Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A Tribute to My Peds Professor, Eleanor V. Wolfe

In a very unexpected way I found out that my peds professor and friend, Ms. Wolfe, had died last November.  Her friendship was a major force in my life.  I hope you have a friend like her, who is a real encourager and steady example of a well-lived life.

It was a modest-sized office, yet still intimidating, and each square inch was filled with the personality of its gray-haired professor. On that fall day in 1976 I had been called in for an appointment with the faculty member who would become my research adviser. I was just thankful for summer to be over because I had narrowly passed the daunting Human Anatomy and Physiology class with Dr. Jeffries. Yes, thankful, because halfway through the class I had been failing.

The professor discussed my classwork and progress to date, then took a dramatic pause before remarking, “I see that you earned a ‘C’ in your A & P class.” Another pause. Ms. Wolfe looked at me straight on, then set me on the path to enlightenment, “You won’t be earning any more ‘C’ grades, will you?”

She remained an inquirer throughout her life, even with people who were not her assigned pupils. One night I returned home from a meeting and my husband passed along the message that Ms. Wolfe had called. He told her I was at an “SI” study group and she asked him if he knew what “SI” meant. Like any long-suffering spouse of a pediatric occupational therapist, yes, he was very familiar with the term “Sensory Integration.”

Ms. Wolfe and I kept up our snail mail correspondence for many years and, although her messages were brief, she frequently included responses to my previous notes that encouraged me to try new ideas, consider novel activities and to increase my depth of knowledge of subjects we both enjoyed. I might pen a breezy description of my sitting outside on summer evenings, watching the birds, and she would write back with the name of a suggested birding journal, one with a more objective, scientific slant than the glossy ones I might usually flip through. In a very positive way I felt like she saw me as a person who was capable of becoming a better student of life, one who would never lose the potential for learning and growth.

To have her as a friend felt like you had someone who not only cared about you but a fellow traveler who was by your side, lightly supporting your elbow to encourage you to keep going, to imagine and try new adventures of all kinds. Each time I collected the mail and saw her striking block print on the envelope I knew I was in for a treat, first with her lovely watercolor sketch of a bird and then in reading her message inside. Isn’t it amazing that a person can do this by simply writing a letter to someone, that caring can be perceived by holding a small, hand-painted card and reading words that start in the heart, take form in the brain and are scribed by our hands?

I’m thankful that Ms. Wolfe--my friend, Eleanor--was my mentor for life as an OT. For her part in teaching so many of us the skills we needed for the job of living.

Statue from campus of the Medical College of Virginia, now Virginia Commonwealth University.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

What Happens to OTs When They Retire?

They continue to practice team building, healthy interpersonal relationships and activities for expanding their social-emotional skills.  Oh, and they get a puppy, which results in improved endurance, muscle tone and lower BMI.

Peace in the Family---Our Trip to the Outer Banks, NC

High Touch--Low Tech

Friday, June 16, 2017

The End is Near--And I'm So Glad

This has been a very happy week for me because I've been looking forward to today, my final day of employment.  Having graduated from OT school in '78 that makes it almost 39 years of working as an OT.  Although I did work a couple of years in another field I felt like I never stopped seeing people's needs through the OT lens.

Being an OT is the best job to have because it helps you so much personally.  Whether you have little ones at home and you're savoring their development day by day or you have a family member who is going through a health battle, OT helps you help others.

This blog will stay up for a while and some of the ideas and activities will remain relevant for OT students, practicing therapists and others looking for ways to help kids learn.  I recommend that you enter a specific topic in the Search textbox in the right-hand column on the page and peruse the posts that relate to that subject.  There are many posts on Autism, Fine Motor, Sensory and School--as well as other assorted subjects.

Retirement equals:
   No more paycheck
   Lots more living

Advice from a retiree:  Invest a little money from every paycheck, live below your means, keep reading and learning, relish feeling awkward and clueless because it means you are growing,  give lots of money and skills away to others in need, figure out why you're here on the earth--if you don't know why, read the Bible for clues.

