Occupational therapy is a worldwide, dynamic, and enabling profession that facilitates meaning and independence into the lives of others. therapists from all around the world have the opportunity to connect with other OTs through national conferences and also world conferences through World Federation of Occupational Therapists. Learn more about WFOT here. In addition, as in the case for Shoshanah and I, social media (Facebook, Instagram, blogs, etc) gives us another avenue to share our experiences as a new grad OT (me) and an advanced OT practitioner (her).
Shoshanah reached out to me through an international FB group called OT4OT. She is a super cool occupational therapist with a diverse background and 25 years of experience (lololol 25 more years than me #babyOT – I’m not even 25 years old yet) in the field. She received her education in South Africa and currently practices in Israel. Shoshanah has also written the book Healing Your Life Through Activity: An Occupational Therapist’s Story which is available on Amazon and Barnes & Nobles. Click here to view more information about her book, pricing, and comments from her readers. I am pretty excited to read my copy soon 🙂 🙂 (guest I’ll wait til after I take the NBCOT meh…)!!
The most enticing aspect this book has to offer is the fact it is written for the layperson as well as to the most seasoned OT. If you are considering a career in this profession or if you are unsure of what the profession entails, this is the book for you.
In brief, if we don’t promote the profession and actively advocate for our practice, OT will continue to be underutilized and under-appreciated.
I introduce my readers to Shoshanah Shear occupational therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer and co-author of Tuvia Finds His Freedom and author of Healing Your Life Through Activity – An Occupational Therapist’s Story.
Thank you Shannen for the opportunity to share a little of who I am as a person and as an occupational therapist for your OT blog. I appreciate the opportunity. The following provides answers to the 3 questions that Shannen asked me to include in addition to mentioning my book in order to display my perception of OT.
1) Where I am from:
The mini answer is: Israel.
The slightly longer though short answer is: I obtained my basic degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Cape Town in South Africa and currently live and work in Israel.
The long answer is: I was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and moved to Cape Town, South Africa as a child. I lived most of my life in South Africa and obtained my degree as a B.Sc (Occ Ther) Honours degree and was capped at my graduation from my late grandfather who was the first full time Dean of Engineering at the University of Cape Town. I worked for 4 and half years at a teaching hospital in Cape Town before traveling to the UK to work for 4 plus months, followed by a year in a school and vacation cover in a hospital in the US. I then worked in private and the community for 6 years in South Africa before moving to Israel.
Out of interest, where I am from confuses people. When I worked in the UK, no-one could place me. My accent is almost South African but not quite, it is sometimes leaning towards somewhere in the UK but not quite that either. They joys of being born in what was a British Colony. So when I was in the UK they thought I was either from Ireland or some thought North England and some disagreed and though South England. It took someone in a post office to pick up my accent. She stood a few people behind me in the queue (line) and suddenly got very excited to say exactly which city and country I was from. Though our skin colour differed she recognized me as she was born there too.
In the US I had another problem. In the school where I worked, I was denied attending the assembly to celebrate Africa Week, I also found several African American teachers would not permit me to enter their classrooms to work with students. I asked why I could not attend the assembly and was told it was not relevant to me and not to make fun of this important celebration. My response was to offer to sing Xhosi Sikaleli Africa for them. I even sing it with the correct clicks. This confused them terribly. I asked again what the problem was telling them I was born in Central Africa and grew up in South Africa. I told them I was even learning to speak Xhosa. To this they were most confused and one teacher said “It can’t possibly be!” while another said “but you are white!” almost in unison. This was a great eye opener for me as to the lack of education for many in the US of those who live in Africa. Not everyone born in Africa has a dark skin, yes there are all kinds of cultures living there and yes, someone who is Caucasian can be born in Africa.
2) How Did I Become Interested in Occupational Therapy?
The short answer: I heard about it from a career guidance counselor who could not tell me anything about the profession other than in her opinion it combined all my high school subjects.
The longer answer: I was actually exposed to OT from a young age but had no idea that I was until I began to study the profession. Even then some information only came to light as my studies progressed and even after graduating.
