#Giveyourselfgrace

Hello, friends! Happy Friday! How are you all doing? As for me, I had a summer off from school (one month vacay, whoohoo!) and now I am back to the grind! Y’all, can you believe it? I have begun my second year of school! I am a second year OTD student. It is wild to fathom this, but at the same time, I feel like I have been in school for forever. I write to you as I am on a flight back to San Diego to see one of my favs, Maverick City Music tomorrow (though my flight is delayed, smh). So I’m basically live blogging through the sky. 😂 

I just wanted to jump on here and quickly reflect on my week! Honestly y’all, it has been a whirlwind of emotions. Though I am used to grad school being all-consuming, I felt so overwhelmed in how much information was being thrown at me and how many academic/social responsibilities I had coming my way. I had given a presentation to the first years glorifying resources I utilized throughout my first year to keep myself afloat (shoutout to the Passion Planner and the Finch app), but I could not find the motivation and the drive to follow my own advice. 

Wednesday night, I truly tried to hold myself to my “productivity standards” and “be productive,” but that was short-lived, as I was gifted with a pounding headache instead. I tried to work through it, but only found myself more frustrated that I couldn’t focus (DUH I had a headache and it was nearing bed time!). In efforts to be on top of it after being burnt out by the end of last semester, I was pushing myself to adhere to productivity standards that truly was not that serious to uphold at this moment of the semester. After acknowledging that part of this lack of concentration I had was also because I was still coming off of summer mode, I had to reset, check in with myself and remind myself to #givemyselfgrace because the perfectionist, Type A in me was already creeping in and I was not here for it. I put a lot of pressure on myself to retain everything that I had been exposed to these three days because this semester is the semester that is HUGE for me since I am taking all of my practice immersion courses and beginning my doctoral classes. This semester is the foundation of my future practice where I finally begin to fall into one of my occupational identities as an OT. That is a lot to think about!

My motto this year is to #giveyourselfgrace. All I can do to thrive is to know that I’m doing my best at any given moment. This year is much different than last year because I am slowly starting to see the puzzle pieces of OT come together. Yesterday was the first day in which I actually felt more relaxed, more comfortable, and more ready to take on the academic year. We had our first peds lab and was introduced to the topic of documenting an evaluation for a kiddo. The thought of documentation is intimidating to me, but the fact that I had the opportunity to really start to integrate the knowledge that I acquired throughout my first year made me feel powerful! My brain was definitely stretched, but it felt very reaffirming to know that I had some clinical reasoning (though very limited) to implement and apply to a case study. Where did my newfound sense of calm come from? By having a heart to heart with myself and reminding myself that I’ve done hard things before and it will be just okay! I #gavemyselfgrace by acknowledging that I’m meant to be here, I am doing the best that I can, and that I have a beautiful journey ahead of me that I’m meant to be on despite how overwhelmed I may seem or feel. 

So, I am making a promise to myself for this year. This year is going to be a year of tremendous growth for me and constantly learning how to #givemyselfgrace even when I feel that I don’t deserve it. Not only will I be continuing didactic courses, I’ll be starting fieldwork, spearheading my capstone project, and getting off my parents’ health insurance (lol I’m sad about that). I wrote this hashtag down in my weekly to-do list to keep myself accountable and challenged to remember this simple thing. So friends, I hope that you all are touched by this reflection and can too #giveyourselfgrace in your hardest moments as we all go through life transitions. 

Peace and love, 

Irene 

Dr. Kwangaba, 33% loaded! Reflections on a Year of OT School

Hello, friends! Happy June! I hope that all is well and that everyone’s summer is off to a great start. It has been a bit over a month since I last checked in with you all. I was in the midst of my finals as I wrapped up my first year of OT school two weeks ago. I cannot believe that I am officially 1/3 of the way done with my graduate school career. After 10 months of straight stretching of my brain, constant exams, papers, group projects, some tears, and a whole lot of Maverick City Music and prayer to get me through the hard days, I got through it all.

My brain feels like a sponge. It is wild to think about how much I have learned (and some retention of facts I still gotta improve on, shoutout to my professor for coining that phrase lol) in this year. Being in OT school simultaneously made me more familiar with what OT is and all that it has to offer as well as made me wonder what the heck is OT! Critical thinking is an aspect that I initially hoped would improve upon as I began school and took challenging courses such mental health, neuroscience, and kinesiology. Before, I was only familiar with the names of diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, and muscular dystrophy. Now, I come out understanding the prognoses, assessments, and possible interventions that I can begin to utilize to improve the quality of life of those with these various diagnoses.

Here are 10 highlights of practical skills that I can now add to my toolkit!

  1. I can transfer literally anyone despite my small frame.
  2. I can take manual blood pressure (I struggled so hard before).
  3. I can administer motivational interviewing, Socratic questioning, and strategic interviewing to gather pertinent info to build an occupational profile on a client.
  4. I can complete an entire case study related to OT in mental health settings in 2 hours (and I write way too much so that is impressive for me!)  
  5. I can use various types of Hoyer lifts and transfer patients such as kiddos with muscular dystrophy who have limited range of motion and weakness in their extremities.
  6. I can assess range of motion of joints and administer a manual muscle test for various muscles for folks experiencing musculoskeletal symptoms or pathologies of the upper extremities.
  7. I can teach a person who experienced a stroke on how to implement upper extremity hemi-dressing to promote independence in ADLs.
  8. I can create and implement (and hopefully sell one day) a group protocol.
  9. I can properly measure and fit a walker.
  10. I can juggle three group projects at one time.

