This week we celebrate occupational therapy and the positive impact that occupational therapists have on individuals and the community.

Rochelle qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 2015 from Newcastle University. Rochelle works with a passionate team at Early Connections Alliance, a network of registered not for profits working together to create a strong and connected Early Childhood Intervention Network on the Mid North Coast, New South Wales.

She has specialist training in Understanding Autism and Positive Behaviour Support Training, Sensory Processing Workshop, Sleep and Positioning Webinar, Cognitive Orientation to daily Occupational Performance (CO-OP) training.

Why did you choose to become an occupational therapist?

I grew up with a sibling with a disability so have always had a close connection and interest in working with children. As an OT I enjoy optimising children’s development so they can engage in meaningful daily activities. Working in Early Childhood Intervention strengthened my passion for working with children and their families as I have seen first hand the significant impact you can have on a child’s life when support is provided during such a fundamental stage of their development.

What area of practice do you work in?

Early Connections is a not-for-profit community organisation specialising in Early Childhood Intervention. We use a family-centred approach to support children with a diagnosed disability or developmental delay to improve skills and independence in the daily activities that they want to, need to, or are expected to do.

According to the Australian Early Development Census, one in five Australian children start school vulnerable in their social, emotional or cognitive development. As an OT I enjoy optimising children’s development so they can engage in meaningful daily activities. This involves a child’s motor, cognitive, sensory processing, self-care and play skills.

Early Childhood Intervention is such an important area for Occupational Therapists to specialise. At Early Connections, we work as part of a transdisciplinary team, meaning each child and their family have access to Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Speech Pathology and Specialist Early Intervention Teacher support in order to give them the best start in life.

What has been most rewarding about being an OT?

The most rewarding thing about being an OT would have to be the excitement and look of pride on a child’s face when they come running into a session telling you they can now do a skill you have been focusing on in Occupational Therapy. Seeing that feeling of accomplishment just light up a child’s face and knowing that you have contributed to that is beyond rewarding.

What has been most challenging about being an OT?

Although it’s fantastic to see such individuality between children, I do find this a challenge at times as we are constantly needing to expand our knowledge base and adapt our practice based on each individual’s strengths and needs to ensure we are achieving the best possible outcomes for each child.

How has being a member of Occupational Therapy Australia helped overcome these challenges?

OT Australia is a fantastic resource for accessing the most up-to-date, best practice recommendations and upcoming professional development courses. As a member of OT Australia these resources are readily available and have assisted me on several occasions to enhance my knowledge base and ensure I’m implementing evidence-based practice when
working with children and their families.

Myself and all the team at Early Connections truly appreciate the important advocacy work of Occupational Therapy Australia, particularly in regard to ensuring NDIS participants receive the most appropriate supports for their needs.