On the Path to Occupational Therapy

Because this month is National OT Month, I am planning to share some of the things that helped to set me on a path towards becoming an occupational therapist.  

One early contributing factor to my career choice might possibly have been the fact that I was sent to my room by my parents as a disciplinary measure on a fairly regular basis as a child.  Behind the closed door of my bedroom, with no one to interact with and no toys to play with, I got bored quickly.

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Whenever that happened, I pulled out this edition of Steven Caney’s Play Book and flipped through the pages looking at the many ideas for projects, games, crafts, and other activities that were organized according to the spaces in the house and outdoors where they could be played.  All of the activities call for materials that are typically found around the house, some even in a kids’ bedroom …

Image I spent countless hours pouring over the black-and-white photos that were included along with the 70+ ideas in the Play Book.  There were step-by-step instructions about how to make things like God’s eyes (made from sticks and yarn), musical nails, a spider-web that covered the entire room, flip flops out of an old tire, a hammock out of plastic six-pack binders, and whistles and even a pinball machine out of paper.

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The book had information about how to make a knitting frame, how to create a wig from yarn and a hat from a piece of newspaper, and how to build a dome from paper cups.  The two activities that became my favorites from the book were Building a Kind Animal Trap and Making a Roll-back Coffee Can.  

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Sometimes, as I sat there trying to figure out what I could make either in my room during my “punishment” or elsewhere whenever I was able to get out of there, I would realize that I didn’t have the exact materials on the list of whatever it was that I wanted to create.  When necessary, I would poke through the trash in my room and look under my bed and in my closet to see if I had other materials that might work instead.  Many times, I was able to improvise or to modify the plans in the book and still produce a similar enough result.  

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It was many years later when I learned about the field of occupational therapy and then chose it for a career, but I think spending time alone in my room with nothing to do but study the activities in the Play Book helped to get the ball rolling in that direction.  I still have that book today, and sometimes, either for the sake of nostalgia or to get an idea of something I may want to include in a therapy session with a client, I go back to thumbing through the pages, searching for a project that seems like fun and thinking about how I can use the materials I have on hand to make it.

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