Besides all the cool OT things I’ve been learning this year, the most critical aspect that I’ve taken away from my experience of being an OT student is that I really can do anything that I set my mind to. School is HARD and it is really difficult to remember the purpose of it all when I am boggled down with assignments, projects, and exams that seem to never end. However, a support system in and out of school, surrounding myself with positive folks who uplift me, and faith and confidence in my abilities are truly the most integral aspects that have made this journey all worth it. I walked away with lots of golden nuggets (shoutout to another one of my professors for coining this term) that I am excited to continue to build on and implement into my emerging career as an OT.

Now, I am going to take my much needed hiatus from being a grad student and tap into being all identities of Irene this summer. Thanks for cheering me on, Renrenspeakers, on this journey and being so invested in it as well!

Peace and love,

Irene  

Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 6: Dr. Candace Speaks!

Hello, friends! Welcome back to the blog! I hope you enjoyed learning about Dr. Linda and seeing the world of OT through her lens. I have been having so much fun putting together these interviews and showcasing amazing individuals, both students and practitioners, who love OT. I certainly have learned so much about occupational therapy this month through the unique perspectives of the lovely individuals who have shared their experiences. I am so thrilled to feature the last person I have for you all this evening. Dr. Candace is a current occupational therapist that I highly admire. We were privileged to meet through the wonderful organization of COTAD National before I began applying to OT school. She has been cheering me on through my journey of getting accepted to and matriculating into OT school. Dr. Candace has poured lots of wisdom and encouragement into my life and has challenged me to be my best self throughout the two years that we have known each other now. So friends, I present to you Dr. Candace as our final feature of the Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series to conclude this series.

IreneWhat are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Dr. Candace: Candace Chatman, OTD, OTR/L (she/her). I am an occupational therapist based in Southern California. My area of practice began in pediatrics and I have transitioned into academia as an assistant professor of clinical occupational therapy at the University of Southern California. I am a Seattle native that feels more like an Angeleno since moving here in 2003. My passions are God, my family, and friends, finding fulfilling work with children and families- whether that be in practice or the community- and working towards a more equitable, accessible, and diverse Occupational Therapy academy. 

IreneWhy OT? Tell us a little bit about how you found OT and what got you into this field.

Dr. Candace: When I was 17 years old, my family adopted my niece, who had Down syndrome. I cared for her and our relationship has helped direct major parts of my career with families and children. I started my professional career as a high school special education teacher and special equation coordinator in underserviced areas of Los Angeles. I always knew that I would not stay in that career as I wanted to have a larger scope of expertise in a more flexible job trajectory. I learned about occupational therapy after having decided I would transition to nursing. It was a medical field I could handle and I knew that there would always be a need for nurses. While taking pre-reqs for nursing school, in a Lifespan Psychology class, an occupational therapist spoke about her pediatric clinic and the work she did around the world with children and increasing their access to meaningful activities.  I had never heard of occupational therapy during my time taking care of my niece or during my time as a teacher. I loved that it aligned with my desire to provide care in a more holistic way- not just in the classroom. I wasn’t sure at the time that pediatrics would be the area of occupational therapy I wanted to focus- I was a bit burned out from teaching- but I was clear that I wanted to be an occupational therapist. 

IreneChoose three words that come to mind when you think of “OT”. Define each word in its relationship to OT. Why did you choose these three words?

Dr. Candace:

Person-centered – We work with living, human, beings… people. Not labels, conditions, diagnosis, socio-economic status, clients, patients, or consumers. So our work must be centered on the people- their wants, needs, concerns, strengths, and removing barriers to those wants, needs, and concerns.

Advocacy – Using our voice and skills to make a change in complex systems- whether it be voting, writing letters to senators, calling insurance companies, or providing parents clarity about their rights in IEP meetings.

Flexible – We must be ready to grow and change our perspectives, our understandings, and our actions as the contexts around us change. We must be almost malleable as nothing is really fixed or predictable. 

IreneWhat is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Dr. Candace: The depth and nuisance in the field. I think that’s why people don’t know what we do unless you’ve worked with one of us. There is so much we can do. I love the passion and the drive of OTs. I love the potential also. Collectively, we could do so much. I think this is why advocacy is so important so that we can get funding for all the areas in which we provide care. I also think this is why no matter what we do, we need to do it as occupational therapists first. This is such a valuable field but that puts us at risk for other careers poaching the OT scope. This is why we need to go out there with all the things that we can do and with our entrepreneur mindset and our knowledge and ability to apply the IT process and let people know that we are occupational therapists first and that specific area of work second.

IreneWhat are your plans for the future of OT? How do you want to revolutionize the field of OT in the future?

