I made the decision to attend graduate school to become an occupational therapist when I realized my passion is to help others. I was unsure what path my life was going to take me, but becoming an occupational therapist gave me the opportunity to help others become independent, while engaging in their meaningful daily occupations. Life as an occupational therapy student has been very challenging and rewarding. My limits mentally and emotionally have been tested throughout my educational journey, but it has only made me a stronger individual and a more prepared occupational therapist. I learned all the theories and science behind different diagnoses, conditions, and behind the intervention choices that occupational therapists have access to.
Now that I am in my level II fieldwork experience, I can apply all the book knowledge that I have learned over the past two years and then apply it to real life patient’s needs. Before my first day of fieldwork, I was extremely nervous. I had concerns of not knowing all the “right” answers nor what treatments to have the patient participate in, in order to have them fully succeed. I am learning how to be more creative and offer my patients the “just right challenge” during treatment sessions and home programming. Having fun, playing, and helping the children achieve their therapeutic goals is what being a pediatric occupational therapist is all about. I continue to become more aware of how the profession allows me to be creative, help individuals throughout all aspects of their lives, and have everyday be different. This profession is not redundant at all!
Throughout this experience, I have begun to look at children differently and see their behaviors as something greater than what is in front of me. When I see a child screaming or throwing themselves on the floor, it may not because they are just “bad children”. The child may be seeking deep pressure input in order to regulate their sensory systems or may be extremely tired or have a pain that they are not able to articulate to their caregiver. When children have difficulty zippering a jacket, it may be because their pincer grasp is not refined, or their fine motor musculature is weak. They may require extra help to make them stronger and more confident in their abilities. Having a child become independent in play, school performance, and dressing gives them the opportunity to experience new things and helps their self-esteem grow. This experience has humbled me because I was blind to some of the difficult environmental situations and socioeconomic constraints that some of my patients have dealt with. Having a supportive family can really make a positive difference in a child’s therapeutic gains. The relationships I have built with the children that I have worked with has been extremely rewarding and when I see a child reach their therapeutic goal, it makes this profession even more special. I have been able to experience different cultures and children with different abilities and needs and they are all special in their own way. I cannot wait to continue my level II fieldwork experience and become a licensed occupational therapist. I know choosing this profession was the right decision to help me grow in all aspects of my thinking and life.
-Kristi Pannone, OTS
Sacred Heart University, MSOT 2020