Enjoy the day-to-day adventures of an Occupational Therapist in training!

Posts tagged ‘kids’

Perpetual Student Status

Today and yesterday (6/9 and 6/10) were filled with observation and learning! A friend of mine sent me a text yesterday asking how my summer break was going. I giggled to myself and responded, Summer Break? I feel like I’m back in school, but rather than sitting at a desk taking notes and doing homework, I am right in the middle of all the OT action!

Today I found out that I will be working all day, everyday in order to maximize my learning opportunities over the next 6 weeks. I will be assisting with kids at least 3 days a week, taking pictures and videos, and being an extra set of hands. Lara (my boss) wants me to be exposed to as much as possible during my time with her… bring it on! So not only will I be helping out, but I will also be observing others, as well! She is also encouraging me to take notes, ask questions, and make connections as I work each day. I am absolutely overwhelmed by how much support and encouragement she has already given me… and it’s day 2! Since this internship is much different than what I experienced with Dream Riders, I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge base and building my technique arsenal. At Dream Riders, I was primarily working with children who had cognitive/learning/ or emotional disorders rather than motor disorders which is what I am working with at the Jackson Center.

I learned how to assist the kids when they are walking, which was a pretty humbling experience. How crazy is it that I get to be a part of something that, for most of these kids, was unheard of. In other words, I am helping these kids do what some doctors said that they (the children) would probably never accomplish! I can’t wait to practice this technique tomorrow… how cool is that.. I mean seriously?!? I am going to gain knowledge and skills that most people don’t learn until they are well into graduate school!

On a more technical note, I learned, with in 30 minutes of my arrival this morning, the difference between “Low tone and High tone” when talking about muscle. Low tone looks (and feels) floppy, or very flexible… easy to move. High tone refers to stiffness. If a child has high tone he or she is very stiff and difficult to move around. Tone is not,however, the same as strength. Both high and low tone need to be adjusted by physical and occupational therapy in order to give the individual the greatest range of motion possible.  I was able to feel the difference between high and low muscle tone in the kids which helped the definitions of these terms stick in my head. Also, at the Jackson Center, there is so much shop talk being used that it helps me to remember and use new terms appropriately.

Overall, the first 2 days were amazing, tiring, rewarding, and a little stressful.. but I am hoping that the longer I am at the Jackson Center, the more I will feel like a member of the team and begin to take ownership of the information that I am being “fed.”

The Danica Patrick of Farm Vehicles

Let me just say that it felt amazing to be back at the barn after a week off! Country air has never been more needed than it was Monday night! It’s hell week at Columbia College and I’m a little frazzled trying to finish my assignments on time… and then find time to study for my exams. As I’ve said before, DR offers me peace from my hectic school life, and for that I am truly grateful! For those of you who were wondering how my presentation went- it went well (But I’m super glad that it’s over!) I love what I do at DR, so that made it easier to talk about my experience. I can mark that off my bucket list- here’s to numerous more presentations during my academic career!

I actually did something new Monday afternoon. I’ve been wanting to drive the Kabota ( a farm vehicle, like a Gator) since my first day at DR but I never really did anything that was worthy of driving the Kabota. Monday, I got my chance to drive it! I had to pick up some branches that had fallen along the trail riding path and pick up some weeds and tarps that had been pulled out of the ground. Finally, a job big enough for the Kabota. Now, for those of you who don’t know me very well, I’m not the world’s best driver… especially when it comes to driving in reverse. Well, I expertly maneuvered that bad boy backwards and forwards (once I got the hang of driving it, that it!) Just call me the Danica Patrick of Kabota driving!! Finally, after all this time, I got to get behind the wheel- I’d love to say that it was super exciting… but it wasn’t really… I think I’ll stick to my Honda Fit, thanks!  I finished the task unscathed, and the Kabota was scratch free, so that’s always good! I also found out that Lou and AJ might be staying at the DR farm which made me happy! The vet came last week and suggested “Stall rest” to help speed up Lou’s tendon recovery and she gave AJ stomach ulcer medicine in hopes that he would be more calm/comfortable when he has riders on his back. I really hope that they are both able to stay, at least until the fall, so I can give them a proper goodbye!

