Thursday, January 22, 2015

OT Student Corner | Applying to graduate school

I receive a lot of emails from prospective OT students about what they can do strengthen their application for graduate programs in occupational therapy. Since it's been a decade since I applied to graduate school ( did that happen?), I don't really consider myself to be an expert in this area, as I'm sure some things have changed since I applied (like this thing called OTCAS). With that said, I'll share a few general tips and then I'll send you off to someone who is much more up to date on graduate school applications than I am.

Some general tips for applying to graduate school in occupational therapy:

  • Observe, observe, observe. I believe this is still a requirement for OT school applications, but even if it's not, it's definitely good practice. It helps solidify that you actually want to be an OT as well as better understand exactly what OTs do. Observe as many OTs in action as you can. Don't limit yourself to just the practice area that you think you want to work in. Believe me, that will change several times as you make your way through school. Observe school OTs, hospital based OTs, hand therapists, etc. Anyone you can make a connection with and will allow you to observe them. I recommend going through your state OT association to locate an OT to observe.
  • Volunteer. Do volunteer work with a population that you are interested in working with in the future. This could be seniors at retirement home, children with disabilities, veterans, etc. Volunteer work is also a good place to get letters of recommendations, which leads me to...
  • Letters of Recommendation. You will definitely need letters of recommendation for you graduate school application. This is something you don't want to leave until the last minute, so think about who could be potential letter writers for you. Previous employers, supervisors at volunteer positions, and instructors are good places to start.
  • Meet with a guidance counselor. If you are currently completing your undergraduate degree, it is a good idea to meet with a guidance counselor at your school to make sure you are on track to meet all of the prerequisites that will be required for entry into OT school.

Now, for some advice from someone who has recently applied to OT graduate school:


First of all, if you are a prospective OT student, I highly recommend that you follow the blog, Gotta Be OT. Lauren is the author of Gotta Be OT and she is currently in the trenches of grad school and doing a great job of documenting her journey. Lauren has a series on her blog called, Gotta Get Into Grad School. It is comprehensive and will probably answer most of your questions. Here are links to all of the posts in the series so far:

Part 1: All of the Best Personal Essays Start with a Good MEAL
Part 2: References and Recommendations
Part 3: Planning, Composing and Finalizing Your OT School Graduate Essays
Part 4: OTCAS - A General Overview
Part 5: OTCAS & Academics
Part 6: Gotta Have a Great Interview

**And a bonus post from Lauren: Choosing an OT Graduate Program

OT Student Corner is where I answer questions about the field of occupational therapy that I’ve received from students and prospective students. Have a question you’d like to see answered? Leave a comment below or send me an email at [AbbyPediatricOT {at} gmail {dot} com] and I’ll try to answer it in an upcoming post!
For more OT Student Corner posts, click here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Apps for OTs | Tiny Tastes

Today I am so excited to be participating in a blog hop and sharing with you a cool, new app I recently discovered. Tiny Tastes app is essentially a timer that encourages kids to try new foods.

Created by Emily Garber, a pediatric nutritionist, Tiny Tastes uses a picture of your child's food, along with  encouragement from Tiny the kangaroo and the opportunity to earn coins, to teach kids to try new foods.

The coins can be used to buy items from the Tiny Store, such as a new bowl or spoon for Tiny to eat with.

Tiny Tastes doesn't just help kids try new foods, it also helps kids drink, with a variety of cup choices available. I think this could be a great tool for transitioning kids off of the bottle, or for encouraging a child to use a straw.

This is a cute app with a fun reward system that feeding therapists and parents alike may find beneficial for their child. As an occupational therapist, I think this app could be a nice supplement to a child's feeding therapy program, or a nice way for parents to encourage their child to try new foods outside of feeding therapy sessions.

Ways to use Tiny Tastes app:

  • Encourage children to try new foods
  • Encourage children to eat or drink more quickly
  • Transition off of the bottle
  • Help children drink from a different type of cup
For more ways on how the Tiny Tastes app can be used in therapy, check out the informational PDFs on the Tiny Tastes website.

The only challenge that you might run into with this app is preventing the child from tapping the screen themselves and giving themselves credit for eating, when maybe they didn't actually eat their food. A difficult thing to get around with how tech-savvy kids are these days :) I would recommend trying to keep the iPad within the child's sight, but not within their reach.

App Information:

Name of App: Tiny Tastes
Publisher: Little Turtle
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch; Requires iOS 8.0 or later
Price: Free!

Tiny Tastes is also available for Android!

*Disclosure: All writing and opinions are my own. Information was correct at the time of publication, but is subject to change, so please confirm prior to downloading. This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How to Rotate Toys in 5 Simple Steps

Today I am so excited to be writing for the blog series Happy New Year, Healthy Kids hosted by the lovely ladies at The Inspired Treehouse. This month, 20 expert bloggers are sharing their tips for raising happy, healthy kids and I am honored to be a part of this group of talented bloggers!

With the holidays behind us, do you find your house overflowing with new toys? Or worse, is your house overflowing with new toys, but your kids are not interested in playing with them? Are you already hearing, "I'm boooored" coming from your kids? If so, it might be time to try out a toy rotation! I promise, it's easier than it sounds.

Photo credit: Wendy Copley via Flickr; text added

As an occupational therapist, I strongly believe in the benefits of play for children to develop and grow. So let's do our best this year to help our children thrive in their play! Toy rotation is one way to keep play fresh and fun. Here are five simple steps to implement a toy rotation with your kids:

Step 1: Clear out the clutter. Get rid of broken toys or toys that are missing parts or pieces.

