job

Guest Post! What I wish I knew as a new grad Occupational Therapist!

TOPIC:  What I wish I knew….

If you have stumbled across this blog post, you are probably a newly graduated occupational therapist! Congratulations on completing your degree! So …what now?

If you are anything like I was, when you graduate, you are SO VERY READY to enter the workforce after many years of juggling studying and working casual jobs. As such, the prospect of starting your OT career is both equal parts exciting and nerve-racking! 

The broad nature of Occupational Therapy can make it difficult to know how and where to start when you graduate. It’s likely, from university placements and possibly other work experiences, you’ll have some idea of your interest area in OT. But, depending on how your university decides your placements, where you live and the unique experiences you may have had leading up to graduating, you may not yet have gained experience in the area you think you might want to work in. This can make it feel like getting your ‘ideal’ first job in your area of interest, is going to be hard.

Below are a few pieces of general advice from us OTs who’ve been around the block.

When looking for your first job…

  • Apply broadly: Yes, this may seem like generic and obvious advice but really – apply as broadly as you can. Be open to different job opportunities that may be available to you when you graduate, even if, on face value, they might not seem like your “ideal job”(hint hint, nudge nudge, ideal jobs do not exist!)
  • Be creative: If you’re concerned about gaining experience in your preferred field, think if there’s another way you can get this outside of your first job? I.e. volunteering, joining an interest group, doing relevant CPD/free webinars. Don’t forget to use your university as a resource as well.
  • Just go for it!: If you aren’t sure exactly where you want to work, you’ve got nothing to lose! Jump right in and try something. Chances are you won’t know if you enjoy something until you try it.

Yay – your first job!

  • Look for a team environment: A new graduate may find it easier, and have more support, if their first OT role is within a team environment and where they are not the sole OT. This allows you opportunity to shadow and learn from others, ask questions often and learn about the roles of other health professionals. The sorts of environments you’ll most likely find such roles include hospital or community teams in the public/private sector, not-for-profit organisations and sizeable private practices.
  • Ask about supervision and training in your interview: As a new graduate, ensure you ask potential employers about supervision and training. Good questions might include:
    • Is there a structured process as part of your new graduate training? i.e. periods of shadowing/obvsertion, increased supervision or training to complete. This might be particularly relevant if the role is not advertised as a graduate role.
    • How often will you have supervision and who will this be by (i.e. by an OT or another health professional?).
    • And for private companies or smaller businesses – has the workplace had new graduates before?
  • These questions will give you an idea if the workplace knows know how to support a new professional and the unique learning journey they experience.  For many grads, starting their first professional job coincides with their first time living out of ‘home’ and/or moving to a new place, and away from traditional supports like family and friends. With this in mind, it’s important you know your new workplace will be a supportive environment.

It should also be noted…

  • Whilst we’ve just said team environments are likely a supportive way to start your OT career, working as a sole practitioner as a new grad has its benefits as well, especially in the long-term. Whilst those first months will likely be a steep learning curve, the skills you will acquire in sole OT work, such as working autonomously, time management, and self-help skills are invaluable and will help you to no end in your career. Consider what type of person you are and how a role such as this would challenge, but also reward you. If you find yourself needing some extra help, have a look at…
    • OT Australia Mentoring 
    • Plethora of Facebook pages for Paediatric OTs/ interest groups around the world.
    • …or write a comment to use below! We’ll point you in the right direction.

During your first job (and forever after)…

  • Keep track of your CPD and be organised from the get-go: No doubt, like many of us, you’ll have no trouble at all attending all your CPD when you start your OT career, however… like many of us.. you might not be the best at documenting it. Believe us when we say – save yourself a meltdown in 5, 10, 20 years time and start a folder/excel spreadsheet early – and keep it updated. You never know when you might be audited by your professional body. Check your CPD documenting obligations here…
    • Australia: https://www.occupationaltherapyboard.gov.au/Registration-Standards/Continuing-professional-development.aspx
    • UK: https://www.hcpc-uk.org/cpd/

Other quasi-inspirational stuff about OT…

  • OT is a truly global career and we have a professional body to prove it – The World Federation of Occupational Therapy. Our international existence opens up endless possibilities for you in your career. If you’re interested in working internationally, you’ve picked well!
  • Despite this, you will still find yourself explaining the OT role everywhere. you. go. If it’s not to patients/clients, it will likely be to non-OT colleagues, and if it’s not them, it’s at every dinner party for the rest of your life. Take on the challenge (no doubt, as you did at Uni) and be an OT advocate about our great profession.
  • Any fixed ideas about what your career will look like, throw them out the window – it will look like something else and that’s exciting. You’ll probably start trying an area OT when you graduate and realise, you do or don’t like it as much as you thought, and this leads you onto roles and things you didn’t even know existed.

