By Jessica Gremaud, Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant at Miriam School
My journey to become a Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant was not a short road traveled. Growing up with two uncles who had severe and multiple disabilities provided me with a magnitude of experiences that began to pave the way for how I would see my future. I would also later encounter a personal experience as a teenager that greatly impacted my outlook on life. It was during this time that I was introduced to the possibility of something other than a special education teacher that I might want to be “when I grow up.”
Fast forward, after college and after deciding not to utilize my training in the classroom as a special educator, I continued to work in the elementary school setting for several years but in a different component of the school day. The memory of the therapies that I received from the injuries sustained during my teen years still had me wondering. I always knew that I found great joy in helping people do what they thought wasn’t possible, it simply took me a couple tries before I found that I enjoyed it best through occupational therapy. I decided to go back to school. I was fortunate enough to complete my Level II Fieldwork at Miriam School, even more fortunate to get a phone call during the next summer, and 10 years later, here I still remain.
Working in the Occupational Therapy Department at Miriam School is exciting, fulfilling, and I never experience a dull day. While my groups with the children remain consistent – Sensory, Crossing Midline, Hand Therapy, P.E./Endurance, Cursive/Print, and improving overall gross motor skill development – no two days are ever identical, and no two children ever do the same activity in an identical manner.
I’m a parent, and I know what it is like to be able to reflect back on my own children’s lives over the months or years and realize how much they have developed, how much easier a certain task might have gotten that really shouldn’t have been difficult at all, but to my child it was the hardest thing in the world. My point is changes like these don’t happen overnight. They don’t happen in a week, or in one month. It takes time. Sometimes we don’t even notice what huge progress our students are making until we take a giant step back, slow down and observe. I see children at Miriam who, for example, can hardly keep their bodies regulated long enough to be able to stay in the classroom for more than 20 or so minutes at a time, needing a plethora of sensory breaks during the day, either scheduled time with a therapist or simply breaks as needed designated by the teacher. After months of getting the proper sensory input to their bodies, these same children are better able to function within the classroom without being an added disruption to themselves or other children. Once the students begin to feel more comfortable and in control within their own bodies, it is at this time that they are also often able to begin displaying better fine and gross motor development, as well as appearing more regulated.
It is so nice when any progress of this sort occurs, big or small, and I can show the kiddos how happy I am for them. Our children come to school each day, most already worried that something is not going to go as planned, yet they continue to try their best. The faculty and staff at Miriam School are what helps to make the program what it is, but our students are the shining stars.