Dr. Candace: My plans currently are to continue to create an academic landscape that is holistic, accessible, equitable, and diverse as the communities we serve. The promise/attempt to create a holistic, accessible, equitable, and diverse OT educational landscape cannot be in words only- get the students in, and then the students will sort it out.  We have to apply as much as we know about pedagogy, teaching, and occupational therapy to create an academia in which all students can be successful- whether they identify as black, indigenous, people of color, or have a disability- visible or invisible-, LGBTQIA+, male, etc. At the 2022 Spring Academic Leadership Conference, the demographics of the field of occupational therapy confirmed that occupational therapy is largely a white, female field. Changing academia will help move us towards the vision of a more diverse workforce. 

I would like to revolutionize supporting OTs to be fieldwork educators. Fieldwork educators are an extremely important part of the occupational therapy education. I’m grateful that my job allows me to address the needs of clinicians which will hopefully impact their work as educators to occupational therapy students.  

IreneCan folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy: Candace Chatman, OTD, OTR/L.

IreneAnything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below! 

Dr. Candace: I believe in you and I know you can do it. Keep your eye on your dream and your goals and your community.

Dr. Candace is truly revolutionizing OT as we speak. I love the integration of academia and OT and how you discussed the interplay between the two. It is so important, and I also aspire to do work in academia further down my career trajectory to help advocate for the underheard voices who I believe have the power to break down multifacetered barriers present in OT. Thank you for your words of affirmation as well – that is true mentorship! 😉 It was so exciting to spotlight the voice of both a licensed occupational therapist and faculty member at USC today!

Well Renrenspeakers, thank you so much for tuning into the blog every Saturday this month for OT month! I am honored to have shed light on this amazing profession that I am currently pursing through the perspectives of my guest interviewees this month. I really hope that you all took something away from the stories that were shared on this platform. I have so many ambitions and plans for OT, so reading about other students and practitoners’ visions and aspirations was very inspiring and fruitful. It illustrates that there are so many passionate folks who are currently active in making occupational therapy an accessible, equitable service for all people across the lifespan regardless of their demographics, backgrounds, and experiences. For more resources about what OT is and all of the exciting things happening in the field, I strongly encourage you to visit AOTA. I also encourage you all to connect with the folks featured this month or myself if you are curious and eager to learn more about OT.

I really enjoyed hosting Occupational Therapy Speaks this month, and I hope you all return soon to Renrenspeaks for new content! In the mean time, go and thank an occupational therapist or an occupational therapy student for their dedication, hard work, and drive!

Peace and light,

Irene

Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 5: Dr. Linda Speaks!

Hello, friends! Happy Saturday! The end of Occupational Therapy Month is here, so to conclude this month, I have a special treat for y’all! Today is DOUBLE FEATURE SATURDAY! The final two interviews will be featuring two of my favorite occupational therapists making big moves in the field! First, my new friend and fellow African sister, Dr. Linda, will be joining us today. I met her through mutual connections from my current school. She is such an energetic, kind soul with so much passion for the field. I am also always rooting for fellow Africans killing it in and diversifying OT, so I am so honored to feature her today on the blog!

IreneWhat is your name? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Dr. Linda: Blessings everyone, I am Dr. Linda Sadiki Materu, a pediatric occupational therapist currently working at an outpatient clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. I am Tanzanian-American, born and raised in East Africa, and have lived in California for most of my adult life. I relocated from California to Arizona to complete my doctorate in occupational therapy degree at A.T. Still University. I believe in God the Father, Yahweh, His only begotten son, Yeshua, and the person Holy Spirit. Outside my professional life, I love to travel, listen to music, visit different restaurants, and have COFFEE.

IreneWhy OT? Tell us a little bit about how you found OT and what got you into this field.

Dr. Linda: After relocating from Tanzania, I decided to change my career from business to health care given the opportunity out here in America. Growing up, I was always fascinated with the sciences. However, I felt like there were few health professions to pick from. At first, I was looking into becoming a physical therapist; however, a destiny helper (as I would like to call her) introduced me to OT. Just like the majority of people, I did not know what OT was and to me ‘occupational therapy’ sounded mundane. However, after doing my research and completing observation hours in different settings, I knew it was my best fit. I never thought I would find a career that was so rewarding yet so fun. I believe OT is what I was created to do.

IreneChoose three words that come to mind when you think of “OT”. Define each word in its relationship to OT. Why did you choose these three words?

Dr. Linda:

Diversity – OT as a profession is so diverse, as there are different specializations to choose from and limitless practice settings to work in from traditional to non-traditional. Also, OTs work with diverse populations of different ages, social-economic statuses, cultures, languages, and religions which empowers us to be more creative and to make meaningful connections.

Holistic – OT is among a few holistic careers – i.e. it addresses a person as a whole -the mind, spirit, and body, which is essential in promoting optimal health and ensuring independence when engaging in meaningful occupations.

Impactful – OTs are able to make a difference in their clients’ lives by adopting ways and creating a safe environment. Being able to witness our clients’ progress from being dependent to achieving independence or even simply learning a new skill and the joy it brings to them and their loved ones is very fulfilling.

IreneWhat is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Dr. Linda: Oh my, that’s a hard question because there is a lot I love about OT. However, if I were to pick, I would say how creativity and science collide. OTs are knowledgeable about body functions through anatomy, kinesiology, neuroscience, and psychology and are able to creatively use simple everyday items to compensate or remediate function.