So, after I enrolled to study OT I discovered that my mother had explored studying OT but the screening process in those days included observing a surgical procedure which she struggled to do and was therefore denied applying. My aunt considered OT before beginning to study for her career.
A relative of mine had received OT when I was a child. I would go with my mother to drop the relative off but had no idea where she was going or what took place there. All I knew was that she went to this building and we would sit in a hot park and wait for ages until it was time to collect her and take her home. I was fascinated to learn years later that what transpired in the building that we went to weekly for a while was occupational therapy. This made an impression on me and today, in my practice I include family members in therapy as far as possible, wherever relevant to do so.
My greatest introduction to OT, however, came from my late grandfather. Once again I did not realize how various experiences I had throughout my childhood actually fitted into OT, until I began studying the profession. My grandfather was a very humble person. As I grew older, I learned that my grandfather had sustained a war injury during WW2 when he was stationed in Italy. His back was severely injured and it was a miracle that he ever walked again. He did all that he could to hide his pain and difficulties from us and never complained. Due to his gratitude at being able to walk, after returning to South Africa and resuming working as a Civil Engineer, he turned his attention to how to assist those less fortunate than he. He became chairman and later honorary life president of St Giles Organization for the Handicapped in Cape Town, South Africa. Through this role combined with his position of Deputy City Engineer he designed a rehabilitation centre for the organization, which he made a model of and used this to obtain a plot of land and necessary funding. He wrote a number of papers on accessibility for the disabled and his home was adapted so that his wheelchair dependent friends could both visit him and enjoy his beautiful garden too. He built the ramps himself that ran from the drive way into his garden and from the garden onto his veranda with access via the side door. His guest bathroom was wheelchair accessible. As a child I had asked about this and was only told these are for our friends to be able to visit.
My grandfather was instrumental in certain laws coming into place for accessibility of buildings in South Africa. Some of my grandfather’s wonderful work and the influence he had on my career as an OT is written up in my book: “Healing Your Life Through Activity – An Occupational Therapist’s Story“. The book is also dedicated to him.
3) My Personal Definition of Occupational Therapy:
So many have no idea what OT is and sadly many offer the suggestion to change the name of my profession. I do not understand why there are so many definitions of OT, this surely is confusing to everyone.
To me, the title “occupational therapy” describes everything we are about. We use occupations as a medium of treatment in order to assist our clients to be optimally independent in all areas of their life, throughout the life cycle.
Occupational therapy is concerned about what our clients need to or want to achieve in their lives both as long term goals and on a day to day basis. We evaluate their unique situation in much detail in order to establish how the person functions as an individual, in their family, school / work, environment and their community and how each of these impacts on his / her daily functioning. This information guides us in formulating a treatment plan that is case specific and evidence based to enable our clients to live a functional and active life of meaning and purpose.
“This book is a remarkable description of the development and the journey of Occupational Therapy. It is described in a unique manner through the eyes of a professional, drawing on experiences gained in various countries and clinical settings… The book will be read with interest by patient’s families, all health care students, and medical practitioners, who will be enlightened further, and gain significant understanding of patient care.
–Emeritus Professor Tuviah Zabow, Retired Head of Psychiatry, Cape Town, South Africa.
“I was most impressed with the very extensive coverage of occupational therapy as an important modality to help so many people of all ages and different disabilities and backgrounds to regain function, and return to productive life.”
–Norman Samuels, M.D., Part-time Medical Director and Retired Obesity Surgeon, Florida, USA.
The book, “Healing Your Life Through Activity – An Occupational Therapist’s Story” by Shoshanah Shear can be found on:
CreateSpace eStore: https://www.createspace.com/6406489
I for one hope to receive a signed copy of this very interesting, personal, and impeccable analysis of occupational therapy.
This guest post is written by Shoshanah Shear.
Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer and co-author of “Tuvia Finds His Freedom” and author of “Healing Your Life Through Activity – An Occupational Therapist’s Story“
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