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Libby Zimmerman - Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Libby Zimmerman - Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Libby not only works as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist to help children gain basic life skill abilities but she also provides hope, encouragement and often serves as a key instrument in changing the lives of families. For this, Libby is a Personal Hero! Libby shares her story...
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I am a pediatric occupational therapist, and most people don't know what that is.  As an OT, I can work with anyone from birth till the end of life, but my day focuses on helping children.  A lot of times people don't know what occupational therapy is; they say "occupational therapy...what I don't need a job" or "I already have a job."  But an occupation is not talking about jobs; it's talking about things you do on a daily basis; such as getting dressed, bathing, grooming, meal prep, cleaning, things that you need to do for work performance or school performance.  We say that Occupational Therapy teaches you the skills for the job of living. 
 
I typically work with children with a variety of disabilities that inhibit them from participating in their daily occupations, and I work with them to help increase their engagement in those tasks.  The children I work with often have diagnoses of Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Dyspraxia, Anxiety, Feeding Difficulties, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, AVM, Muscular Dystrophy, just to name a few.  Since some of my kids have trouble communicating or are non-verbal, they can become so overwhelmed by sensory input that they become aggressive.  Some days I get punched, hit, hair-pulled, kicked, bit, head-butted or all of the above.  But it's my goal to help them to stop these behaviors and lead a better life.
 
Fortunately, I can help many of these children gain the necessary skills to complete daily activities ranging from getting dressed in the morning all the way to being able to handwrite their homework each evening.  To help them develop these skills, I use play-based therapy, and we work on all of the skills through play.  So yes, I have a job in which I get to play all day long; what could be better than that!
 
It is also incredibly gratifying when you have been working on a skill with a child for a long time, and then they finally get it.  Being able to celebrate small victories with families, such as their child blowing out their birthday candles for the first time or finally sitting through an entire Thanksgiving Dinner is one of the many reasons that I love being an OT.
 
I decided to become an OT because I always knew I wanted to help people and I love kids.  However, I was first exposed to OT when my dad was a patient.  When I was in high school, he had a stroke, and it left him with physical disabilities.  So I have lived the life of having a disabled loved one first hand, and I saw how much OT helped my dad be able to adapt to his condition and participate in typical daily life activities.  He, unfortunately, has passed away, but he inspired me to follow this career path.  My mom has also been a driving force behind why I do what I do. I witnessed her go from wife to wife AND caretaker and I know that it must've been challenging for her.  Both of them are my personal heroes and have inspired me to follow this extremely rewarding career path.
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