IreneWhat are your plans for the future of OT? How do you want to revolutionize the field of OT in the future?

Dr. Linda: While completing my studies, I developed a passion for sensory processing disorders (SPD) that led to my doctoral capstone project on using sensory-based approaches to manage the effects of adverse childhood experiences. While completing this project, I realized that there was little research to justify the positive effects we bring to our clients through the use of sensory-based approaches. Therefore, I desire to complete other research projects on this topic to add to the body of knowledge to ensure SPD is recognized as a disorder in the DSM. In the future, I would love to work with an international NGO to advocate for policies that are centered on children’s health and wellbeing in Africa, while promoting our profession.

IreneCan folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

Dr. Linda: Yes, please feel reach out to me via email lindamateruotd@gmail.com or IG @_broken.crayon

IreneAnything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below! 

Dr. Linda: Words of encouragement to fellow members of the human race.

“Broken crayons still color” – Shelly Hitz. 

Simply put- in spite of everything that a person has done or been through they still have purpose and value, and God is able to use our brokenness to create something beautiful. For pediatric OTs who haven’t learned this trick yet- to facilitate an appropriate pencil grasp, use a broken crayon 😉

Dr. Linda, thank you for your words of encouragement. They were so comforting to hear and I know I needed that word in my life right now! Also, your IG handle makes so much sense to me now! She is truly a pediatric OT – her creativity is beyond me. I am very excited to see the work that you plan to achieve in the motherland. I remember when I visited Ghana specifically and volunteered at a community home for children and adults with various disabilities. It made me realize how pivotal OT services could have been at that site and how I could aid in advocacy for the members’ wellbeing and quality of life through an occupational lens. When you make those strides, take me with you!

Renrenspeakers, thanks so much for tuning into the blog! I have ONE MORE FEATURE for you all today! Please tune in later this afternoon to the blog for Part 6, the final feature of my Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series!

Peace and light,

Irene

Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 4: Matthew Speaks!

Hello, friends and Happy Saturday! I hope you have been enjoying my mini-blog series, Occupational Therapy Speaks, each week delving into the world of OT a bit more through the lens of current OT students! The next person I have for you today on the blog is my good friend Matthew. I met Matthew in one of my human development classes in undergrad — little did I know he was also an aspiring OT like myself. We were always put in the same group discussions and I always admired him because he inquisitively challenged the perspectives of our group discussions. We’ve been able to maintain a supportive relationship with one another through our check-ins where we spill all things OT and life. We were meant to reconnect after undergrad because now we all get to hear more about his beautiful perspective on OT!

IreneWhat are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Matthew: Matthew Kawakami (he/him/his). I am a 2nd Year OT student at SJSU. I am from the Bay Area in California. Some of my favorite occupations are watching YouTube, running, slacklining, and researching pop music statistics. 

IreneWhy OT? Tell us a little bit about how you found OT and what got you into this field.

Matthew: I first found out about OT when I was doing a high school project. I had to present about an interesting career path and chose OT. I watched a few videos of pediatric OT and it looked super fun! Then in college one of my friends told they were interested in OT. Talking to her made me want to see what OT was like. After observing pediatric occupational therapists in person, OT seemed like a career that fit many of my interests. I wanted to work with people, I did not want to work sitting in an office, and I liked learning about both the human body and psychology. To be honest, I did not fully understand what occupational therapy entailed until I started OT school. Now that I am almost done with the academic portion of my program, I like that OT prioritizes the client’s agency, I like the breadth of the field (many different settings, populations, and diagnoses) and I like that I get to be creative.

IreneChoose three words that come to mind when you think of “OT”. Define each word in its relationship to OT. Why did you choose these three words?

Matthew:

Dignity – OTs help clients maintain their dignity as their level of functioning changes. OT is about meeting the client where they are and helping them do what is important to them.

Context – OT helps clients in a way that is relevant to their context/life. OT is not copy and paste. It is understanding what a client needs as a whole person based on their social, physical, and cultural environment.

Problematic-Fave – I love OT, but I know that OT is not perfect. I love that OT is client-centered, but I also know that OT has a lot room to grow when it comes to properly addressing anti-blackness and ableism within the field. I think it is important to acknowledge the problems in order to help something you love become even better.

IreneWhat is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Matthew: I like the idea of being client-centered and understanding that our purpose is to improve the client’s quality of life according to the client. I think the medical system can focus on telling the client what they need to do, but I like that OTs listen to the client and ask what do you need? (I think one of my professors told me this line in class).

IreneWhat are your plans for the future of OT? How do you want to revolutionize the field of OT in the future?

Matthew: My plan right now is to graduate and finish my fieldwork level II placements. After that, I am not sure what the future holds, but we shall see. I hope that I can be a part of the movement to help diversify OT, and increase access for groups traditionally disenfranchised due to race, class, disability, etc. I also hope I can be a part of the change to make OT spaces safer and more supportive for Black, Brown, and disabled students, practitioners, and clients.

IreneCan folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

Matthew:

Email: matthew.kawakami@sjsu.edu

IreneAnything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below! 

