Kathryn Earle is a first year Occupational Therapy student at University of the West of England, Bristol and has just completed a nine week placement at Designability. Here she shares her experience of what it’s like working as an Occupational Therapist in the third sector and in paediatrics.
What it’s like to be an Occupational Therapist for Designability
Before I started at Designability, I had never even heard of Wizzybug powered wheelchairs. But as I reach the end of my time here I feel that I know Wizzybug quite well and I have been able to undertake assessments independently.
My role at the charity has been working alongside Rae Baines, Senior Children’s Occupational Therapist, on the Wizzybug Loan Scheme for early years children with limited mobility.
The work I have been involved with has included:
- Taking initial enquiries from therapists or families regarding the suitability of a Wizzybug powered wheelchair for a child;
- Reviewing and accepting the request forms completed by families;
- Taking the lead in the clinical assessment appointments with the family;
- Undertaking reviews of the child’s progress with Wizzybug throughout the loan period.
The team have taught me a great deal about posture and seating, childhood conditions, assessing individual needs and the occupational therapy role as a whole. It has been interesting to learn about other research and design work that Designability undertakes alongside Wizzybug, e.g. developing products for people living with dementia.
My placement also gave me the opportunity to observe the work of an occupational therapist in special needs schools, social care and a children’s hospital which has provided me with a much wider experience in children’s occupational therapy.
My impressions of the Wizzybug Loan Scheme
The first few Wizzybug assessment appointments I observed were fantastic! It was very special to see a child moving around for the first time in Wizzybug and it was smiles all around.
The service the charity offers is excellent and after each assessment the team provides ongoing clinical and technical support throughout the loan period. There is also the opportunity for the loan to be extended, if relevant, to allow the child to benefit from Wizzybug for as long as possible.
In my experience here, families seem very supportive of the charity and grateful for the chance to loan a Wizzybug free of charge. Many people are actually surprised at how small Wizzybug is when they first see it and how easily it can be taken apart for transportation purposes. I think most parents leave Designability feeling more confident about using Wizzybug and excited to get going.
The assessments and follow-up reviews I’ve undertaken have helped me to understand the huge impact that Wizzybug has on the child and their family. Independence and freedom appear to be the key goals that the families envisage their child achieving using Wizzybug. Other equally important goals include improving spatial awareness, improving hand function and increasing social participation with the child’s siblings and peers. It has been great to carry out reviews on the child’s progress and hear for myself the positive impact that Wizzybug has on families.
Reflecting on my placement working with the team
The number of Designability staff working on the Wizzybug Loan Scheme is much bigger than most people realise. It includes the administration team, workshop engineers, occupational therapists, fundraising and promotions who all work extremely hard to ensure as many children as possible can benefit from having a Wizzybug. I feel that the whole team at Designability work hard and are very passionate about the work that they do, whether it is on the Wizzybug Loan Scheme or working on developing other products.
My placement has flown by and I have really felt like part of the team. Before I started my placement here, I wondered whether working in such a specialised area would equip me with enough basic occupational therapy skills to take forward in my second year. However, I would definitely recommend an occupational therapy placement at Designability because I have ended up learning a huge amount that I can apply to future placements.
I have been able to explore the occupational therapy role, not only within Designability, but also in education, NHS and local authority settings. The whole experience has influenced my future career path and I will definitely consider working in children’s occupational therapy once I am qualified. I hope to be able to recommend Wizzybug powered wheelchairs to families in my future practice and to see children enjoying Wizzybug out and about in the local community!
Our Wizzybug Loan Scheme is funded entirely by donations. If you would like to support it, please visit our website.