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

Posts tagged ‘special needs’

Zero to Sixty

There are certain perks to being a “planner”. You think you know where you’re going and what you’re going to be doing, you feel organized and accomplished, and people are always jealous of your commitment and drive when it comes to getting things done! However, this planner (me) is impatient… that’s why I’m a planner- waiting to see what happens sounds like a death sentence. I have been planning a new internship since early January of this year. ALLLLLLLLLLL of this time I have been waiting: waiting to find out if I was accepted, waiting to figure out where I was living, waiting to find out when I would be working, waiting, waiting, waiting, and more waiting. Finally, June 6th arrived and it was time for me to leave Myrtle Beach and head to Indiana. Holy cow… all of the sudden, my life went from waiting and counting down the days to driving up here, unpacking, catching up with old friends, and then starting my new internship tomorrow. I swear, my whole life seems to go from zero to sixty; waiting to full motion in a matter of hours.Never-the-less, here I am..back home again in Indiana for the next 6 weeks.

I’m not entirely sure what exactly I will be doing at this internship, but I know that I will have the opportunity to observe, interact with patients, and assist with projects that the Jackson Center has going on! The format of this internship is a summer camp type of deal with outings to different places around Indy every Wednesday. That’s all I know for now- but after my Dream Rider internship, I’m fairly confident that I can handle anything that the Jackson Center Crew can (and will) throw my way! I was amazed at how fun it was to blog about my experience last semester, so I’m going to give it a whirl again and blog about this internship! More details to come, but at the moment, I am exhausted from traveling and adjusting to my new surroundings. I love catching up with people and all but I’ve been passed around like the common cold for the past 24 hours.. what can I say, everybody wants to see me! 

 

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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

Hoof prints on the heart

“Horses change lives. They give young people confidence and self esteem. They provide peace and tranquility to troubled souls; they give us hope”

-Toni Robinson

It amazes me how quickly I have become attached to the horses, the riders, the staff/volunteers, and the general atmosphere of the farm. Tomorrow marks my 3 month anniversary with DR, and I think I love it more everyday. I really can’t believe the impact that it has had on my life already…I know that internships are supposed to help you gain experience and reaffirm your commitment to your chosen career path, but I never imagined that I would feel so strongly about an internship as I do with this one!

It was sort of weird today- Miss Jennifer and Miss Corky wanted to know if I was coming back to volunteer in the fall when school started up again, of course I said I would come back if they’d have me. I honestly think that I have to continue to volunteer here so that I maintain my sanity. As I’ve said before, I find the barn to be extremely soothing. They both said that they were so glad that I was interning with them-and they thanked me for my willingness to help out. It was nice for them to thank me, sometimes I feel like they are helping me way more than I am helping them.

We have 2 new horses at the farm!! Mindy, a rescue, and Charlie, a halflinger! They enthusiastically greeted me as I drove up the driveway, so naturally I stopped and chatted with them. Both horses will be used in the DR program;however, they both need some training in order to become full fledged therapy horses. I’m looking forward to seeing their progress, just like I saw Mollie progress within the program. Not to be pessimistic (or philosophical, you choose), but in keeping with the balance of nature, no good news is without bad news. I found out today that Mindy and Charlie are Lou and AJ’s replacement. I also found out that Lou’s leg injury isn’t healing, in fact, he’s not improving very much at all. This news, especially about Lou, broke my heart. I’ve really gotten attached to him over the past few months. After all, I spend the most time with him, and I’ve been trying to nurse him back to health.  *Aside* Please don’t think that Dream Riders just throws horses away when they are no longer of use to the program… that’s not it at all!! Lou will most likely go to a retirement home for horses, yes they have those, where he will live out his natural days without stress. AJ will be going to Miss Jennifer’s cousin’s farm to chill and be ridden by riders who have riding knowledge, so hopefully he’ll be happy! I want what is best for both Lou and AJ, but I am really going to miss Lou’s company and his ornery nature. I guess this is good practice for when I have to say goodbye to patients with whom I’ve developed friendships with. I’m going to squeeze in all the Lou time that I can during his remain days at Dream Riders (however long that might be!)

