Therapy Spotlight: A Search for Meaningful Occupations
Written by: Julie Johnson, MOT, OTR/L
Dan has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and has been a part of the Leaps and Bounds family for many years. As he got older, Dan’s therapy goals shifted to a focus on independence and finding meaningful occupations. Dan’s mother, as any parent, wants for Dan to feel happy and be a part of something that he feels good about. She found this to be challenging after graduation, because Dan’s skill level fell in-between paid employment and the supported workplace settings that they started touring.
Dan demonstrates a willingness to try and do his best even when presented with a challenge. About 3 months ago, Dan’s Occupational Therapist gave him therapy “homework” of participating in a recycling project hosted by Leaps and Bounds. As a clinic, Leaps and Bounds is collecting plastic bottle caps and lids that will eventually be turned into recycled benches for outside of each building. Dan loved the idea of recycling and said, “It feels great to recycle all of the plastic into something good.” Each week the therapist asked him to complete another step of the project.
The first week he was collecting caps and bringing them to the clinic, then he was collecting and washing the caps from home before bringing them in. By the third week, Dan collected, washed, and sorted the caps independently. What began as a therapy activity turned into a meaningful occupation for Dan, as well as provided a social opportunity. Dan’s mother stated, “The recycling project has helped Dan socially by asking people for caps and lids, then thanking them. He is proud that he is accomplishing something important.”
Overall, Leaps and Bounds has collected about 200 pounds of plastic caps and lids, which marks the half way point of the project! Dan himself has contributed a significant amount to this number by bringing in trash bags full of caps at a time that he had independently collected, washed, and sorted.
All of Dan’s hard work in therapy with gaining independence through this project and others has paid off. He was recently accepted into an employment training program through The Center for Head Injury Services. His mother said, “We are so happy we found the right fit for Dan to learn job skills. He is happy and comfortable, but he is still challenged. It has been a long, frustrating process to find the right program.” In the new year, Dan began his job baking dog treats at Wags in a Bag. This program is teaching him job skills to prepare for future employment or volunteer opportunities, and it has proven to be another meaningful experience for Dan. Dan’s mother is hopeful about this opportunity and shared that she hopes that “he has a meaningful future and is a productive contribution to society.”