I worked with Zach again Monday night and he was so happy to be back in the saddle! It makes me happy to see the riders happy; when they have good days that makes my day, too! He was doing a lot more talking than usual which is always welcomed! He makes certain noises when he gets excited/happy and he was making those sounds like crazy! I have really grown to love working with people who have Autism. It is such a fascinating disorder, but I can only imagine how frustrating it ca=n be for both the individual and the caregivers. I was unbelievably proud of Zach Monday night- I love that I have been able to work with him all semester so that I am able to track his progress and have the ability to differentiate between his moods/good days and bad days.  I love when he has good talking days because it makes the rest of the lesson flow much better! I think that Monday was the best day he (and our team of 3 volunteers) have had since the beginning of the year.

I also worked with another rider who has Down Syndrome, named Emma. Emma is an independent rider but she wanted someone to side walk with her since it was her first time riding Molly. Emma handled herself (and Miss Molly) very well. She is a great rider who has a great personality! She was telling me about her birthday coming up and her plans for her birthday party. Apparently, she has not 1 but 20 boyfriends who will all be attending her bowling birthday party… that sounds like a reality TV show in the works to me! The diversity among the riders has really helped me develop my language and actions in ways I didn’t think were possible. Since I work with riders who are nonverbal, semi-verbal, and highly verbal, I get to practice different strategies all in one evening! I know that I am comfortable switching between riders who are very different both in their diagnosis and in their level of abilities.  It is great practice for me-you never want to get too comfortable by working with the same disorder all the time. These experiences are invaluable to me… I finally have some concrete knowledge as to how I might function as an OT!

How Do You Like Them (Horse) Apples?

Yesterday at DR I found myself saying things that I never thought I would say at an internship site…. even though I have a nontraditional internship 🙂 Yesterday I was saying things like:

  • Scooter (the dog) please don’t eat the horse poop!
  • Poke your belly out!
  • Try not to steer your horse into a tree next time.
  • If you bite me, you’ll regret it (said to a horse, not a rider!)
  • Of course you can have different candy.
  • wow… that’s a lot of poop.

Yesterday, like any other day, was filled with chores that needed to be done before the riders got to the farm. I had to rake up hay that had blown out of the hay building (cue allergens) sweep walk ways, much stalls, and get all of the horses ready for the evening’s lessons. Nothing too difficult, just super messy! I was a hot mess by the time the riders got there! I like that the chores I do aren’t long term tasks that take forever. They are easy to accomplish, in my mind, because there is a clear end and I can actually see how much I still have left to do before I cross that task off of my to-do list. Tasks like that make me feel accomplished when I complete them because I get some serious satisfaction when I cross things off of a list! Also,I can see that what I am doing makes a difference at DR.. there is too much stuff to be done around the farm for them to give me meaningless tasks. It’s kinda funny to think about measuring my time at DR with little things like how fast I can get a horse ready for the lessons. It used to take me forever, and I mean forever, to completely get a horse ready for the night’s lessons (curry combed twice, mane and tail brushed, body brushed with soft brush, feet picked, fly sprayed and gear on); now I have it down to 10 minutes flat! Yup, I’m pretty proud of that 🙂

Last night we had an Easter Egg Hunt on horseback! It was a pretty great lesson and all of the riders seemed to enjoy themselves. They decorated paper bags (makeshift Easter baskets) and hunted for candy-filled eggs along the outside of the ring. I was working with a rider named Mary whose family doesn’t celebrate Easter, so we rode around looking for necklaces rather than Easter eggs-just as fun, right?! In all seriousness, her family believes in Jesus, just not the Easter Bunny. I wonder what her mother would have said had she known that instead of Easter Eggs, her daughter was hunting for Mardi Gras beads… just a thought! Anyway, Mary and I still had a good time searching for necklaces. Mary has been diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety disorder, and a mild cognitive disability. She kept saying that she was going to fall off of Molly. However, she was no where near about to fall of f of the horse, so rather than argue with her or try to convince her otherwise, I just reminded her that if she sat tall and strong that she wouldn’t fall off. I’ve never really worked with kids who have ADHD, so last night’s lesson was a new experience for me! I had to make sure that I was thinking ahead so I could keep her on track in order to search for the desired color of necklace and to make sure that she didn’t steer Molly into a tree.  It was challenging to have to keep her focused on so many things- I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to keep track of what all we had to do while steering Molly! We survived the experience though, and she told me that she was vacationing in Myrtle Beach over spring break which is where I live when I’m not at school, so it was fun to talk about what all she was going to do at the beach!