Matthew: Thanks to Irene for asking me to share!

Matthew, thank YOU so much for sharing! OT as a problematic-fave – I FELT THAT ONE HEAVY. That is a great descriptor. Though I am also with you in terms of loving all things OT, I also acknowledge and stand by the amount of work that needs to be done in this field to be as inclusive as it aspires to be. That is why advocacy is huge and awareness/promotion early on is so important. I think as we challenge our own internalized biases and -isms, we will continue to be the transformative change that is necessary to make OT thrive even more. I am happy to hear that you are almost done with the academic portion of your curriculum! An OT in the making is among us!

Thank you once again, Renrenspeakers, for tuning into the blog today. I hope this interview gave you another perspective on what OT is all about. Stay tuned for the NEXT lovely OT that I will be highlighting next WEEKEND for Part 5 of my Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series!

Peace and light,

Irene

Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 3: Kayela Speaks!

Hello, friends! Happy Saturday! You know what time it is! For the next feature on the Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series this month, we have our lovely guest, Kayela, who will be sharing her story with us. Kayela is literally one of the kindest, most honest, and humble folks that I have been so privileged to have met in my grad school career thus far. I promise you, as soon as she walks your way, your mood is instantly brightened because she is such a light! I am so excited for you all to get to learn more about her and understand why I admire her so much!

IreneWhat are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Kayela: Kayela Santiago (she/her). I am from Maui, Hawai’i but currently reside in Arizona, as I am a 2nd-year MSOT student at A.T. Still University, Arizona. I am an Aunty of 3 precious little girls, and I enjoy spending time with loved ones. I’m a lover of animals, sightseeing, puzzles, arts and crafts, and outdoor activities. I enjoy hiking, fishing, diving, off-roading, exploring waterfalls, and swimming. I am also a lover of food.

IreneWhy OT? Tell us a little bit about how you found OT and what got you into this field.

Kayela: During my freshman year of college, I unfortunately tore my ACL and meniscus playing soccer and underwent 2 knee surgeries and long months of rehab. The difficulty of putting on pants, rolling in bed and showering were just a few of the battles I faced. While I was receiving PT services, I was sure I’d follow that career path because all I wanted at the time was to return to playing soccer. I experienced frustrations towards these tasks, which I thought were so simple at the time, therefore leading me toward OT. I realized how important it was for me to feel independent in what I do on a day-to-day basis and not have to rely on my parents to assist me. It was definitely frustrating having to rely on my parents to care for me post-surgery and during my recovery. The tasks that I was doing prior to surgery were a breeze, and after that experience, I realized I wanted to help people by returning them back to their everyday lives as independent individuals, as well as incorporating their hobbies and bringing meaning into their routines and everyday activities.

IreneChoose three words that come to mind when you think of “OT”. Define each word in its relationship to OT. Why did you choose these three words?

Kayela:

Holistic – This particular word to me is important as it captures every aspect of an individual and not defining nor capturing the individual as their diagnosis. We as OTs look at an individual as a whole and consider the environment, emotional/social supports, spiritual/religious backgrounds as well as cultural backgrounds and incorporate all areas into their plan of care and treatment.

Inclusivity – This is such an important word to me as I believe we create a safe space for every individual. During treatment sessions, we leave all judgements at the door, and we provide a safe environment in which our patients feel heard, welcomed, and accepted no matter the differences amongst us.

Diversity– Every individual brings unique skills, knowledge and perspectives from their cultural backgrounds. With this in mind, it’s so important to provide an engaging environment where all individuals feel like they belong. It’s important to me that we provide equal care and opportunities to every individual.

IreneWhat is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Kayela: The most beautiful thing about OT to me is the ability to create change, and be the change in a patient’s life. My favorite quote relating to OT is “Occupational therapy practitioners ask, “what matters to you?” not, “what’s the matter with you?” by Ginny Stoffle, AOTA president. We as OT professionals not only create rapport with our clients but we create therapeutic activities that are most meaningful to our patients, therefore inspiring, motivating, acknowledging and empowering them toward success while recognizing barriers and assisting them toward independence. The progression and support that we provide is what makes me the happiest as we instill confidence back into our patients.

IreneWhat are your plans for the future of OT? How do you want to revolutionize the field of OT in the future?

Kayela: As a future OT, I plan on moving back to Maui. Being that Maui is such a small island, I think being able to bring a fresh perspective and new lens on OT can help any setting that I work in. Before attending ATSU, I was a soccer coach for kids 2-11 years old and I remember parents asking if we provided sessions to children with disabilities. Sadly, the owner’s answer was no. Therefore, in the future, I want to be able to create an after school program/soccer club that includes children with disabilities and educate parents on approaches that can be utilized with their child at home as they are developing through each milestone to be successful in their occupations and school-related tasks.

IreneCan folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

Kayela:

Instragram: @kayelasantiago

Kayela! Wow. First of all, all power to you in undergoing knee surgery in college. I am sure that was a very taxing experience not only physically but mentally and emotionally. Paradoxically, this injury led you to this field, illustrating that we are able to come out stronger and better than before! Also, I absolutely love that quote by AOTA’s former president! I read it when I initially was doing more research about OT as a prospective student, and it just solidified everything that I wanted to contribute to healthcare. Thank you for sharing that. I think this quote accurately reflects the vision of OT and all that we have to offer. And lastly, I love your plan for OT in the future! It is SO important that all kiddos regardless of ability have the same opportunities to participate in sports like soccer to enhance their social participation in life!

