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For nearly half my life, I have worked with special needs children. From the time I entered higher education, my focus has been on serving their unique needs. Though the path of our lives seems so linear on paper, despite the choices we make, it was only by a distinct set of experiences that I have come to find my feet on the path to Occupational Therapy, and to realize I am exactly where I need to be.
When I was fifteen, I was a babysitter to an 18-month-old boy diagnosed with cerebral palsy and autism. Who could fail to be moved by such conditions? I found that I could think of no greater display of our humanity, than to reaching out to special needs children in our community. Since then, I have brought a focus to my academic and professional interests and work as a behavior specialist in a development center, an associate in a mental hospital, done respite work, and provided pediatric and geriatric massage.
To my mind, the disciplines of Psychology, Massage Therapy reflect the transsystemic nature of OT. My transitions came about through a set of distinct moments in my work that refined my direction. Moreover, my work has always been with special needs children, be it through the XXX Institute, XXX Hospital or in my respite care provider work, work that increased my appreciation and ability to assist the child patient, as well as the family unit.
Occupational Therapy was introduced to me through the Jewish Community of Metro Detroit, where I brought my heritage, academics and experiences to bear working two summers as an inclusion counselor. My direct supervisor was also the supervisor of special needs and quickly determined that I was perfect for the field of OT. It was not until after I earned my BA in Psychology that I would see her wisdom.
It happened in the most unlikely setting, thousands of miles from home. I had been working with a young boy with a traumatic brain injury, Matthew, for two years as a respite therapist, when I was invited by his mother to join them in the Bahamas for an intensive one-week craniosacral treatment, in which Matthew would receive an hour of therapy a day in the water with dolphins. It was here, standing in the water, holding Matthew's arm while the dolphin swam nearby that he turned to me, slowly placed his hand on my cheek, looked into my eyes, smiled and said my name for the first and only time; the world stood still and I caught a glimpse of eternity. Not only was I there for Matthew, but also was able to encourage and help his mother through her journey.
One of the therapists participating in the program in the Bahamas was a very successful OT. I quizzed her mercilessly about her experiences, the use of bodywork and massage and her passion for OT. Occupational Science had everything I was looking for, the chance to make a profound difference using the knowledge and skills I have acquired over the years.
The graduate OT program will bring credence to my research work and look forward to focusing on occupational deprivation, massage and bodywork for children with special needs, international work with refugee populations, and socio-economically depressed inner-city populations, specifically children with special needs. I would also like to focus on the social lines in societies throughout the world based on race and class.
Earning my Master's in OT will enable me to bring a number of my goals and dreams to fruition. Building my exposure in the field through working in a school system or locally with children with special needs, I will be not only providing a service to the community, but also increasing OT awareness. Using my position in the community, I can then address agencies that serve specific underserved and marginalized populations. This body of experiences will enable me to then work internationally with dispossessed populations, increasing awareness worldwide to the importance and relevance of OT.
I bring with me to the student body and graduate OT program a solid academic foundation in Psychology and Massage Therapy/Bodywork/Pediatric Massage coupled with numerous volunteer and professional experiences, as well as research-based work through the Marcus Center. Moreover, I bring my humility and cultural competency, earned through not just living as Jew in the US, but as a minority, my orientation, and in-depth understanding of the ongoing divide between the information have's and have not's, particularly between white and black America. Indeed, my participation in the Michigan Community Scholars Program brought structure and further refinement to my existing grasp of civic participation together with intercultural understanding.
The graduate OT program will help further my understanding of occupational deprivation. This with a greater knowledge and understanding of various cultures and populations will allow me to better serve patients in impoverished communities and children with special needs. My educational and professional experience with special needs children will strongly inform and impact my efficacy as an OT.Thank you for your time and consideration.