The last rider that I worked with was Majestic Diamond who was also riding Molly. We certainly got to know each other better after this ride! She disclosed all kinds of information to me (i.e. her unfortunately located itch, what PMS is like for her, and other medical facts!) She is 17 and doesn’t have an older sister to talk to about those kinds of things, so I understood why it would make sense to talk about them with me; after all, she puts a lot trust in me as her side-walker. We got to hunt for Easter Eggs (which was way more fun than hunting for necklaces.. but you didn’t hear that from me)! Majestic Diamond has something called a “shunt” which is a port that helps regulate the pressure inside of her skull by draining excess cerebro-spinal fluid. If she bends below the waist, the flow of cerebro-spinal fluid will reverse and literally flood the inside of her skull. I had to keep that in mind while helping her hunt for eggs- I had to retrieve the one’s that were below waist level for her! Also, Majestic Diamond is legally blind and cannot see anything that is further than 2 feet in front of her.. so that aspect made for an interesting Egg Hunt! I had an excuse to participate, which of course made me even more excited!  I found out that she will be getting her GED this summer which is super awesome! I am so proud that she is deciding to finish high school (early!)

All in all, it was another great night! The family who owns and operates DR is going to the national PATH conference this weekend, and the program’s spring break is next week, so if I’m at the farm, it’ll be to organize the DR building, work on administrative stuff and or bathe the horses!

Hours at barn:

1:30-7:00

T minus 6 sessions

I think it dawned on me last night that this is my last month at DR as an intern. I overheard some other volunteers talking about the April schedule and realized that I am only going to be here for 6  more sessions- where did time go?! The end of the semester is rapidly approaching, which means a crap ton of presentations, projects, papers and exams. I’m counting on the stress relief that I receive from being at the barn now more than ever! I have to present about my experience this semester at DR; and when I sit down to plan what I am going to say, I’m at a loss for words. How do I explain the transformation that I have experienced to others when to me it almost seems supernatural (or divine- you pick). How do I explain, without sounding like a simpleton, why I do a victory dance when Lou lets me pick all 4 of his feet? For me, things like this that sound insignificant represent huge milestones in my time at DR. I feel like I’ve learned as much from working with the horses as I have working with the riders.

Horses have the same effect on me as they do on the riders…the horses boost the rider’s confidence. The horses have certainly boosted my confidence and helped me be more assertive with my body language. Is it right to compare skills that I’ve learned while working with horses to skills that I will use in my career working with people? For example- this is really silly, but here it goes: Before my internship at DR, I had an opening deficiency- meaning that snaps,hooks, jar lids, clips, or anything that acts as a fastener rendered me catatonic. Well, let me tell you, everything at the barn has hooks, clasps, or buckles that have to be opened and closed. I swear, I spend more time opening and closing things every day than anything else; everything from saddle buckles, helmet buckles, halter straps, and gate locks. Now, OT’s have to be adept at fastening and unfastening snaps,buckles, etc because we (OT’s) work with braces and other objects that need to be secure. I am 100% cured of my deficiency after the first week at DR.  Although this is a perfectly transferable skill from the farm to the OT realm, will my revelation of the usefulness of this skill be accepted as growth in the academic world when I present about my internship? Oh the things you can think when you have to present what you’ve experienced!

So last night, we played musical stalls on horseback-which is a lot like musical chairs, only much bigger.  That was really fun for me as a side walker- but I had to remember not to be so competitive. This activity helped with steering for the riders and it also helped them think ahead and plan for what was coming up next. I was working with Majestic Diamond (the rider) last night, and she put me in the rail (the fence that surrounds the ring) at least 4 times. We had to work hard on steering and sitting tall and strong. Molly, the horse she was riding, HATES wiggly riders… so I try to remind the rider to sit still. It was a pretty uneventful lesson, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I just had to stay sharp so I did’t find myself squished between the rail and big ole Molly!

Lou has gone from a pain in my side to my sweet boy over the course of this semester. He has helped me re-learn how to take care of a horse. Yesterday, I had some extra chores to do, so I was unable to take care of him at the regular time. He made a huge fuss whenever I would pass his paddock- it was almost like he was reminding me of my responsibilities to him! He’s a hot, silly, mess!   It really breaks my heart to know that when I come back in the fall that he will be gone 😦 However, I am going to enjoy the time I have left with him!

Hours at the barn:

4:30-7pm

Spring Forward… Fall Back!

Spring has arrived at Dream Riders as of yesterday-the air was warm and the flowers were in bloom, but the most telling sign that spring has sprung was the massive amount of hair that was shed yesterday! I swear, I had enough excess horse hair to make a Shetland Pony (or 2!!) Needless to say, I felt like I brought half of the barn with me when I went home last night… so.much.horse.hair!