Renrenspeakers, that is all we have today! I hope you were able to take something positive away from Kayela’s story today. Stay tuned for the NEXT beautiful aspiring OT that I will be highlighting next SATURDAY for Part 4 of my Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series!

Peace and light,

Irene

Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 2: Melin Speaks!

Hello, friends! Happy Saturday! We are diving deep into the next feature I have to share with you all for the Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series this month! The homie and colleague, Melin, will be speaking to us today about her personal experiences sharing how OT initially spoke to her as well as her exciting plans for the future of OT! Melin is a beautiful, sweet soul inside and out who has such a desire to advocate for OT through various avenues. I am thrilled for you all to read her interview down below!

Irene: What are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Melin:  Hi everyone! My name is Melin Guerrero (she/her) and I am from El Paso, Texas. I am the first in my family to attend college and pursue a career in occupational therapy. For me, growing up on the border of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico has had a huge impact on who I am today! I feel like I have a super power, a double identity. Not in a Hannah Montana type of way, but more so being fluent in two languages and being a part of two cultures. On a Saturday afternoon, I could pick between watching telenovelas with my mom or a 90s show on Nickelodeon with my twin sister. Aside from my upbringing, I am a huge football fan, go Greenbay! I have visited 5 out of 30 NFL stadiums and hope to visit the remaining ones once I graduate. My favorite Disney movie is Encanto, which was recently released. I love how it has a big emphasis on family and identity. Plus, let’s not forget about the songs!

IreneWhy OT? Tell us a little bit about how you found OT and what got you into this field.

Melin: During high school, I struggled to find a profession I wanted to pursue. All I was sure of was I wanted to be in the healthcare field but the sight of blood made me woozy, so nursing, phlebotomist, and technician were all out. I began to think, Is it even possible to be in healthcare and not deal with blood or open wounds? until I was introduced to an OT student and the rest was history. However, my interest did not turn into my passion for OT until I worked with the City of El Paso to develop the first program in the city where all abilities and talents were recognized and valued. I introduced participants to the fundamentals of sports, and through this, I was able to gain a deeper appreciation of the value of occupations and their ability to assist individuals not only in overcoming challenges but also making them feel included. I witnessed my students gain confidence, experience moments of success, and make lasting friendships through the simplicity of playing a sport.

IreneChoose three words that come to mind when you think of “OT”. Define each word in its relationship to OT. Why did you choose these three words?

Melin:

Creative – OTs use a variety of arts and crafts for all sorts of populations. It allows clients an outlet to express themselves. By doing a simple snowflake craft during the holiday season, children are working on bilateral coordination, fine motor skills, crossing midline, and many other skills. 

EBP – Evidence-based practice allows occupational therapists to select the most effective treatment techniques. It helps answer the golden question asked by many clients, “Why do I have to do this exercise?”

Evolving –  Occupational therapy is an evolving profession that over time has grown and become essential. It is going to reach new heights such as trauma-based care, pelvic floor, and adaptive sports. 

IreneWhat is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Melin: There are so many beautiful things about OT, it is hard to only pick one! Ultimately if I had to choose, it would be that it is holistic. It takes into consideration the whole person by being aware that both body and mind need to be taken into account.

IreneWhat are your plans for the future of OT? How do you want to revolutionize the field of OT in the future?

Melin: Ever since entering graduate school my plans for how I want to revolutionize the field of OT have been constantly changing and evolving everyday. One day I really want to focus on adaptive sports but then the next I want to explore the roles OTs can play or have in colleges and universities. Education is one of the 8 types of occupations that we do not hear about enough with the young adult population.  They face many unique challenges when transitioning from high school to undergraduate or undergraduate to graduate school. There are also a lot of things in between that can get lost such as identity, roles and responsibilities.

IreneCan folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

Melin:

Instagram: @agua.de.melon

Email: melinguerrero@gmail.com

Irene: Anything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below! 

Melin:

A letter to my first-generation college students,

Being the first is not always easy. Being the first means you are going into an uncharted territory without any map to guide you. There will be individuals that will be a hindrance toward your growth, belittle you and discourage you along the way. But, always remember that you are capable, you are strong and you are paving the way for future generations. Keep pushing forward, si se puede!

Yall, Melin is FREAKIN awesome. I’ve always been in such awe of her. I absolutely love the letter at the end and know that she is already a huge inspiration (and will continue to be) to so many first-generation college students who are currently going through the difficulties of navigating university and trying to define their occupational roles. Also, how cool is it that she is a twin?? There are TWO of these great individuals just existing on this earth? Lastly, having a double identity is so powerful and I know will make a tremendous impact on how she will forge relationships with future clients and communities.

Well Renrenspeakers, I hope that yall felt as inspired as I did today reading Melin’s perspective on OT. Stay tuned for the NEXT beautiful aspiring OT that I will be highlighting next SATURDAY for Part 3 of my Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series!

