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    Increasing Confidence through Occupational Ther...

    August 2, 2018
    By: Victoria Gazzillo
    "Scranton has taught me the true meaning of cura personalis, caring for the whole person."

    The Background

    While at Intensive Therapeutics, another Scranton OTS alumnus and I were responsible for developing a six-hour intensive group occupational therapy vocational training program for the facility’s young adult population.

    In providing work opportunities to our young adults, our vocational program incorporated two businesses: Ethan and the Bean, a growing coffee shop that advocates decreasing the unemployment rate of individuals with disabilities, and Soaperior Organix, a soap company. Both businesses have been established by moms whose sons have autism to provide them and other young adults with opportunities to gain work experience and become more independent in their daily lives.

    Our focus when designing this program was to create a realistic work environment in which our students with the appropriate skills, adaptations, techniques, and experience can maximize their daily functioning and independence in the future endeavors they hope to one day achieve, such as for building relationships, attending colleges or universities, employment, independent living, etc. At Ethan and the Bean, our clients learned everything required to make and serve coffee from weighing coffee beans, to grinding, to brewing, to serving, packaging online orders, handling a register and more. At Soaperior Organix, our clients assembled and packaged gift baskets, made and printed custom postcards and business cards, and online orders, and shipping requirements according to USPS standards. Our young adult population consisted of 12 students ranging from 17-30 years of age with diagnoses of autism, traumatic brain injury, Down syndrome and hemiplegia.

    No Typical Day

    On any given day, two hours would be dedicated to working in the coffee shop and/or Soap Company and all the demands that come along with doing so. The remaining four hours would be dedicated to learning and building upon skills needed to go to college, become employed, live independently, communicate with other, and build relationships. During this time, we would work on skills such as laundry, cooking, job applications, banking, budgeting, communicating with peers, packaging, navigating technology, exercise, healthy lifestyles, stress management, relaxation techniques and much more.

    When working in occupational therapy, there really is no typical day. Surprises can happen at any moment to keep me on my toes and remind me why I love this profession as much as I do.

    Scranton has taught me the true meaning of cura personalis, caring for the whole person. It is through this Jesuit ideal that we see individuals not by what they look like or a formal diagnosis, but rather as people with a spirit, a mindset and a vessel to do amazing work if given the right opportunity, environment, and resources.

    Surprising Moments

    As an intern, it can be difficult at times to know if you are doing great work to the standard you hold yourself up to and envision yourself to one day be. Throughout this internship, I have been blessed with surprising moments of pride and great joy through my students’ increasing levels of relationship building, encouragement of their peers and the confidence levels in themselves and their abilities.

    One day as a group, we discussed and wrote down our favorite thing about working at Ethan and the Bean. The most common answers were “having a job” and “getting to know people”. To witness my clients of all different ages, backgrounds, diagnoses and interests come together and genuinely enjoy the time they spend in the positive, welcoming environment they have built together amazed me. I felt incredibly blessed to be a part of it. To experience one of my clients give me a hug on their last day when they rarely come in close contact with others, to witness friendships form among my clients who have great difficulty initiating and continuing conversations, to see the challenges be overcome because my clients know we are rooting for them is greater than anything I could have ever imagined.

    Progress

    If I have learned anything through my time at Intensive Therapeutics and Ethan and the Bean, it is to believe in the greatness that lies in the clients with whom we are privileged to work. To rejoice and be proud to be a part of the progress we see rise in their abilities because someone knows and believes they can do it. We encourage them to do and be all they want to be, and in return, we hold a responsibility to journey with them in all they need to get there. It is the most fulfilling feeling to watch and know a client no longer needs you because, to me, that means you have done your job well.

    If I could give any advice to future occupational therapy students, it would be to provide your clients with opportunities to be involved. Not only for them be involved in working towards their goals, but also toward building their self-confidence, self-advocacy, and relationships with others. Do not be afraid to take a step back to see the change in those amazing individuals you were so blessed to work with. Because without them, you wouldn't be where you are now, and because of them, your life has been forever changed for good.

    My name is Victoria Gazzillo and I had the privilege to complete my first 12-week internship experience as a full-time occupational therapy student (OTS) at Intensive Therapeutics in West Caldwell, New Jersey.
    My name is Victoria Gazzillo and I had the privilege to complete my first 12-week internship experience as a full-time occupational therapy student (OTS) at Intensive Therapeutics in West Caldwell, New Jersey.
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