It was wonderful to fall back into the swing of barn life after my break last week. During Spring break, the barn was always on my mind. Someone would say something, or I would notice something that would remind me of one of the riders. I met this girl named Daisy on my trip to Isle of Palms, SC and I accidentally called her Daisy Lava Girl (the pseudonym of one of the riders). I nearly died of embarrassment, but it warmed my heart to realize just how much this experience has had on me- and it’s only been a month ! Almost everything that I do in my “real life” (life outside DR, that is) seems to relate to what I do at DR, which has to be a good sign, right?!

So….about last night… yes it was wonderful to be back, but there was a TON of excitement that happened. I worked with James again last night. If you’ll recall, James is 4 years old and has Down Syndrome. I’m 99% sure that the extra chromosome makes him extra cute- I just love him! He’s so happy and so very silly!  James seems to love adventure; he’s certainly not shy! He is so small that he doesn’t need to sit in a saddle- which means that his side-walkers (like me) need to pay close attention and hold on to his feet so that he doesn’t lose his balance and fall off the horse. At the end of each lesson, the riders go on a trail ride around the outside of the ring. There are a few fun obstacles throughout the trail that are designed to stimulate some sensory functions… plus, it’s super fun :). One such obstacle is the noodles. Basically, they are foam pool noodles that hang down like the octopus cleaner things in a car wash: same principle, really! Well, Mr. James, being the adrenaline junkie that he is, tipped himself back whilst going through the noodles and proceeded to slide off Malchi… thankfully, he didn’t hit the ground. He was caught long before he hit the ground by the other side walker. WOW- it all happened so fast, Malchi almost ran me over trying to get out of the way(he was doing the right thing), and I watched as the laws of time and space were being bent before my very eyes… in reality, I probably stood there looking like a dead fish with bulging eyes and my mouth hanging open. Little James didn’t shed a tear, or even look sad for that matter! He was smiling and ready to get back on the horse… bravo, James!  I had never experienced anything like that before, and it really is a rare occurrence at DR (thankfully). It just serves as a reminder to always be alert when working with patients-things like this can, and do, happen quickly. Whew- just writing about it makes my heart race… I’m glad that everyone was alright, and that (as a group)we remained calm.

In other, not as exciting news, I am making great progress with Lou! For the first time ever he let me pick (clean) all 4 hooves! Apparently he’s particular about who can mess with his feet, and it’s about time that he let me! I’d be lying if I said I was above a little bribery 😉 I brought him a green apple from my fridge and gave it to him when I first arrived, and then promised him treats if he let me pick all 4 feet without being difficult-success!!! He has been such a trooper while I relearn the ropes of horse care- he probably deserves more apples in the weeks to come for putting up with me!

Dirty, hot, sweaty, and feeling the after effects of adrenaline, I walked to my car smiling because, once again, I have the coolest “job” in the world 🙂

He puts the “Hyper” in Hypertonic

Tonight was a lot of fun! I worked with Max, who I’ve worked with once before. Max is 8 and has hypertonic cerebral palsy (CP).  To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure what condition brought him to DR; he looks and acts just like any other 8 year old boy.   I didn’t realize that there were different types of CP until I read Max’s file. According to http://www.childbirthinjuries.com , hypertonic CP is classified by rigid muscle tone and spastic movements. The CDC has determined that is the most common form of CP- about 80% of all CP diagnoses fall under the hypertonic category.  Max also has a condition known as Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) which makes it difficult for him to say certain words, syllables and/or sounds. This speech difficulty doesn’t stem from facial paralysis. It is caused by poor “planning” by the brain to send the proper signals to the correct body parts involved in speech (lips, tongue, etc.) Max is well aware of what he wants to say, he just slurs his words a bit. Neither condition seems to slow him down at all, especially not tonight! He was extremely hyper.  In no way am I poking fun at his disability in the title of tonight’s blog entry… just so we’re clear! He was talking all about his upcoming trip to Lego Fest, and asking me all kinds of questions just like any other 8 year old boy. He finds it fascinating that I share a name with the main character in one of his favorite books Sammy the Wonder Dachshund. I tried hard not to laugh when he asked if he could call me Sammy the Wonder Dachshund, of  course I said he could… it’s such an awesome nickname! He wasn’t so keen on me calling him Max the Wonder Cowboy, but it’s whatever! He kept me laughing and laughing throughout the lesson! I think my favorite comment that he made tonight was: Which husband do you want to marry? That was met with a laugh and a “That’s a GREAT question, Max.”  The answer to that question is  a blog post for a different day! 🙂