Peace and light,

Irene

Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 1: Aegia Speaks!

Hello, friends! Happy Saturday! The first person I have kickstarting my mini-blog series Occupational Therapy Speaks this month is my good friend and fellow colleague, Aegia! She was literally the first person I met at our grad school orientation last July. As I nervously sat down wondering who I was going to click with that day, she sat at the same table as me and we hit it off! Little did I know we were birthday twins until later that day, so I knew we were destined to be in each other’s lives! Aegia is a very dedicated, passionate future leader of OT. I am so excited to showcase her today in the interview down below!

IreneWhat are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Aegia: Aegia Mari Baldevia (she/her). I am a 1st-year doctor of occupational therapy student at A.T. Still University. I love working with people despite being an introvert. I currently work as a Reading Therapist for children with learning disabilities. Outside of the professional world, I love spending time with my family and friends. I enjoy dancing, arts and crafts, and fashion. I am a big believer in the power of kindness. I truly believe that one small act of kindness each day can change the world. 

Irene: Why OT? Tell us a little bit about how you found OT and what got you into this field.

Aegia: Since I was young, I knew I wanted to work with individuals with disabilities. Before I knew OT existed, I already had in my mind that I wanted to work with people to help them become the best versions of themselves. I wanted to help people reach their full potential. To be completely honest, when I first heard about OT, I just brushed it off. I did not fully commit to the idea of becoming an OT until I was a sophomore in college. I would say that my dad was really the person who helped solidify the idea for me. I told him what I wanted and what I did not want. He listened and told me to try looking into OT again. I am not quite sure what happened, but after looking into OT a second time, I fell in love. The rest is history.

Irene: Choose three words that come to mind when you think of “OT”. Define each word in its relationship to OT. Why did you choose these three words?

Aegia:

Adaptability: I chose Adaptability because a big part of OT is helping people adapt to changes in their own bodies or their environment. Change, whether it is abrupt or gradual, can be very uncomfortable. Occupational therapists play a part in helping people lean into those changes and thrive. 

Advocacy: I chose Advocacy because OT requires genuine care for the community. The community does not only involve the patients that we see, but it involves every individual that needs help. While we may not be able to provide therapy for every person, the least we can do is get people in touch with resources that will be able to help them. 

Identity: I chose Identity because occupational therapists do wonders in ensuring that patients find themselves even when life feels foggy or dark. Because of how client-centered OT is, we shed some light on the individual and what is meaningful to the individual. The therapy session is all about you and what we can do to help you improve your life.

Irene: What is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Aegia: I love the fact that OT is holistic and client-centered. I find that working with someone to help them become more independent or more confident in their circumstance is a very beautiful thing. To put it simply, we work with people to help them increase their quality of life. I want to be part of every bit of that.

Irene: What are your plans for the future of OT? How do you want to revolutionize the field of OT in the future?

Aegia: I hope to see OT be more involved in helping immigrants and refugees transition into life in a new country. I believe that occupational therapists have the skills to help both individuals and families find their footing in a completely new environment. As an immigrant, I saw the struggles my family and I had to face. I know, if given the opportunity, occupational therapists can find a way to smoothen the transition. The first step to achieving this goal is to teach others about OT and advocate for my field.

Irene: Can folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

Aegia: If anyone is interested in learning more about OT, they can reach me at aegiamari@yahoo.com.

Irene: Anything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below! 

Aegia: If anyone in Arizona knows someone who would benefit from free occupational or physical therapy, they should look into the OT/PT Center at A.T. Still University. They can call (480) 219-6180 or they can go to atsu.edu/ot-pt-center.

Wow, thank you so much Aegia for shedding light and letting us get a glimpse into your journey through discovering and pursuing occupational therapy! I also have a very soft spot for enhancing the integration of refugees and immigrants into new environments, for my parents went through very similar transitions. I am so excited to see the work that you will do in this emerging niche of OT. Also, thanks for plugging the OT/PT Center too! I can co-sign in saying that it is a great community-friendly clinic that I have had the privilege to work at.

I hope Aegia’s blog interview warmed your hearts as much as it did mine. Stay tuned for the NEXT beautiful aspiring OT that I will be highlighting next SATURDAY for Part 2 of my Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series!

Peace and light,

Irene

Occupational Therapy Speaks: Mini-Blog Series Loading!

Hello, friends! Happy first day of Occupational Therapy (OT) Month! This is a beautiful month for our profession. Though we should be celebrating and advocating for OT all day every day, this month augments our profession even more. That being said, I have a special announcement for you all! I bet y’all were wondering what the NEXT mini-blog series I would be hosting would be about, huh? 😉 No worries – I am back with more content for you!

To celebrate the beauty and diversity of occupational therapy this month, I will be kicking off a new mini-blog series called Occupational Therapy Speaks, highlighting a new person on my blog every Saturday! These incredible individuals will be sharing their experiences and love for this profession. So tune in to support each individual showcased on the blog this month and read their amazing stories!

I hope that y’all are as excited as me to learn more about the profession through the lens of some fabulous folks currently transforming occupational therapy!