Good luck and happy OT-ing!




siblings

Guest Post – Top 10 Tips for Adult Siblings of those with Additional Needs

TOPIC:

Top 10 Tips For Special Needs Siblings (from a sibling!)

WHAT:

When we are children, there can be a variety of emotions regarding our siblings. Maybe you were jealous because they got to do all the fun stuff such as horseback riding and playing in a really cool looking gym?

Maybesiblings there were times that the sibling did something embarrassing in front of your friends or peers? Maybe there were just feelings of anxiety or loneliness because you were the only sibling at your school? These are all normal emotions of a child sibling but as we age, there are new roles that emerge when we become adults and those feelings are set aside.

We now become advocates and sometimes guardians over our siblings. Here is a top 10 list of things to help start conversations with parents and caregivers as the sibling enters adulthood.

Cheryl’s TOP 10 TIPS:

1. Learn to communicate:

We have to get our parents to communicate what the wants/needs are for our sibling. There are also professionals in our siblings lives and it’s incredibly helpful to know the language of the professional whether it be a psychologist, therapists, day program or job trainers, etc. The needs of the sibling should be clearly listed on an Individualized Service Plan or some other document. If the sibling is staying at home with the aging parent, ask why and what is the plan.

communication

2. Support Networks:

Growing up I never had a support network. I was the only sibling in the town. I typically end up in parent support groups because there really isn’t many sibling supports. There are a few organizations like the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities that hold conferences for siblings. There is also the Family Cafe in Orlando Florida that you will meet other siblings. I started asking parents if they had other children that I could talk to. This is so important. Times will be stressful. You will be sandwiched between taking care of an aging parent, special needs sibling, and your own family.

3. Have A Plan:

Have a plan! Have a plan! Have a plan! Start talking about the wishes for everyone involved prior to an emergency. This is not just for the sibling but your parents as well. Know where legal documents are located, where everyone is going to live, know facilities in the area if needed and get on waiting lists, etc. No one wants to have this conversation and our parents don’t think they will ever age but it’s much easier on you the sibling if there is one. From experience, when the plan is not inplace it is chaos. Can you afford to leave your family and job for 2 months to sort these items out?

4. Financial Needs:

These will vary from state to state (and country to country) but at this point most US states have special needs trust accounts as well as ABLE accounts. Money can be placed in these accounts and will not go against your siblings benefits. For more information, I recommend finding a special needs law attorney and they will let you know what is available in your state/ country.

5. Guardianship/Power of Attorney/Health Care Proxy:

Know what legal documents you need. For your parents, make sure you know who the power of attorney and health care proxy is. If these documents have not been generated, make sure you do so. Wills are also needed. You can not will a human so your sibling oversight can not be written it. Financial needs can be as mentioned in number 4 but not who will take care of the siblings or where they go. This is where guardianship if needed and POA and HCP need to be done prior to parents passing.

6. Know your own limits:

If you can not handle or want legal responsibility for your sibling, that is fine. Just make sure this is communicated. There is nothing wrong with knowing your limits. There are professional guardians if needed. You can also review our blog post about when to ask for help here. 

7. Connection:

You may have to take on a new role. You aren’t a brother or sister anymore if you take on guardianship of your sibling. This is all legal responsibility. You may have to establish a different connection with your sibling and that’s ok.

8. Take care of your own mental health:

This falls under self care. When the time comes, you will be juggling a lot. It really is a much easier transition when you have a plan and take on the responsibilities when it’s not an emergency. Seek someone to talk to and a professional if needed. There is no shame in that.

mental health

9. Service Above Self:

Just remember it’s not about you. If parents shut down and don’t want to talk – it’s not about you. If you sibling begins to display behaviors, it’s not about you and they just want to communicate. This is the hardest one to remember.

