, I have developed a new passion to help struggling students in a different way in the school environment. I have had the privilege many OTs have never had, which has been to build curricula and programming of schools in need of the occupational therapist perspective.  It has not always been easy to convince others that OTs go beyond stacking blocks, tying shoes, or riding a scooter board.  But I have had the luxury to work with speech therapists and educators who understand and see the value of each disciplines' areas of knowledge, and we work toward blending these together to help the student holistically.

I have recently begun a training at Shelton School in Dallas, TX for a specific IMSLEC program for reading. Dyslexia has become one of the most talked about and perhaps controversial diagnosis in the school setting, with SPD probably being next in line. Students who struggle with the effects of these diagnoses deserve a chance to be accepted and helped. Occupational therapists definitely have a role in the processes of helping students in the educational setting, even with reading. That includes those diagnosed with dyslexia, SPD, ADHD, and other learning related disorders. To the OTs out there, I hope you know how relevant your role can be to the educators in a school setting in helping not only those with behaviors related to sensory processing disorders and delays with fine motor skills, but also to the students struggling to read and write. Our profession goes well beyond the boundaries of therapy gym (or closet, depending on your working environment) and fine motor tables. When you can apply your knowledge and expand your knowledge to filtrate within the classrooms in context to what the student is doing, whether it is reading, writing, math, science, or geography,  you have made an impact on many...and not just the students. 

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