Step 2: Get rid of toys that are not developmentally appropriate. If your child is a toddler or preschooler and you still have baby toys out, it's time to get rid of those baby toys!

Step 3: Sort toys into categories:
  • Moving toys - These are the toys that get kids moving and use gross motor skills, like balls, push toys, and ride-on toys.
  • Fine motor toys - These are the toys that get kids using their hands (and their brains!). Puzzles, Lego blocks, Mr. Potato Head, board games, and lacing beads, to name a few!
  • Pretend play toys - These are the toys that encourage use of imagination and help develop social-emotional skills, such as dress-up clothes, dolls or stuffed animals, kitchen sets, cars.
  • Timeless or favorite toys - These are the toys that your kids never get bored of, or you want them to be available at all times. These might include, books, crayons and paper, doll house or play kitchen.

Step 4: Create sets of toys. Now you're going to choose 2-4 toys from each category (moving, fine motor, pretend play), for a total of approximately 10 toys. If that doesn't seem like much, don't worry! Kids can get overwhelmed with choices and will do better with fewer options.

Step 5: Put out one set of toys at a time. This is where the fun comes in! Put out one set of toys for your kids at a time. Place all of the other sets in the garage, basement, closet, etc. Somewhere out of sight! Rotate in a new set of toys every 2-3 weeks and your kids will have a renewed interest in their toys they've had all along!

Photo Credit: Kim Love via Flickr

Disclosure: Some links throughout are affiliate links for your convenience. Thanks for supporting this blog!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Moving forward | Goals for 2015

The end of the year is always a reflective time of year. Last week I put together a post of my "greatest hits" of 2014. It was so much fun to go back through my blog posts to see which posts readers were most interested in. It also got me thinking about where I want to go this next year in terms of blog posts, as well as other OT-related goals. 

Blog Goals for 2015:

  • Focus on quality over quantity. I tend to be a bit inconsistent with my blog posts. I'll be on consistent for a month or two, and then I completely disappear for a month (or more!). I hope by focusing on quality over quantity, I can produce consistently (although maybe not as frequently as I sometimes do).
  • Revive my OT Student Corner series. I receive a lot of questions from OT students, but I rarely get around to answering individual emails. I really want to revive this series of answering student questions, since it seems like students and prospective students seem to have similar questions that could be easily answered in a series of posts.
  • Do more Behind the Scenes interviews. I personally love putting this series together. Seriously, it's my favorite. I love collaborating with other occupational therapists and I love to learn more about the process other OTs have gone through to do really cool and inspiring things in their careers.
  • Share more of my thoughts on the OT profession in Workplace Wednesday posts. There are other bloggers out there who do a fantastic job of sharing activities for children, so I tend to leave those types of posts to them. I prefer to blog about occupational therapy and issues affecting the profession, even if these aren't the most popular posts on pinterest. Look for more Workplace Wednesday posts in this upcoming year! If there's a topic you'd like to hear about, feel free to let me know.

Social Media Goals for 2015:

I know, blogging is a form of social media, but I'm creating a second category of goals for "other" social media. I started using Twitter and Instagram a bit more this year, and I would like to continue to grow these avenues of sharing information.

  • Use Twitter to share articles and blog posts that grab my attention. I have a tendency to save articles that I read and want to share, and then never get around to sharing them. To solve this problem, I've been trying to share these articles on Twitter as soon as I read them.
  • Engage in more "conversations" on Twitter. I'm not going to lie, Twitter moves a bit too quickly for me, but I do like how it can be used to engage in quick "conversations" with therapists all over the country and world. This year I'd like to use Twitter to engage in more of these "conversations."
  • Post one photo per week on Instagram. I love Instagram! I've been using Instagram for years, and just started a blog account this year. I think a quick photo now and then can provide such an insight into what life as a pediatric occupational therapist looks like, and hope to share more of my day to day through Instagram this year. With my upcoming move, my Instagram account will probably be a bit quiet, but I hope to be more active once I get settled in.

Career Goals for 2015:

With a cross country move coming up in just a few weeks, I'm keeping it simple with the career goals this year. This will be my third cross country move in just three years, and if I've learned anything throughout all of this (other than I'm so grateful OTs are in demand everywhere), it's that moving is a major life stressor and so is starting a new job.

  • Find a new job. Fairly self explanatory. Moving across the country means I need to find a new job when I get there. I love my current job and am sad to say goodbye to my co-workers and the families I work with, but the prospect of a brand new job is always exciting, too.
  • Be kind to myself. As I embark on my third cross country move in less than three years, I've learned that I need to be kind to myself during the transition. Starting a new job is always a challenge, even if it's in a familiar practice setting. It still entails learning a new system of paperwork, meeting new co-workers and learning the office politics, and of course, learning the needs of a whole new set of kiddos. As I navigate that transition this year, I'm going to be kind to myself as I settle in. I tend to have very high expectations for myself, but the first 6-12 months of a new job is always just about settling in.
  • Attend AOTA Annual Conference in Nashville. I attended the AOTA conference for the first time in 2014 and I loved the experience. I'm really hoping to go back this year, but I'll have to see how everything shakes out with the upcoming move and new job.
  • Read more journal articles. I'll admit it, I always read my OT Practice magazine from AOTA, but my AJOT journals tend to get pushed to the side. This year, I'd like to read at least one article per month. Maybe to hold myself accountable I'll share my progress here on the blog!

P.S. Did you know that I'm the Forum Moderator for the AOTA Feeding, Eating and Swallowing SIS forum on OT Connections? This month we're chatting about our feeding therapy related goals for 2015. Stop by and join the conversation (AOTA member log-in required)!

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