10. You still have a life:

When everything is said and done, you still have your life. You may have a family or responsibilities to an employer. Once again, this is why it is helpful when a plan is in place.

FURTHER INFO:

Check out our siblings page here.

In Australia: Contact Siblings Australia 

In the US: Contact The Sibling Support Project

In the UK: Contact Sibs UK

siblings




Parents Day 2019 – Top 5 Apps for new Mums and Dads!!

Guest Post

This month we have a guest post!! Farrah is a writer, millennial, and single mother of two – one living daughter, and one son not. She had both children while attending university, and is now studying a Masters degree. She frankly details life, pregnancy and parenting after the loss of a child, on her blog and Instagram. Today she has provided her top app picks for Mums and Dad for us!

You can find her website here!


The fact of the matter is that technology has very much taken over our lives. If there’s not an app for it, I grumble. I don’t remember the last time I used my bank card other than out of sheer necessity when the shop hasn’t caught up with the times. Rail cards? They’re digital now. Everything is done in the realms of the web these days.

So, as with the rest of life: Motherhood? There’s an app for that!

Here are my top 5 Apps for new Mums and Dads!


Tinder isn’t very mum friendly. That’s just a fact. And okay, Bumble has a friend’s side, but nobody truly understands the need to go to a cafe with a soft play and quietly pretend that that child isn’t yours like another mum does.

Nobody else can understand the organised chaos that parenting is, like another mum. You will find that when you go through particular life events your friends who have not yet reached that point will start to slip away. Married? Single friends tend to fall a little by the wayside, the fault of all parties. So check it out! Made by women for women, I met one of my good mum friends on it.


apps new mums dads

Kidadl / Hoop – these two apps are quite similar, and you’d be forgiven for having heard of Hoop and not of Kidadl.

What Kidadl has that Hoop has not, though, is a section on free stuff, and who doesn’t love free stuff? So if you’re lacking in things to do with your offspring, whether they’re 6 weeks or 6 years, you’ll find something on either of these apps. They both pretty much have the same content when it comes to activities.


apps new mums dads

It’s supposed to help babies sleep, but frankly it helps ME sleep. Can’t go wrong with that. There’s various different sounds from Air Conditioner to Frogs At Night (these two are right next to each other and there has been times where I’ve accidentally pressed “next” and in my half-asleep daze wondered where the frogs were). There’s a free version and a paid version.


A week by week breakdown  of baby’s leaps in the first year. Handy at explaining those grouchy behaviours when it seems like nothing you do is working. It’s based on due date and generally fits the bill, of course it’s not one size fits all but nothing ever is.


apps new for mums and dads

Feed Baby – the paid version. Everything to do with your baby in one app. Weight, feeds, immunisations, baths, medicines, the lot. Very useful in the first months where having an accurate record of feeds and nappies was like the holy grail. Same with medicines – only 4 doses in 24 hours? When was the last Calpol? Forgotten are the days of “when did I last…..the baby?”.  I used it religiously for around six months, tracking every nappy, feed, and sleep.


Apps a great way to help us with everything from parenting to play; what are your favourite apps?? Check out our top apps here!

Farrah @SomethingRosier




Guest Post! Over Coming Adversity – The Complex World of Autism and PANS

E’s Journey: The Complex World of Autism and PANS

E was diagnosed with autism at 2.5 years. E developed a complex Motor Movement Disorder and Tourette like symptons at 5 years. Intellectual disability followed.

My Journey:

When at high school many years ago, I always remember an English Assessment being “Overcoming Adversity”. At the time I never knew the impact this very deep theme would have on me.

Age 5

Around age of 5 we noticed Enosh was tripping over more often.

We were noticing some increase in aggressive behaviours when Enosh would develop a virus. He would swear more, his anxiety would grow and he was more clumsy than usual.  Enosh would then get over the virus and within 5-6 weeks he would return to his Autism baseline. I would question myself “Are we overreacting as parents?”

