Get to Know Our Occupational Therapists
Meet Charley Waddell, Occupational Therapist, OTR/L at our CORA Rocky Mount, VA clinic. CORA has been blessed since the day Charley decided to join our team of Occupational Therapists. Her passion for children, her daily devotion to serving others and her commitment to excellence is apparent in every interaction. And, as you’ll come to find out if you keep reading (hint: Dr. Suess hat), she DEFINITELY knows how to put the FUN in FUNctional in a positive, quirky way that will put a smile on anyone’s face, children and parents alike (yes, that even includes the famous Mr. Grinch!) Join us as we celebrate Occupational Therapy Month at CORA and come along for the ride as we get to know our pride and joy of Franklin County, Virginia.
Tell us a little bit about your professional background and the patient populations you serve.
I am a pediatric occupational therapist (OT) with now more than two years of experience practicing full-time primarily in the outpatient clinic setting as well as Virginia’s Early Intervention Program, which focuses on treating children from birth to age three in their homes while following a parent coaching model. Additionally, part of my responsibilities require the direct supervision of a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) who also has a school caseload. It’s truly been a sincere honor and privilege to be able to spend so much time working with children across the early lifespan with a range of development deficits.
What are the benefits of receiving OT services?
Occupational therapists teach kids to be successful with age appropriate activities they perform in ‘daily routines’–we call these Activities of Daily Living (ADL). This is particularly important to understand as it plays such a large role in our lives as OTs since our job as practitioners is to help individuals with injury, illness, or disability engage in activities of daily living that help make life meaningful. Oftentimes, these are activities that many of us take for granted. One area I am incredibly passionate about is sensory integration and processing and continuing to study the impact it has on a child’s ability to engage in all routine tasks from things such as toileting and eating to simple activities like playing with siblings and friends. Sensory integration is the foundation for all children to learn and develop, so growth in this area can open the flood gates for skill development across all areas and disciplines in life.
When should a family seek OT services for their child?
Occupational therapists teach kids to be successful with age-appropriate activities to include but not limited to: eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, feeding, play, and education. Imagine a life complicated by a limited ability to accomplish the little things.
As OTs, we help our patients perform these types of daily routines so that they can get back to engaging in these essential daily skills in a safe and efficient manner. Years of training and education give us the ability, knowledge, and expertise to help patients develop techniques that ultimately increase success and independence across lifespans.
Seeking skilled OT services will help your child to become more independent with these life skills. Intervention will address underlying motor skills, cognitive skills, visual skills, social and emotional skills, and sensory processing (i.e. calming or coping or regulation) skills. By developing these critical skill sets as well as directly practicing routine tasks, your child will continue their development and learn to become more independent and successful with each passing day.
If you have any concerns regarding your child’s performance with age appropriate tasks (often referred to as milestones) as well as calming and coping, then we recommend discussing your observations with your family pediatrician. From there, you can request a referral for OT evaluation which then allows us to conduct a skilled evaluation that helps determine if OT is right for your child.
How has the pandemic changed the way you deliver care to patients? Has it impacted your typical approach to sensory strategies, calming techniques, anxiety reduction, etc?
The pandemic has created a lot of change and uncertainty for kids as well as adults. I have been spending increased time using social stories to help children understand new rules and expectations as well as why these rules exist. Furthermore, calming or coping and emotional identification tasks have increased to ensure processing of thoughts and emotions in addition to constructive management. These components have all certainly become front and center in our methodologies and approach to treatments. As the situation and factors unknown surrounding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, it’s increasingly important that I work on all underlying difficulties with my kids as well as these focus areas of heightened concern during this stressful and challenging time. And, of course, Telehealth is being used for families that are not comfortable coming into the clinic due to COVID-19.
What are some advantages to performing virtual telehealth appointments or home health visits? In what ways have you been able to successfully embrace virtual therapy sessions with your patients?
Telehealth presents unique challenges in its own right as hands on assistance is often provided in clinic and at home. However, telehealth has also allowed for increased parent education and coaching reinforcement compared to in-clinic when it is mostly one-to-one therapist and patient. This has allowed parents to gain more confidence as well as demonstrate skills to their child. It also provides a certain perspective for the OT to better understand the resources that exist during a child’s routine life so that we can then better customize home activities for parents.
Does that allow you to schedule visits during times when routines – meals, grooming, nap time – are naturally occurring?
Yes, absolutely! There are definite benefits and value added to being able to adjust scheduling times to best fit the child’s normal routines (i.e. a child may be awake, alert, and most attentive in the morning, etc.); however, I must say there is a great deal of effort put into this methodology in the clinic setting as well. But, you’re spot on in your acknowledgment that the more we are able to interact with patients and their families in a virtual setting, the more opportunities we have to learn about their home environment so we can make the necessary adjustments to get the most out of each session. There’s tremendous value in that!
It must be difficult for children with no school, shelter in place orders, people wearing masks and gloves, any sense of normalcy is now gone. What advice would you give to parents whose children are struggling with the change in routine due to COVID-19?
First and foremost, please create a routine or schedule for your child within the home. Expectations and routines are critical for any child to thrive in whatever environment they are in, and with this pandemic the majority of children have lost access to their normal routines such as school, daycare, and play groups. Creating a schedule that is mostly visual has proven helpful, and even let the child draw their own schedule … with a little help, guidance, and adult supervision, of course.
Additionally, I’d encourage parents to use social stories such as simple stories with words that can easily be repeated. This can help teach children new rules and expectations within their existing environments, including why they exist. Even small children crave a simple understanding of the world around them. These small adjustments to your daily routine can be very impactful to account for changes with school schedules, interactions with peers, and seeing people wearing masks in public.
Next, keep your child or children busy and active while at home. Big movements throughout the day help keep our children calm, attentive, and able to manage frustration. Break up challenging or non-preferred tasks (i.e. school work) with movement and encourage your child to talk about how they feel; lead by example and share your experiences. Accept your child’s thoughts and emotions and be sure to provide positive feedback and redirection as necessary as a supportive coping mechanism. For example, “I understand you’re sad about school being closed, but what do you like the most about learning at home?”
Asking your child these types of questions and identifying ways to relate with things that may be causing discomfort allows a child to re-organize their thoughts in a positive and constructive manner. From there, just sit back then watch their growth and development soar!
More information, Resources and OT LOVE all month long!
We implore EVERYONE to continue to show our OTs at CORA our appreciation for their dedication and commitment to serving children and adults across the lifespan all month long. Use #OTMonthCORA in your social media posts and come join the celebration with us!
If you want to learn more or are ready to enlist the help of a skilled occupational therapist, call one of our 200+ physical therapy clinics throughout Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Missouri and Illinois or book a virtual appointment today at our CORA clinic nearest you.
Have you heard about CORAkids? Our signature Pediatrics Therapy Program is designed specifically for our youngest patients because we believe all children deserve the chance to shine. To grow. And to flourish. At CORA, we know that it’s not a matter of making adult-sized treatments “smaller.” It’s about true customization perfectly suited to help kids thrive.