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

Posts tagged ‘therapy’

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! 



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:












Great Responsibility?

Confession: I am a thinker. Scratch that… I am an over thinker. I’ve spent the last few days reflecting (cough over thinking cough) about what happened on Monday night at DR. In Monday night’s post, I just relived the experience without much thought to what it meant for me to have had that experience. So sit back and enjoy the product of an overactive mind :). 

This is going to sound silly, but when James fell of the horse (let’s just call it “the incident”), the level of responsibility that I have really hit me. You never really think that those “here’s what you do if…” situations that you learn about in training will ever happen to you.  “The incident” made me realize that I will have to be prepared for anything and everything while on the job as an OT, and even now as a DR volunteer. I know that situations such as “the incident” are rare, but they do happen. I sincerely hope that there are courses in grad school about crisis management-sign me up for all of those please! Both people and horses can be unpredictable. Then you add  disabilities on top of that and you come out with a situation where, in reality, anything can happen. A rider with Autism could go into sensory overload and have a melt down. Conceptually, I realize this. It’s hard to imagine it actually happening to me… and it’s weird to think that it did happen, scary to think that it could happen again. 

I felt guilty after it happened; could I have done more and/or should I have done more? If so, then what could I have done? What else was there for me to do but jump out of the way, stricken with dead-fish syndrome. I guess it’s human nature to assume you’d be a hero in a crisis situation- or at least do something. After all, I was the oldest person in that team..even though the other 2 young ladies have been working with DR for a long time and they’ve had more experience with patients, I still felt like as the oldest, I should have been able to do more. Can you say first born mentality?! Was it my fault? Was I holding onto little James’ ankle as tightly as I normally do? I guess the answer here is that there is no answer. Crap happens. Luckily, the girl whose side he fell on was ready to catch him, and no one was hurt. 

Another scary thought is that James can’t talk… he wasn’t able to communicate that something wasn’t right, or that he was losing his balance. He simply just slid off the horse. I’d venture a guess that a good number of OT patients do not possess the ability to verbalize when something doesn’t feel right, or that they feel a seizure coming (for example). Even if they can, will they tell you in time for you to do something about it. I know the career field that I have chosen isn’t going to be glamorous most days, and I’m sure that there are times when I’l be scared and unsure. I’m glad, but not glad, that this happened to me and not someone else. Of course, I would never want any rider to fall off a horse, that would be cruel! But I am glad that this served as a reminder that some scary stuff is going to happen. 

I’d be a liar if I said that I wasn’t nervous to go back to the  barn tomorrow. I’m hoping that I’ve learned to be more calm during “crisis” situations like this one. I don’t want to forget this experience, but I don’t want it to hinder my work. In other words, I don’t want to shy away from doing my job because I’m fearful that this sort of thing might happen again! 

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!



Patience: Maybe she’s born with it… or not!

 I guess you could say that I have a patient heart, but an impatient head. In other words, when someone is talking my ear off about things that have absolutely nothing to do with me, in my head I’m begging them to finish their story and praying that they don’t start another one; but instead, I just smile and try my hardest to listen and to display pleasant facial expression. In this case, my heart won out… I didn’t make a scene. Since I have those annoyed feelings, I think that it is a huge injustice to people who actually are patient to label myself as a patient person. I mean I want to give myself some credit here, I don’t strangle people who waste time with nonsense either. So that’s where I’m at- floating somewhere between Mother Theresa and a moderate politician in our current governmental gridlock . Stupid analogy? Probably, but you catch my drift!  🙂 

Yesterday was a very exciting day! I think we might have found out why Zach was having such a hard time saying “walk” and not acting as excited as he has in the past (so I was told.) The young lady who usually leads Molly (the horse) wasn’t able to make lessons last night, so we had to use a different leader. Our new leader walked at a much slower pace which, in turn, made Molly walk slower as well. When Molly speeds up her gait, her body feels much different to the rider- it’d almost an overwhelming experience to feel her back muscles ripple over and over and over with each step. I think that Zach was getting too overwhelmed by the sensations he felt when Molly walked fast. Last night,with the slower walk, Zach was saying “walk” loud and clear on the first try almost every time! I was thrilled to have seen that progress. I was also amazed at difference that changing the horses gait made in his demeanor.  This experience helped me realize how much patience it takes to work with people who have special needs. On the outside, it may seem silly to get excited over someone saying “walk” but I know how much effort it took over the past 4 Mondays to get to this point. I am also learning that progress is, more often than not, is going to come in baby steps in this line of work. 