I started to tract data and filming Enosh when he was sick, (as further documentation for the doctors’s).  Enosh developed a movement disorder at 5 years of age. These included chorea-like movements, as well as tics, ataxia and tremor/s. He was hospitalised but with no real answers. Enosh’s condition would wax and wane. As a result of this waxing and waning, making a formal diagnosis was difficult. Enosh had a relapse when he was 8 years old and he looked like he was having as stroke. We rushed him to hospital. The Doctors had no idea what was wrong as MRI presented normal.

From this point on, I decided to do more research and discovered the condition PANS. (Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome)

March 2015

Enosh was presenting with neuropsychiatric symptoms and increased movements. We then did something that was probably goes against various health policies. We drove straight from Rockhampton to Brisbane (620 kilometres/ 8 hours) and turned up at Lady Cilento Childrens Hospital Emergency Department. Enosh was examined and I expressed my concerns that I believed Enosh had PANS. They took my concerns very seriously.  Enosh was hospitalised and further testing was completed, though they couldn’t validate my suspected diagnosis. Enosh was diagnosed with Complex Motor Movement Disorder, Tourette’s, and again Autism.

Within 6 weeks of discharge, I was not convinced with this diagnosis. I was still very concerned and pushed for a cognitive assessment to be completed on Enosh. His IQ was presenting very low. An IQ assessment confirmed extremely low range. I started again to tract all his school work and could see the cognitive decline. Enosh was losing memory. Enosh has always had very high thyroid antibodies. They were now sitting at 1500. Levels should be 5. I asked my GP to order bloods every 3mth. She agreed.  My theory of Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome was now very obvious and clear to me. I just needed some concrete evidence.

I have a wonderful medical Professor knowing my every move. He never doubted me and encouraged me to keep tracking.  The more I researched the more confident I became in presenting my case. Our Professor also had been watching Enosh closely and agreed he was not the same child he had meet 4 years ago on an outreach clinic to Rockhampton.

June 2016

The Professor suggested we see a world leader in autoimmune disease and the brain. However, one does not refer interstate unless necessary. The only issues was this Specialist was in Sydney; 1400km away.  In June 2016 we made the long 4 day drive to Sydney as Enosh’s anxiety was too high and he would not board a plane.

families

Within 30mins of consulting, the Neurology team believed in me. Further testing had to be completed which included a lumbar punch.

Within 6 weeks we had the answer. They were able to trace neopetriens double the level in his spinal fluid. This is a marker for inflammation in the brian.

I felt great relief that my years of research were going help Enosh’s future. Having said that we have a long way to go. Enosh commenced aggressive treatment within a week after seeing the neurology team in Sydney. Enosh has now had 10 massive steroid pulses to try slow his regression. He is also having IVIG infusions every 30 days, and more recenctly commenced mycophenolate (anti-rejection / immune modulating medication )  This treatment will be ongoing.

The amazing part of the journey is that Enosh is now contributing towards Research in Children with Autism. Some children with Autism have an immune system that is dysregulated.

I will do my best to continue to represent Autism / PANS.

I am one of those fortunate people who knows that I go home knowing have I made a difference in my community through Advocating for my child.

To parents and carers. Never give up.

The best reward is having 2 boys with Autism.

I have overcome Adversity.

Thanking you.


You can follow Sonia’s Journey here

You can find helpful information oh families, schooling and sibling support by clicking on their respective links.




GUEST POST: What is Occupational Therapy?

TOPIC:

“So…what is Occupational Therapy?”Occupational Therapy

WHAT:

Don’t worry if you find yourself asking this question when you first meet an Occupational Therapist (or even several times afterwards!).

Believe me – we understand! Our job title can be hard to understand from our name alone.

Let us provide some clarity…

Occupational Therapy is an allied healthcare profession that focuses on supporting people to participate in their “occupations” at times when these are challenging or not possible, such as through an injury, condition, disability or an undiagnosed problem. For us as Occupational Thearpists (or OTs), the focus is less on what the diagnosis is, but on how it impacts someone’s participation in occupations that are meaningful to them.

As OTs, we see occupation as everything a person

  • wants to do (e.g. ride a bicycle)
  • needs to do, (e.g. eat, sleep, get dressed), or
  • has to do (e.g. go to work)

You’ll find OTs in a number of different settings including hospitals, community centers, schools, private clinics and healthcare-related, not-for-profit organisations.

