My STEP project with Bridgeway Academy, an early education center for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, included weekly continued service with the AfterCare program and a shadowing opportunity with the Occupational Therapists within the therapy center at the school. This experience provided me with an opportunity to see the impact of therapy on the lives of the students in terms of their regular social interactions, difficulties with their personal goals, and transitioning. This experience also allowed me to see the impact of the application of various therapeutic techniques in order to improve the social problems, behavioral problems, and deficits with fine-motor skills. Volunteering and shadowing within the same setting showed me me how each goal for potential improvement for each child that attends therapy within the school is addressed from both a therapeutic and personal aspect.
This experience impacted my perspective on the client-therapist relationship and showed me how important this relationship is for patient progress. In order for a patient to reach their full potential, it is important for a therapist to develop a relationship to fully understand the patient and help them to develop therapy goals that align with their own future goals, passions, interests. Each patient is different regardless of how similar their diagnosis is to others, and it is important to understand their differences in order to provide the best treatment. Although I fully embraced this experience and am thankful for all of the lessons that it provided, I decided to shadow in other settings with Occupational Therapists simultaneously. This diversity in shadowing settings showed me that I would not necessarily want to work in pediatrics based on my school setting experience and pediatric outpatient setting experience. This is a large change in my understanding of myself and my future with Occupational Therapy. I originally chose Occupational Therapy with the desire to work in pediatrics, so this was an important realization for me as a future medical professional.
There are many aspects of this project that led to these revelations and perceptual changes. Although my volunteering with Bridgeway Academy had been ongoing with Bridgeway Academy for a year, I still believed that there was a drive and a passion within me to work in pediatrics. I have been a babysitter and nanny throughout college, so I knew that I was good with working with that age population. Despite my involvement as a volunteer, I did not fully understand what my involvement in the children’s lives would look like as a future Occupational Therapist.
Shadowing was a completely different experience for me within the Therapy Center at Bridgeway. On my first day I was so shocked that the therapists spent so much time just playing with the kids and not working on any goals or activities. It took me awhile to realize that my first day was each of the children’s first day with the therapist as well. Each therapist had to learn about each individual child’s passions, quirks, and personality in order to develop future goals with the child and their parent. In the past, I knew that the client-therapist relationship was important for treatment. However, I had never actually witnessed the beginning of this relationship, so this was a big takeaway for me.
Each child at Bridgeway is unique, special, and beautiful in their own way, and I am so thankful for all of the lessons that each child taught me. I am thankful for the little moments that are always proven to mean a lot. I am thankful for this entire experience, and I am thankful that this experience taught me more about my passions and skill set as a future Occupational Therapist than I originally thought that it would. My background at Ohio State has been primarily in Psychology, and my experiences at Dodd Rehabilitation Hospital left me more excited for the future than I have ever been. My shadowing at Bridgeway was impactful, but the involvement of neuroscience in stroke patients, spinal cord patients, etc. left me so excited for my future. I decided to include other shadowing experiences this summer at the last minute, but I am so thankful that I did. This little exploration showed me more of what Occupational Therapy has to offer, and it has me looking forward to my future. I loved the various adaptive equipment, therapeutic strategies, patients’ stories, and in-patient setting more than I thought that I would. This project has left me with more of a passion to learn more about Occupational Therapy and a desire to explore all that this field has to offer.
This perspective is very important in my life as an aspiring Occupational Therapist. It is important for me to be open to many different settings and types of therapy. However, it is also important to understand my strengths and find a way to utilize them in order to make me a better future Occupational Therapist. Although I loved my shadowing at Dodd, there may be another setting that would also allow me to utilize my strengths. It is important to have this desire for exploration outside of pediatrics. I was originally stuck in the pediatrics mindset. This project also impacted me as I am applying for graduate schools. These experiences have been transformational, and they have given me material to speak about in interviews. These shadowing and volunteering experiences also helped me to write my personal statement and finish my applications. Despite all of these things, I am most thankful for this experience showing me why I fell in love with Occupational Therapy in the first place. Despite the stress of applications and the unknown future, I am excited, now more than ever, to pursue my passion and dream of becoming an OT.