OT/DT Odyessey: The Final Chapter, OT and beyond

Charlotte posing in front of the new Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Construction is on schedule. At this critical juncture we still need funds–the building is up, but we need to complete the interior. Please click here to donate and be a Hero for Life. And check out the hand etched into the windows at about the 8th floor, screen left.

After nearly 8 months of research, evaluations, and hair pulling (mine, really), we were ready to find an Occupational Therapist. The evaluating practice was out of the question so I, once again, turned to Team Charlotte.

Since Amy Zier & Associates was not an option because of insurance and the recommended OT at Children’s Memorial was on maternity leave (very inconvenient timing), I turned to Oaktree Developmental Center. Its lead OT, Kathleen Stanton, was recommended by Cheryl Mercado, the OT who evaluated Charlotte during her years in Early Intervention.

My first conversations with Kathleen were very calming–she is familiar with both therapies that had been recommended, was willing to set us up based on the BO&A evaluation, and clearly wasn’t planning on jumping to conclusions about anything until she (or the assigned therapist) had met Charlotte. Charlotte was happy with any clinic we might find as long as there was a ball pit.

Finally, in early March we were matched with Sarah S., an OT fresh out of school with a wonderful way with children. Charlotte dove right in. Literally, she dove right into the ball pit. While it is clear to me that she still needs work with fine motor strength and skills, her willingness to try new physical challenges was already (in March) vastly different than it had been when we first begin this odyssey in June, 2009.

After 4 weeks, we could already see the difference in Charlotte’s upper body strength and daredevilness. She looked forward to therapy as a big playdate with a new grown up friend.

Then…while on a brief vacation during our March break, we received a call from Kathleen to let us know that Sarah had had to suddenly resign. [Family reasons. Not mine to tell, but I will say that she is not only an amazing young OT, but that she is clearly a wonderful daughter and niece.] Because Oaktree is so small, Kathleen couldn’t schedule Charlotte with an OT until she hired someone new.

Back to square one….this time I cast a broader net and did some of my own research, calling Team Charlotte to ask “Have you heard of this practice? That OT?’

I found a new practice and set up an appointment with an OT who sounded lovely on the phone. She could start nearly immediately, in early May, but would have to hand Charlotte to a co-worker for two months during the summer while she took a medical leave. Oh, and the facility had no ball pit. (I didn’t tell Charlotte that.)

The morning before the appointment, I called Kathleen to see if, on the off chance, she’d hired anyone. She said, “I was about to call you. I can start you with my new OT on June 6,” and proceeded to tell me all about Jill.

Philippe and I weighed the options:

A) Beginning quickly with a new OT, new facility with a break in continuity. Big bonus, lessening the weeks of no OT. Big minus, Charlotte would just get used to her new OT and then have a sub. Oh, and no ball pit.

B) Waiting about five weeks to return, but going back to a known facility (with a ball pit) and continuous service with the same OT.

We choice option B. The OT on whom I cancelled (I can’t remember her name, but would dig through my notes if we need to go through this again) sent me a very supportive email saying that choosing the known facility and continuous OT would likely be less disruptive for Charlotte. She thought it made perfect sense, promised to shred all our intake documents, and told me to get in touch if I needed to.

So, Charlotte’s been playing with Miss Jill at Oaktree Development Center every Monday since June 6. The changes in Charlotte are evident and exciting. She’s working on balance, core strength (serious ab work, folks), fine motor strength, and complex task sequences. She starts and ends each session in the….ball pit! But, she’s riding a zip line to jump/fall into it. She is so excited to go to OT, that she doesn’t say goodbye when she runs into the room.

That, folks, is the end of the OT/DT Odyssey tale. It began with a surprising and shocking comment by an astute, sensitive teacher. Charlotte travelled through junior kindergarten with a master teacher who nurtured her and helped her blossom. We discovered her intellectual strengths, physical deficits, and potential challenges. Charlotte went to camp and became a sort of daredevil (more on that another time). And she goes to OT weekly to lessen (or at least learn to manage) the discrepancy between her fine motor skills and intellectual capabilities.

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