Whilst the role of an OT can look different in different settings and when working with different populations, the core of Occupational Therapy remains the same – supporting occupational participation!

For the purposes of Look Hear, we’ll be focusing on the role of OTs working with children in the community, meaning the child is not needing the specialist care of a hospital. If we think about the occupations of children in the community, these include:

  • Self-care skills; toileting, washing, dressing, brushing teeth
  • Student skills: writing, attention in classroom, organization
  • Play skills: pretend play, playing video games, riding a bicycle, using musical instrument

…just to name a few! Think about all the things your child does during the day from the second they wake up, until they go to sleep– these are their occupations!

HOW:

Occupational Therapists can support a child’s participation in an occupation in a few different ways. They can:

  • change or adapt something about the child as a person (e.g. teaching/developing a skill, like the steps to riding a bike, or tolerating a the noisy hairdryer at the shopping centre)
  • modify or change something about their environment (e.g. equipment to help them in the bathroom)
  • change the way they do the task (e.g. tie their shoelaces a different way)

Following an initial meeting and assessment with the child and their parent/caregivers, an OT will then work with the child and their family in supporting them to achieve their goals. Occupational Therapy intervention may look different depending on the:

  • specific difficulties a child has, and challenges they are experiencing with their occupations as a result,
  • the specific approach used by the therapist themselves, and
  • the service the therapy is accessed through, such as public or private services.

Further information:

How do I find an OT?

 Australia

Occupational Therapy Australia

  • The best way to find out how an OT can help you and obtain a referral under Medicare, speak to your GP.
  • To find a private practice OT, use the private practice directory on the Occupational Therapy Australia website here.
  • To find an OT in your local area via the National Health Services Directory here:

United Kingdom

Royal College of Occupational Therapists here.

Finding an Occupational Therapist

  • Talk to your GP about contacting an occupational therapist locally, through the NHS.
  • Use the online directory on the Royal College of Occupational Therapists website or Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), including independent therapists who work outside of the NHS.

Check out out Occupational Therapy Page here.




Guest Post – Working in Rural and Remote Queensland

This month, in honour of the SARRAH Conference 2018 which is focused this year on ‘Changing Landscapes, Changing Lives’, we have a Question and Answer Interview with Myles Chadwick, Psychologist, working in rural and remote Queensland. 

rural and remote practice

Hi Myles, can you tell us a bit about yourself? (E.g. where you work, how long you have lived there etc).

Hi, my name is Myles. I am a General Psychologist working in the rural town of Emerald, QLD. I have been living and working here for nearly 3 years. Previous to this, I lived and worked in Mount Isa, QLD for almost 2 years before moving here. I mainly work with under-privileged groups under funding to provide free treatment to the community and have done so since I started out as a provisional psychologist in 2013.

Why is working in a rural area rewarding?

For me, working in rural areas affords you opportunities that may not be granted within city limits. I find that there are a significant lack of services in rural locations, which means two things if you choose to work in these areas:

  1. Often, you will be exposed to a wide variety of cases which, in cities, would often be shifted to another clinician when they are slightly outside the clinician’s comfort zone. This means that you are forced to constantly expand your learning through CPD and be aware of your limitations, as the specialist is a minimum 3 hour drive away.
  2. Unfortunately, the stigma associated with mental health is strong in rural areas. This may sound like a negative, but it gives you the opportunity to truly break the cycle, to have that realisation of how normal it is to struggle in a client’s eyes. I find those are the moments that truly make me feel that I am doing the right job for me.

Why is working in a rural area challenging?

As I have said in the previous question, a lot of the time you are one of a handful of clinicians in your geographical area, which means that if you cannot see a client due to scope of practice or ethical reasons, people expect justification. In small communities, there is the importance of your name (everyone from GPs to the local mothers groups may speak about you) and as such, you are always vigilant of your practice (which is a good thing). There is a strong emphasis on networking as you need to know what services are where (and they need to know you) to provide the best client care you can. 

What would you tell your younger self about moving to a rural area?

Find a process that works for you!!! The big thing about being in a rural area is that, most of the time, processes and procedures are still being developed. I made it my goal to be a little bit more technically savvy, which has allowed me to refine my note taking (sometimes the most arduous of tasks) to become more efficient. I also have a small drawer set on my desk with readily available resources (based on what my practice favours, everyone is different) rather than having to trawl through folders or the internet to find them.

