Celia: The reason I am in OT school
Celia and I spin in circles, shrieking with glee. I eventually let go, overcome with dizziness. I have my arms out for balance as I hesitantly back up against a wall, the room
spinning. She studies me carefully, then grins and imitates me. She puts her arms out andwalks backwards to the wall so she is positioned like me. But she really isn’t dizzy. Her
vestibular system is immature and she could spin all day. Once my dizziness subsides, I turn on her CD player and we begin to dance to one of her favorite singers, Garth Brooks.
We clap our hands and wiggle around and sing loudly. “Callin Baton Rouge….”
I was a volunteer play therapist that worked with Celia, from when she was five-eight
years old. Her father worked at my college, and he had sent an e-mail out to the psych
department asking for people willing to work long-term with Celia. They were hoping to
follow a child-centered play program based on the model “Son-Rise”. I was intrigued as I
really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do yet, but I love children and this sounded really
interesting. Her parents explained to me that Celia had been born with a life-threatening
heart defect, and spent her first days of life in the neonatal ICU. Her heart defect was
corrected, but there were other issues. She also had hip dysplasia and other problems due
to an unidentified genetic syndrome. Physically she was very small for her age, and
several of her fingers were slightly deformed. She also had hypotonia, dyspraxia, sensory
processing disorder, and cognitive, fine motor, and gross motor delays. They were hoping
to have several play therapists who would come weekly and “play” with her, with the intent
and focus on helping her develop more skills.
I read the binder on the Son-Rise program, and then also read the Out-of-Sync Child and
Greenspan’s “The Child with Special Needs”, which has a concept called Floor-Time that was
very helpful. These books helped give me a grasp on what I should be doing with Celia. And
we were off!
Celia was rather underresponsive to the environment and needed a lot of stimulation and
proprioceptive input. She needed a lot of spinning and jumping and dancing and large
moments to help calm her. Anything involving joint compression or firm pressure was also
good. With fine-motor skills, she just got bored or frustrated easily. Her combination of
finger deformities and hypotonia made it extra hard on her. Eventually, I found a magnetic
tin paper doll set that she loved, and she finally started being willing to work with
Her speech was poor and most people could not understand it unless they knew her well. She
didn’t fully close her mouth when speaking due to her low tone and she drooled frequently.
She could not do things like stick her tongue out on command, due to her apraxia.
The thing I loved most about Celia was her infinite joy. She would shriek with glee and run around in circles when she saw me, and she would laugh hysterically at even the silliest joke. That’s not to say she didn’t have her moments, but in general, she was energetic and happy and sweet. I truly loved her (I still do, it’s too bad her family moved away last year).
We worked on things like identifying emotions, the concept of pretend, answering “Why” questions, grading our movements and voices, and more. Every week the sessions were a combination of untrained PT, OT, and speech in one! It was wonderful getting to do whatever we felt like, not having to worry about insurance justifications or IEP goals. Of course, I wished I had more training though.
I had never heard of OT until I started working with her, since she had an OT and I was reading a lot of books that mentioned OT. I had previously wanted to be either a psychologist or efficiency expert. I knew I needed to work with people, that I enjoyed helping people, and it had to be one-on-one, but there were flaws in both psychology and efficiency that made me hesitate to choose it as a career. Through Celia, I discovered OT was a combination of all my strengths.
From there, I did an internship through my college at a pediatric cancer hospital in their rehab department, where I was exposed to OT, PT, and speech. It was a great experience.
Since I choose this path rather late in my college career, I ended up taking a year of prerequisites after I graduated, in order to fulfill the requirements to get into OT school.
So I had 5 years of undergrad instead of the 3 needed to get in, and I’m a little bit older than most of the students in my class, but I feel that’s an advantage in some respects, since it means I have more experience.
I love OT school! And I am passionate about the work OT does. The End.
PS: Thanks Patti, for your pre-emptive OT story!
PS2: Celia’s name/picture was used with permission by her mother