Peace and love,

Irene

*Note: cover image can be found here

Reflections Upon Reflections – Wrapping Up My First Semester of OT School

Hello, friends! I haven’t gone completely silent now on yall! I hope all is well. Unfortunately, I haven’t made much time to prioritize blogging like I said I would, BUT I would just love to come on here and announce that I have completed my first semester of grad school officially (technically as of last week)! It has honestly been a whirlwind of emotions. I have been challenged mentally and emotionally this first semester in ways that I honestly never anticipated even being challenged by. When I started my grad school journey, I obviously knew that I was getting myself into something that would continuously push me and challenge me to expand my mind, my confidence, and my talents. However, the unique journey that being a grad school has taken me on is something that continuously shapes me and molds me into wanting to be a better human being every day. My good friend sent me an Instagram post that another grad student shared recently on their Instagram account that I feel accurately sums up a lot of what I want to share today. Here is what it said:

“You’ve changed in grad school”. Then it proceeded to say: what people and family see: going to school/working, reading books, studying, busy as surface-level attributes typically seen with graduate students. The post then said: what they don’t see: self-awareness, setting boundaries, holding space for myself, evolving, unlearning and relearning, imposter syndrome, struggling in academia, shifting out of an old identity into a new identity, and many more challenges under the iceberg that goes unnoticed in grad school. This was a powerful post in the fact that a lot of challenges mentioned in that post that often go unnoticed with grad students were things that I experienced myself to various degrees since July. Things like holding space for myself, unlearning and relearning, and self-awareness are particularly what I’d like to comment briefly on since I feel that they were the most salient concepts to grapple with during my first semester.

Holding space for myself – So many times people would ask me, ‘What do you like to do for fun in Arizona?’ and I felt SO lame for replying, ‘Well, I haven’t really gone out much because I usually just study.’ I can’t lie; I put so many things that I typically enjoy doing such as blogging and photography on hold since I was trying to figure out how to balance me-time while being a full-time graduate student and juggling other roles that I have quickly involved myself in. Though I was performing pretty well academically, I also look back and realize that having balance is very important. It is much harder said than done, but the days that I did take off for myself have been so beneficial to my mental health and overall well-being. I also feel that holding space for myself includes not being afraid to say ‘no’ to the things that won’t benefit me so that I can continue to perform and be at my most optimal self. Holding space for myself is a critical practice that reminds me to set necessary boundaries for myself and to accept and love every part of who I am, my progress, and my authenticity.

Unlearning and relearning – In a room filled with people who are similarly ambitious, academically prepared, and creative, the pressure to stand out and feel validated in my academic and professional success was a lot to handle sometimes. I had to unlearn a LOT of things regarding how to do traditional school. For starters, the more I continued my semester, the more I let go of the unrealistic/unnecessary pressure to maintain perfect grades. I spent my entire life scrutinizing about great grades because it was what was expected of the spaces I surrounded myself in and also so I can get into grad school, of course. However though many times professors and even recent grads told me that grades are not a measure of your intelligence or your potential, it was, of course, still hard to actually believe that and not let it get to me if I underperformed on an assignment or a test. The moment I began to shift my thinking by now soaking up the knowledge presented to me and absorbing every moment as a learning opportunity, I honestly feel that it strengthened my academic performance, but more importantly, my confidence in my talents and aspirations. Unlearning is a hard thing but a wonderful thing as well, for it allowed me to take this journey as a way to expand my intellectual mind, critical thinking skills, and clinical reasoning in a way that is not necessarily congruent with what I grew up learning. Knowing that there is SO much to learn and how to now utilize this knowledge rather than regurgitating everything that I know for a test (to merely forget it all again) makes the process of being a grad student a much more rewarding one.

Self-awareness – Never have I ever been so in-tune with my own thoughts, emotions, and feelings than during this time. Sometimes I feel like I am way too in my head about everything. There is so much that I have processed and so much more to continue to process as both an observer and an experiencer navigating this chapter of my life. I know that I will be moving into a career where I do have to be very self-aware of my surroundings, the people I encounter, and the environments that I find myself in because everything that I do or say will have a huge impact on the folks around me – whether it be positive or negative. Being self-aware has allowed me to filter out what I cannot accept into my life as well as what I need more of in my life to continue to show up as my best self. I have been more self-aware of my Blackness, my spirituality, my mental health, and my emotional health in how they all influence each other and uplift/hinder one another. This semester has allowed me to see myself more honestly, identify my emotions more, recognize my strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, work towards growth in all areas of my life.

Now, holding space for myself, unlearning and relearning, and self-awareness (ESPECIALLY self-awareness) are all concepts that I have heard about in the past like a broken record but I have kind of just brushed off partly because I felt like I had a great grasp on it all. However, leaping into grad school has taught me that I know nothing AND that I know more than I think that I know (it is an interesting dichotomy). These three particular concepts have been super salient and important for me to continuously work on so that I can be the best student, practitioner, and person that I can be in my future.

Well, there ya have it! A quick glimpse into how I have been adapting internally to grad school. I am now taking the time to soak up every moment of being as lazy as I can be before I am launched back into the thick of it all. Thank you for reading, once again! 🙂

Peace and love,

Irene