What supports do you use as a clinician working in a small community?

All my supervisors have been in different towns, which has always made direct supervisory support difficult. However, there are always passionate and knowledgeable professionals in your community. The day I began to expand my support and supervisory team from only Psychologists to include Occupational Therapists, Solicitors/Legal staff, Speech and Language Therapists, Social Workers and Administration Officers was the day I truly noticed how much there was for me to learn!

Why would you encourage clinicians to work in a rural and remote environment?

I would always recommend people try some time out in a rural setting, however the biggest hint I can give is KNOW YOURSELF! There will be times where you feel isolated, especially if you come from a close knit group of family and friends in a city (like me). However, the experience that you can get “out bush” is priceless and the time is what you make of it. Some people have called it a “sink or swim” environment, but I consider it a strong grounding experience where you see the limits of the system and decide whether you will be the change you want to see in the community.

What type of team do you work in? What about this works/ doesn’t work?

I currently work in a team with Psychologists only, however I have worked in teams that have involved Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists, Social Workers, Podiatrists, Dieticians, Exercise Physiologists, Physiotherapists, Doctors and Diabetes Educators. Working in multi-disciplinary teams can be great as you start to get a more defined view of what holistic care can do for a client. However, my advice would be – always know where your role fits within a team. I find that the main breakdown of these teams can be when each profession starts assuming the role of the other without consulting the professional in the field. Be humbled by the work of others, not assured that you could do it without the appropriate training.

Thank you Myles for giving us some insight into working in rural and remote Queensland!!




Guest Post! How to make a schedule for a child with Autism

Today we have a guest post from Meg Proctor, an occupational therapist and autism specialist; focusing on schedule creation. Check her out www.learnplaythrive.com and sign up for her mailing list, or follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/MegProctorOT for more help with schedules and other daily routines.

Schedules:

If you’ve ever tried to make a schedule for a child with autism, you may have started out strong and then suddenly had lots of questions. Should I use pictures? Words? What should my child actually do with the schedule? What happens when it needs to change?

This infographic walks you through some of the questions you can ask your self, as you individualise a schedule for your child’s learning style. I always recommend that families make the first draft “quick and dirty” in case you need to make changes. For most of us, once you laminate everything and make it pretty it’s hard to want to make changes.

Making a schedule can be a trial and error process. But once you make it, try teaching it to your child over the course of a few weeks and see what happens! If it works for them, you should see transitions start to get easier, and daily life may develop a new, relaxed rhythm.

Infographic:

Check out our blog post that builds on Meg’s ingorgraphic about Why Therapists want me to use visuals at home here.

For a range of free visuals check out our page here. 




Guest Post! Adapting Social Thinking – ISAAC Conference 2018

Kim will be presenting at the ISAAC Conference on the Gold Coast later this year.

“I was so excited to be offered the chance to speak at the next ISAAC Conference on the Gold Coast. The conference is for people who use and/or work with alternative and augmentative communication (AAC). AAC includes such methods as symbols, signs and speaking devices. When the conference is in the UK, I  usually attend and when I saw this conference was in Australia I jumped at the chance.

I love the innovative work coming out of Australia particularly in relation to PODD and I wanted to hear speakers from around the world. I will be presenting my work on adapting a methodology called Social Thinking for people using AAC.

Social Thinking is a fantastic resource and I wanted to use it with my caseload of students who are non verbal or minimally verbal. It is a cognitive-thinking approach so I wanted to see if I could adapt it without losing it’s unique essence.

The conference’s focus this year is ‘Access All Areas’ so I thought it would be ideal to present my work. I’m currently in the process of collating my work to date and liaising with Dr Pam Crooke at Social Thinking HQ so that I’m ready to present in July. Not long to go now so watch this space. I will be tweeting while I’m there and will keep everyone posted.”

The conference will be held on the Gold Coast this year from the 21-26 July 2018.

speech language pathology

Further Information:

ISSAC Conference

Kim Mears – TherapyThread

Social Thinking

Look Hear – Further Information:

Speech Pathology Page

Social Skills Page 

Kim and Tara work together at Whole Child Therapy in London.