Although I love being an pediatric occupational therapist, I can remember the nerve-racking first day of walking on to my first job as an OT. There is definitely a learning curve for learning the ropes of the OT profession. Here are my top five things I’d wish I had known as a new therapist:
Pinterest is a great source for therapy treatment ideas
Sometimes I can get ‘stuck in a rut’ with treatment planning. Pinterest is a great free resource for providing engaging child-approved activities for therapy. Pinterest has helped me become more creative in treatment planning. You can easily find activities for children 3 months - 18 years old as well as ways to grade the activity to meet the needs of the child. Pinterest also has a variety of resources that are seasonal, or activities based off of the child’s favorite television show or favorite toy.
Treatment plan for a child’s next therapy session immediately after their current therapy session
So many times after a child’s treatment session is finished, my brain is full of ideas of ways to increase the difficulty of a certain task or ways that I could have transitioned the child a bit better. I have found that it is much easier to brainstorm treatment planning ideas immediately after a child’s therapy session than the night before. Treatment planning at the beginning of the week or the night before a child’s session can seem overwhelming. Plus if the child is sick one week, you won’t have to remember a treatment session from 2 weeks ago and you’ll be ready to for the child’s therapy session the next week.
Just like all of us, a child can have good days and bad days or even time a of day when they perform their best. When treatment planning, I always try to create a ‘back-up’ plan just in case the child is having one of those bad days or is on the brink of a meltdown. Other times, a child could be having a stellar day and they are functioning at their best. Try to plan on grading the task up or down so that the child feels successful and will look forward to coming to therapy next week.
Involve the parent/guardian in the therapy session
A one hour therapy session can only do so much good. While involving the parent/guardian in the therapy session can equip them with play ideas and recommendation to try with the child through out the week. The therapist and the parent/guardian can partner together to address the needs of the child. Children who are practicing a skill in their home environment throughout out the week, are able to met their goals at a faster rate. Parents and guardians who participate in therapy are able to assist with the transfer of learned skills from therapy to their every day life.
Find the “Just Right Challenge”
Kids have an innate desire to grow and learn new skills. Once a child beings to learn a new skill, he/she wants to practice that new skill all of the time. Such a scissor skills: as soon as a child learns to cut with scissors, they will want to cut everything from couch cushions to their own hair! However, children can become so frustrated at home and in therapy when they are asked to complete a task, but they just can’t seem to master it. Just like us, children want to be successful and love the feeling of accomplishing a hard task. It's always a good rule of thumb to modify a specific skill so that the child feels successful and so that the child will enjoy practicing that skill at home. For example, if you want a child to learn how to string beads, the child could first learn to place large beads onto a stationary wooden dowel, and then place beads onto a pipe cleaner, and once that is mastered the child could place beads on to a shoe string.
Just remember: ask more experienced OTs for help, and go with your gut! It's going to be a long time before you feel like you 'know more than you don't', so don't get too frustrated with yourself. You are going to be great!