Working with Max tonight reminded me, in a different way, of why I love working with children. Anybody that knows me even a little bit can tell that I am goofy! I love to laugh, and to make others laugh! Kids are like little sponges; they absorb what we, as adults, put out there. I was energetic and silly, and he responded in the same way. That being said, I need to be careful about how I present myself in front of the riders. If I acted as tired as I felt tonight (it’s midterms week!!!) then he would have picked up on that and probably not been excited about learning how to pole bend, or even about being on a horse. Working with kids is a lot like performing on stage. You’ve got to be loud, exaggerate your movements, and keep moving forward-no matter what happens, the show must go on! I really can’t even describe how excited I am to make a career out of what I am doing now!! It makes me so happy to know that I can be a positive force in a child’s life. Gah! I’m getting goose bumps!

I’m leaving for spring break on Sunday, which means that I won’t be at the barn at all next week! I think the staff and the other volunteers are going to miss me.. and if not, they faked it really well! I feel like a part of the DR family, and everyone there takes time to thank me for being there and being willing to help do whatever. I don’t think they realize the impact that the farm has had on my life, and it has only been a month! Also, for you faithful readers, and followers, thank YOU so much for reading my posts each week! I have to do this to get credit for my internship, but it means a lot to me that I can share my experience with y’all. I have to write, but you don’t have to read it… so thanks.. really 🙂

Hours at the Barn:

Monday 2-24-14- 1:45pm-7:00pm

Thursday 2-27-14- 4:45-7:00pm

Please tell me that was dirt: A tale about optimism

Everybody and their sister has heard the classic optimism vs pessimism example of the glass being half full or half empty. Last night, while cleaning Lou’s feet, I came up with a “horse themed” optimism vs. pessimism anecdote that goes like this: Was that dirt or poop? Let me tell y’all the traumatic incident that led to my revelation. So like I said, I was picking Lou’s feet and this idiot (me) left her mouth open while crud was flying around my face from Lou’s feet… I’m sure you can guess what happened next- a nice chunk of dirt, horse poop, or both flew into my mouth. I would love to say that I handled the situation with grace, but grace isn’t very funny now is it? Now that the back story has been established, allow me to elaborate on my anecdote! Having either dirt or horse poo in your mouth is disgusting- but which would be worse to accidentally ingest?  My vote is poop, but to each his own! Even though dirt tastes awful, it could have been so much worse!  So when you’re face with a situation where both outcomes are crappy, try to stay optimistic and pick the lesser of two nasty’s to focus on!

Another life lesson  that can be  gathered from this experience, other than the obvious “don’t pick a horse’s feet with your mouth open”, is to never get too comfortable. I have picked Lou’s feet every Monday and Thursday for the last month, and just as I was getting used to doing it, this happened! Last night at DR I was feeling really confident and comfortable when I got there-finally, all of the “chores” on the board looked familiar to me and I was able to do them all without needing clarification. When the riders got there, I found out that I was not going to be side walking with Zach, but rather a rider who usually comes on Thursday and was making up a lesson yesterday. Just when I thought I was good to go, I got thrown for a loop! I had to adapt myself to the new rider, James, a 4 year old boy with Down Syndrome. James has no verbal skills and is working on his fine motor skills, like lifting a plastic diving ring off a hook and placing it onto another pole. This is the opposite of what I’m used to on Mondays. Zach needs help with his vocal skills and very little help with his motor skills. I’m not going to lie, I would glance over and check on Zach every now and them, just to make sure that he was doing okay! Changing riders was helpful because I am still learning how to adapt to different patients. James is the first child with Down Syndrome that I have ever worked with, and I had to be more energetic than usual in order to keep his attention!  I have to be able to call on different skills at different times and be able to think on my feet when I have never worked with someone who has a particular disorder before!

Last night I got some really great feedback from Miss Corky, the assistant riding instructor,  told me that I was a really easy going volunteer and that she liked working with me! That comment made me feel great because I work hard to represent myself and Columbia College well. I also love the work that I do for them, so it was nice to see that she thinks that I’m doing a good job! I’m not gonna let this get to my head… who knows what could happen Thursday, but I can promise you that I’m not going to open my mouth while I’m taking care of Lou-just in case!