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Getting kids off to a good start

By Josh Jennings

Children's development can be a rewarding area for occupational therapists, writes Josh Jennings.

Occupational therapist Kate Bohan provides therapy to young people who have a broad spectrum of developmental differences. One outcome she recalls being involved with happened while she was working at a child inpatient mental health ward in Canada. The boy she was completing therapy with had been referred to the ward to address his behavioural issues at school and his refusal of school. He also refused to attend the ward's on-site classroom and barely spoke to staff and children.

Bohan was involved in making the decision that the boy could potentially be more emotionally settled for class if he started the day taking part in sports. So she and the boy began to play basketball every morning.

After one week, Bohan says, the boy began attending the ward classroom for short periods and gradually extended his participation until he was attending full class sessions. Longer term, Bohan says, the boy was able to return to school.

"To watch this boy achieve a significant success against great personal adversity, including learning differences and emotional vulnerability, and one which will affect his everyday functioning ... is extremely satisfying."

Bohan is a paediatric occupational therapist at Sensational Kids Integrated Child Therapy. It's her responsibility to enable young people (aged one-18) to increase their confidence and skills in day-to-day tasks and activities such as school work, play and self-care.

Bohan typically takes up to six 50-minute therapy sessions a day, writes up case notes detailing every session and liaises with teachers, parents and health professionals.

She says she sees children with various diagnoses including development delays, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder and Asperger syndrome.

One of the reasons she enjoys working with children and adolescents is that childhood is such a formative stage in development.

Bohan completed a bachelor of health science (occupational therapy) at Charles Sturt University in 2003. Since then, her diverse professional experience includes paediatric OT work in a range of environments, senior OT work in a multidisciplinary team, program co-ordination for adults with mental health difficulties and intellectual disabilities, supervising other OT and healthcare writing.

She says one of her career highlights is the job-related travel experiences she's had. She spent a year in Ireland and time in Canada. "Working abroad ... taught me a great deal about different cultures, ideas, beliefs, healthcare priorities, religion and healthcare approaches."

Bohan is completing a one-year infant massage facilitation training program. She says she intends to continue to be a paediatric OT for the foreseeable future.

"I am constantly learning new things and being challenged within this role," she says. 

Published: 07 October 2012

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