“It is a huge privilege to have the opportunity to share a child’s emotional world, to build trust and to support their development,” Hannah, an occupational therapist at Act for Kids said as she explained how her job impacts the lives of vulnerable children.
1. What inspired you to become an occupational therapist?
I was inspired by the opportunity and privilege of being a part of people’s lives when things aren’t going well for them, to offer support and problem solve collaboratively with a wide range of people.
I’ve always been a people person and love the idea of never having a boring day. Everyone is different, so the job always changes! There’s also great variety in the type of work OTs do, all across the lifespan.
2. What are you most passionate about in your role?
Helping children to feel valued, safe and supported regardless of how their trauma experiences have impacted them, their development and their behaviour, is a very important part of my role at Act for Kids.
I’m very passionate about supporting classroom teachers to understand the impact of trauma on a child’s development, their capacity to function in the classroom and their ability to learn. By supporting teachers in this way, they are more equipped with trauma-informed strategies that can positively impact a child’s life. I see this as a sustainable and powerful part of my role, as the teacher spends many more hours with the child than I do!
3. How does your profession help children?
Occupational therapy helps children engage with their daily occupations in a meaningful, positive and productive way. You might say, “Not many kids I know have occupations,” and you’d be right if we were talking about paid jobs! But, by occupations, we mean all the jobs people do every day, not just the ones we’re paid for… we wish! For kids, these jobs include being self-carers who dress themselves and participate in toilet training, learners who engage in class, friends who take turns, family members who follow household routines, and players!
When a child has a delay, difficulty or disability, it can be hard for them to do these everyday jobs. We know that trauma can significantly impact children’s growth, often resulting in delays and difficulties getting through the day. Occupational therapists analyse the child’s abilities, the jobs they need to do and the setting they need to do it in. We work to improve the fit between these three elements so the child can succeed. We might adapt the setting they’re in so it’s more supportive, modify the jobs they need to do, and teach the child skills they need to develop.
For all children, playing is the primary way they learn and grow, and for kids with trauma experiences, playing can be really hard. Teaching kids to play and using play to learn is a big part of OT.
4. Why did you choose to work for Act for Kids?
In 2015, during the third year of my degree, I completed a student placement at Act for Kids. I then volunteered at Act for Kids during my fourth year. Ever since my placement, I had a long term goal of one day working at Act for Kids. Little did I know that within a few months of graduating I’d be part of the Act for Kids team!
The things that attracted me to working at Act for Kids were the values of the organisation, the commitment to supporting the wellbeing of children, the real meaning and importance of the work, and finally, the dedication, skill and compassion of the staff here. My experience of the support and value of this multidisciplinary team made a big impact on my interest in working at Act for Kids.