Last night, I also got a quick lesson in being patient with myself. In the last lesson of the evening, we were short one leader… who has 2 hands and volunteered herself? THIS GIRL! I was way more nervous to lead AJ (the Horse) than I am when I have to help out his rider. It is much more difficult than it looks. The rider kept making him stop when it wasn’t time to stop yet, so that always makes leading horses more interesting! I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to experience that part of the lesson, but I think I’ll be okay if I stick with being a side walker for now! Working with animals ,who can sense frustration and fear, really helps keep those feelings in check. If I’m feeling insecure the horse will feel the same way, which could lead to trouble! getting frustrated with myself during the lesson because I knew that I had no idea what I was doing… but I was trying! I need to work on cutting myself some slack; it was, after all, my first time doing that particular job! 

Nobody ever said that patience wasn’t a learned virtue! 😉 

Healing Stories

In his book Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, author Mathew Sanford describes healing stories as stories/phrases/sayings/memories that help us cope with difficult situations that arise in our lives. I’d like to take Mr. Sanford’s concept of healing stories and add one more component: healing stories not only help us move forward, but the remind us of why we are moving forward! Everybody has a healing story, probably more than one if you ask them. I keep a wall full of healing stories, in the form of  inspirational quotes, in front of my desk so that when I’m daydreaming I end up looking at encouraging words that help me finish up the seemingly endless reading assignments. Well, today, I am proud to say that I found a few healing stories at Dream Rider’s today!

Have you ever just had a week that would never end? Well, that sums up my week last week-it was just one thing after another. Today, I was practically chomping at the bit (seriously, no pun intended) to get to the barn. It was so hard to stay focused when I knew that in a few short hours I would be away from campus, away from homework, and oh darn, just out of the reach of the nearest cell tower! I found out today that I find menial (yet important) tasks like cleaning water troughs, filling water buckets, and using a leaf blower to clean the walk ways extremely therapeutic! Usually, menial tasks drive me crazy- but I feel like at DR everything that I do serves a purpose. AND, most importantly, it gives my mind a break!   I am relieved to find that my internship is proving to be a haven for me to escape to; something that I can devote 100% of my attention to. While I’m there, nothing else matters. I feel like, in time, this will become a healing story for me… something that I can reflect on when I reach my destination of becoming an Occupational Therapist and know that this early experience prepared me for my career!

Why did I spend so much time explaining healing stories, you ask…. here’s why! I worked with Zach again today (if you’ll recall Zach has Autism) and I couldn’t help but imagine the healing stories that he has. What keeps him and his family going when Autism throws a curve ball? Does he know that he will be my one of my healing stories that will remind me why I need  to keep going to pursue my dreams of becoming an OT even when school gets challenging? Today, for the first time, I saw Zach willingly make eye contact with someone other than his mom… that somebody was me. Almost as if he was asking for reassurance that he could in fact say loud and clear “WALK” to tell the horse to go on, which is difficult for him.  He looked me right in the eye as he told me what color the foam hearts that we used in today’s lesson were… he did so very clearly I might add. I’ll never truly know why Zach made eye contact with me today- it could have been so I would shut up and stop asking him to say “walk” for the millionth time in 45 minutes. But I don’t care because today, I was reminded that this is what I want to do with my life. I want to work with kids who have special needs and to help them do what others think is impossible for “someone like them.” Again, I may be looking way too deep into the eye contact thing, but I know that for children who have Autism, making eye contact can be a huge cause of stress for them. So hopefully that was progress.

In closing, there’s a saying that says “to find one’s calling, one must follow bliss”, I can assure you that today in the riding ring I found bliss. Bliss in my confidence levels, which the head riding instructor noticed that they were improving,and bliss in Zach for giving me something to work with today! So I guess, here’s to the many healing stories that I hope to gain from this semester at Dream Riders.