Belonging through Actions: Our Occupational Therapy Program

October is Occupational Therapy Month, and we are excited to take this opportunity to highlight our own occupational therapy (OT) services!

Jenelle Weidner joined us as our occupational therapist in June. Based out of the Cranberry Children’s Centre, her introduction to the youth and families we serve has been a little different than usual due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but then again occupational therapy is all about creativity and adaptability.

Below Jenelle has answered our questions about what occupational therapy is and does, and how it relates to the rest of the services we offer.

How would you describe occupational therapy to someone who doesn’t know what it is?

Occupational therapy is all about encouraging each person’s sense of self and belonging through full participation in actions and tasks. “Occupations” can be as simple as brushing our teeth or as complex as parenting. Every task or activity we do has the potential to provide us with a sense of identity and help us grow.

Why would a child come to see you?

Any person may have difficulty learning new skills.  Children are in a stage of life where learning is their focus. When they experience barriers to learning, it can interfere with their skill development and growth.

I would encourage a referral for OT anytime a child is struggling to participate in daily activities, for example writing, playtime, or family routines.

What kinds of tools or exercises do you use in your practice?

Occupational therapist toolboxes are eclectic!

We use sensory-based tools, such as fidget toys, messy play, noise-reducing headphones, swings, and deep-pressure clothing, as sensory processing is such a big part of how we interact with our world.

Play-based therapy, engaging in a child’s preferred play that requires select skills, is another pillar of intervention, particularly as it can be adapted countless ways to address the goals of that child and family.

What is the current OT practice like at inclusion? How many people come to see you? How long do you work with each child or family?

The OT experience is very different for each family, and depends on the family’s goals. Right now, I am seeing up to four families per day. I work with children aged 0 to eighteen, and how long we end up working together depends on the needs we identify and the goals we set together.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I genuinely love every part of being an occupational therapist. I love that assessment and intervention involves playing and exploring with the little ones, like using blackberry picking to evaluate coordination!

Every family has such a unique story, and it is my job to learn from them to understand their needs. There are a million ways to be creative with occupational therapy, particularly when it is motivated by such colourful, diverse family backgrounds.

What’s your favourite fun fact about our body?

We all have 8 senses. The most recent sense to be added to the list is called interoception, which is our ability to sense our internal organs, and is also linked to sensing our emotional states.

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