Today I was reunited with the old team-Me ,Zach, Mollie, and Amanda (Zach’s other side walker.)  Zach apparently missed me because he was super vocal today and laughing.. which he hadn’t done since I switched riders. He also was saying “walk” clearly on the first try, which has been a struggle since my first day-apparently he hasn’t been saying it much since I’ve been “away”. I had really missed working with him. He is such a calm rider, and he never ceases to amaze me each week with something new that he shows me he can do or say. Autism is a funny disorder- it really doesn’t make sense sometimes in the way that it manifests in different people and different forms within the same person. Example: Zach knows all of his colors,numbers, farm animals, and shapes, but he has trouble saying the word “walk” clearly. He can say other things just fine, but walk gives him trouble. It’s really bizarre.  He’s inspired me to write my abnormal psychology research paper on Autism so that I can learn more about it, and hopefully be able to interact with him in a more effective way!

Monday’s always leave me exhausted, so I’m going to sign off! I’ll post again soon, not Thursday though because I won’t be at the farm. Thanks for reading!

Hours at Barn:

2:00 pm-7pm

 

These boots were made for leading

Yesterday was a special kind of Saturday- I actually got to go to the barn! We had to give 2 make up lessons. You see, the riders families pay for the lesson season in advance, almost how you would pay college tuition. So it is important that the riders are getting as many lessons as their parents paid for. The weather in South Carolina has been super strange so far in 2014, and we can have lessons if the weather is bad! That’s why we’ve had to do more Saturday lessons than normal this “season.”  You won’t hear me complaining- it was a B-E-A-utiful day at Dream Riders!!

I was a little surprised to see my name listed as a leader twice on the all knowing clipboard that holds our assignments. I was even more surprised to learn that I would be leading a horse named AJ, who can be a little cranky when it’s time to got to work.  I’ve lead AJ once before, and that didn’t go as well as I had imagined… but, one of the characteristics of being an intern is doing what you’re told without asking why. So that’s what I did! Let me tell you a little bit about Mr. AJ  so you know what I was dealing with. AJ is a 20 year old Halfilinger gelding.  We’re the same age.. which is kinda neat! AJ has been a therapy horse for a realllly long time and is  ready for retirement (mentally, at least.) That being said, it’s understandable that he gets crabby about working. He doesn’t do anything to endanger the riders when he gets like this, but he’ll occasionally just stop walking- and the leader has to coax/drag him  in order for him to “walk on!” I was nervous to lead again- it can be stressful enough to lead a horse that doesn’t stop all the time, and it’s really nerve wracking to know that the horse that you’re leading has been acting the fool recently!

I actually did a much better jo b at leading yesterday, which made me proud of myself! Coincidentally, we did a barrel pattern yesterday that we  did the last time I lead, so I had an advantage of knowing where I was supposed to be leading AJ. It’s amazing what one can accomplish when one isn’t given a choice! I didn’t want to be intimidated or afraid to lead just because my last experience didn’t go as I planned. I’m glad that I stepped up and just did it! Leading a horse in the therapy setting requires the leader to pay attention to everything: the horse, the rider, the side walkers, the positions of the other horses and riders, and the instructor… all while keeping the horse in check (or in my case-in motion!) It’s like multitasking time 1,274!! The ability to multitask is an important skill to have as an OT because you always have to be aware of the patient and your surroundings. Right now, it stresses me out a little because I’m still new, and I guess I feel like that makes me more prone to mistakes. I have no doubt that I will become more comfortable with leading as I have more and more opportunities to practice it,though.

I was thankful that the DR staff had faith in me to lead AJ not once but twice yesterday. I was much more confident while leading in the last lesson. I think AJ and I established a good leader/horse relationship. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with his shenanigans, and he could tell- so he didn’t stop as often!  Miss Jennifer, the head riding instructor, said that she wanted me to lead yesterday because I am about a foot taller than the woman who usually leads AJ. Therefore, I have a more dominating presence because I am taller. I overheard Miss Jennifer tell someone that AJ was walking so much nicer for me… which was great to hear! I’m glad that I am able to work in any position that is available during lessons. That makes me feel that I can be of greater use to the DR staff.

There’s a quote that I like that says “everything seems impossible until it’s done.” I definitely feel that this quote is applicable to my DR experience so far. I remember sitting in the barn during the training  session almost 2 months ago thinking “what am I getting myself into.” But now, I just show up at the barn and do my thing with little to no help from anyone else. I’m sure that leading will have the same result… as I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m not very patient with myself. I expect perfection on the first try, which doesn’t happen that often! This internship has really helped me become more patient and forgiving with myself since I am virtually new to the whole therapeutic riding process!

Just FYI for you loyal readers, this coming week is the DR Spring Break. I think I’m only going to the barn for 1 day instead of 2. I’ll try to post pics this week since I’ll have some time off on Monday and Thursday nights 🙂

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 🙂