Career Story: Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Job Title: Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Type of Company: I work part-time for an early intervention program and part-time for a public school system, both in suburban Boston.

Education: BA, Psychology, Brown University •• MS, Occupational Therapy, Tufts University

Previous Experience: I have worked in Early Intervention (with children aged 0-3) for over 10 years. I've also worked in the public schools with children in pre-school through fifth grade.

Job Tasks: I work with children who have a variety of disabilities, physical, cognitive and emotional. Through early intervention, I visit children and families in their homes. My job is to help promote each child's development and function (particularly in the areas of fine motor, sensory processing, and oral motor/feeding) and to facilitate family and caregiver's abilities to care for and support the children. Through the public schools, I provide evaluations and therapeutic treatment to help school-aged children with problems in the areas of fine motor, visual perceptual, and sensory processing skills. Both jobs also require collaboration with other professionals -- therapists, teachers, daycare providers -- and family members. In doing so, I am called upon to demonstrate strong written and verbal communication skills on a daily basis.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part is helping to make a difference in the life of a child, and being able to watch as each child progresses. The hardest part is dealing with the stress, hurt, and anger that parents and families of children who are having problems can display.

Job Tips: In order to be an occupational therapist you need a specialized degree, along with clinical internship experience. Because there are so many fields that OTs can work in, it's important to expose yourself to as many of those as might interest you while you are enrolled in an OT program. As a newly graduating OT, seek out a position where there will be strong clinical support and you will not be "on your own." I think that over 80% of what you need to know in most OT jobs you learn in the field, and not in school.

Additional Thoughts: Being an OT has many benefits. The pay is good, there are many different settings in which to find work (hospital, school, nursing home, home care program), there is good flexibility in working hours, and in all settings there is the feeling of helping someone in need.

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