Chasing preschoolers through the maze

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rox, 'Pots 'n Roses

Well, if you want to make a retiring OT happy, just give her a party full of rocks, teapots and flowers.

Teapot centerpieces with sweet 'n savory dainties all around.

Our OT with British roots advised the planning committee on just the right brand of tea to serve.

Hmmm...wonder what our presents will be???  My PT buddy and I could hardly wait to find out.

When life gives you rose petals, sprinkle them all around.

My gift--azurite with bubbly malachite.  Rocks--the gift that lasts!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Perfect Good-bye Activity for Retiring OTs

At the end of our session yesterday with a class of middle school students with intellectual disabilities, the students and staff arranged a very nice send-off for their retiring OT.

The therapist was given a pretty water and marble-filled vase and was guided around the work table to receive a flower from each student.  By the time the circuit was completed the vase was full.

Pretty special, I'd say.

Plant Markers--the Homemade Way

When I peruse the gorgeous, hand-crafted plant markers at my favorite botanic garden gift shop every summer, I'm so tempted to shell out my hard-earned pennies so I can take home a beautiful decoration for the garden.  If I resist temptation I eventually remember that I can create my own markers with the multitude of materials I've purchased for my work projects over the school year.  Ah...now I have enough money to buy a nice coffee at the Garden CafĂ©.

For our final project this school year our class of middle school students with significant intellectual disabilities painted sun and strawberry shapes to adorn huge tongue depressors, inscribed with motivating words and designs.  The blank designs were made from solid white Sculpey and baked prior to painting.  Customized messages were written on the wood and the painted shapes were attached to the tongue depressors with regular wood glue.

Students used their communication boards to describe the materials needed and then indicated which paint colors they wished to use.  They all turned out pretty nice, eh?
Completed markers on top of the blanks.

Use the end of a paint brush or tip of a pencil to dimple the strawberry prior to baking.

Stretch yourself--use more than one color to paint your sun.

One-inch wide foam brushes work well for a smooth application. 
The 1/4" diameter handles are fairly easy to grasp, or can easily slide into a universal cuff.

Use a personalized phrase for inspiration.

Can you tell that this student loves music by Michael Jackson?

Add a little tag and ribbon, then figure out a way to send them home safely in the backpacks!


Monday, June 5, 2017

Smooth(ie) Sailing into Summer

Our last group of the school year had to be a delicious one.  Give 'em a happy memory and they'll happily come back for more next fall, right?  Well, the students seemed like they were going to enjoy the fruit we brought this morning for our smoothies, but no one said "Yes" to a sampling...

My speech-language pathologist buddy and I decided to try out my new, skinny baggies for creating homemade popsicles, using the leftovers from our smoothie making.  Well, all the blended fruit ended up in the bags since no one was brave enough to sip their smoothies.  Shucks.

Here are photos of our morning adventure with students in a high school program for students with autism:

Communication--paper and digital

Our sample popsicle-in-the-making.  The colors varied according to the fruit blends.

A quickly fabricated, homemade funnel for filling the popsicle bags.

This heavily-vibrating blender is activated by pressing down on the container. 
You believe me when I tell you that it won't hurt you, don't you???

Pouring the blended fruit into the funnel and popsicle bag.

Students chose a combination of strawberries, dark cherries and bananas.
We also added a little water to make sure it would swirl easily in the blender.

Some students need lots of words on their communication boards.

Sorry, you can't have just a banana smoothie today.

The parent-teacher group at our high school has given us Walmart gift cards for the past three years, to help with the expenses associated with our groups.  Some parents also give gift cards to the teachers to help with expenses for extra classroom materials.  Several of my schools develop class businesses to learn pre-vocational skills, social skills and to raise funds for special projects.  Gourmet dog biscuits, fancy soaps, weekly potato "bars," Friday coffee carts, cut-paper stationery, scented sugar scrubs--it's fun to see how well the students step up and improve their fine motor and "people" skills via these school-based opportunities.